Indian Courts continue with the pro-enforcement approach

INTRODUCTION

1. On June 18, 2021, the Delhi High Court, in proceedings seeking enforcement of arbitral awards against foreign states, has reiterated the principle of restrictive immunity and upheld the basic tenets of International Commercial Arbitration – flexibility, stability, efficiency, and its legally binding nature. The Court held that prior consent of the Central Government under Section 86 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (“Code”), is not required for enforcement of arbitral awards against a foreign state. Importantly, it also held that foreign state cannot claim sovereign immunity for the purpose of stalling enforcement of an arbitral award rendered against it, and which arises out of a commercial transaction.


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How Much is Too Much - Supreme Court on Scope of Examination of Arbitration Agreement at Pre-Arbitral Stage

When faced with a suit or proceeding in any court or tribunal when there is an arbitration clause in the agreement, Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”), empowers a judicial authority to refer parties to arbitration, thereby honouring the parties’ (pre-dispute) bargain. The Law Commission of India, in its 246th report, recommended amendments to Sections 8 and 11(6A)[1] of the Arbitration Act, with the intent to restrict the scope of judicial intervention at the pre-arbitral stage only to prima facie determine whether an arbitration agreement exists, thereby making it imperative for such judicial authority to refer the parties to arbitration, leaving the final determination of the existence and validity of an arbitration agreement to the arbitral tribunal under Section 16.
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This Is the End - What Now The Aftermath of an Award being Set Aside

There is scarcely any aspect of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”), which has not seen the spectre of ad nauseum arguments and judicial pronouncements. Concepts have been devised, lauded, followed, and then set aside. Lawyers have forcefully argued for awards to be set aside, and Courts have assiduously upheld the essence and spirit of the concept of arbitration. The law has been set, and then upturned, and in this entire process, not much judicial/ legislative light seems to have fallen on the protagonist of this piece. The Act only hints at what happens after an award is set aside, and the ‘hint’ paints a somewhat grim picture. 
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Supreme Court Revisits the Venue – Seat Issue 

Introduction:

A division bench of the Supreme Court in M/s Inox Renewables Ltd. v. Jayesh Electricals Ltd.[1] has recently reiterated the decision in BSG SGS SOMA JV vs. NHPC Limited[2], equating the juridical concepts of seat and venue. In this regard, the Court has clarified that a shift in venue by mutual agreement between the parties would be tantamount to a shifting of the place/ seat of arbitration.
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Does NCLT has power to refer parties to Arbitration in an in rem insolvency proceeding

The conflict between Insolvency and Arbitration is almost of near polar extremes. The difference in focus of the two was well illustrated in Re United States Lines Inc[1] as a:

“… conflict of near polar extremes: bankruptcy policy exerts an inexorable pull towards centralization while arbitration policy advocates a decentralized approach towards dispute resolution”.

Thus, while insolvency/ bankruptcy aims to centralise all the proceedings against a debtor to one jurisdiction and give rise to a proceeding in rem (against the world at large) thereby creating third party rights for all creditors of the debtor, arbitration on the other hand advocates a decentralised approach and promotes party autonomy in dispute resolution resulting in a proceeding in personam (against a particular person).
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Anti-Arbitration Injunctions - Judicial trends and finding the middle path

An Anti-Arbitration Injunction (“AAI”) is an injunction granted by courts to restrain parties or an arbitral tribunal from either commencing or continuing with arbitration proceedings.[1]  An AAI is generally sought before an arbitration commences or in the course of the arbitration hearing or after the conclusion of substantive hearing but before the

Emergency Awards passed in Foreign-seated Arbitration - Enforceable or not

A recent award passed by an Emergency Arbitrator at the instance of Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings in relation to Reliance Retail Ventures Limited’s (RRVL) ongoing acquisition of Future Group’s retail, wholesale, logistics, and warehousing arm, has once again brought into sharp focus a gap in India’s aspirations to improve Ease of Doing Business in the country and create a conducive environment for enforcement of awards passed in foreign seated arbitrations.

Although the said Emergency Award directed Future Group to maintain status quo with regard to the transaction[1], recent news reports have confirmed that Future Group has already approached the Hon’ble Delhi High Court by way of a suit seeking to restrain Amazon from preventing the ₹24,713 crore deal from going through.[2]
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Does an Arbitration Clause survive Novation of an Agreement 

Introduction:

Recently in Sanjiv Prakash v. Seema Kukreja & Ors.[1], the Delhi High Court has reiterated that novation of an agreement would necessarily result in destruction of the arbitration clause contained therein. In this regard, it was observed that an arbitration agreement being a creation of an agreement may be destroyed by agreement.

Facts of the case:

Respondent No. 3 had incorporated a company in 1971, under the name of Asian Films Laboratories Private Limited, which was subsequently renamed as ANI Media Private Limited in 1997 (“Company”). The shareholders of the said Company were Respondent No. 3’s son (“Petitioner”) and his daughter and wife (“Respondent No. 1” and “Respondent No. 2” respectively) (Petitioner and Respondents together hereinafter referred to as the “Family”). The Petitioner was the Managing Director of the Company. In 1996, Thomson Reuters Corporation Pte. Limited (“Reuters”) approached the Petitioner for a long-term equity investment in the Company on the condition that the Petitioner would play an active role in the management of the Company.
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Arbitrable or Not – India at Crossroads

As a rule, arbitral tribunals have been considered capable of adjudicating every civil or commercial dispute, which can be decided by a civil court, subject to: (i) the dispute being covered under the arbitration agreement; (ii) the party/ parties to the dispute referring the same to arbitration and (iii) the disputes being capable of adjudication and settlement by arbitration.

Having said that, the most contentious issue debated on arbitrability has been “subject-matter arbitrability” i.e. whether the disputes are capable of adjudication and settlement by arbitration. Historically, several disputes in India have been considered ‘non-arbitrable’ on the ground that the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of resolution by arbitration under the Indian law. This has largely been in line with the UNCITRAL Model Law, which permits domestic courts to set aside an arbitral award based on “subject-matter arbitrability”, under the domestic law[1].
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Foreign Arbitral Award – The Pro-Enforcement Trend Continues

The courts of this country should not be places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

The law on Arbitration in India is constantly evolving. Arbitration clauses are now the norm that figure in nearly all commercial agreements whether it is domestic in nature or has an international flavour. Over the years, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Act) has undergone several changes to address various issues arising thereunder. An important aspect of the Act that has seen significant development is enforcement of foreign awards, both through legislative and judicial intervention.
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