Supreme Court defers hearing of issue ‘can an ineligible person appoint arbitrator’ for two months (September 13)

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On July 12, 2023, the Supreme Court of India deferred the hearing of a matter that raised the issue, ‘whether a person ineligible to be appointed as an arbitrator can appoint an arbitrator’, for two months. The matter was heard by a Constitution bench including, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, Justice Manoj Misra, Justice Hrishikesh Roy, and Justice Pankaj Mithal. During the court proceedings, the Attorney General of India appeared for the Union Government, R Venkataramani, sought deferment in the matter and said that “The matter could be deferred for a while till the committee gives its report. It is a consultative process.” A similar sentiment was expressed by Senior Advocate Fali Sam Nariman, who said, “That would be preferable because the reference by government is really on a new law to be enacted. That seems to be the memorandum of the government. So we do not know if the new law will be enacted or not.” The committee referred here was constituted on June 14, 2023, by the Ministry of Law and Justice with sixteen members. Former Secretary of the Department of Legal Affairs Dr. TK Vishwanathan headed the committee for examining the working arbitration law in India. He also recommended reforms in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996

In context with the deferment requests, CJI asked the AG, “We can defer the hearing. But what is the timeline?” To this AG replied, “The committee should not take more than two months and I will also try to expedite the process. We will give a report back to the court as soon as deliberations are done.” Following this, the top Court agreed to defer the matter for two months and said, “We are informed that Union Government has constituted an expert committee with a broad remit to consider the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. 1996. The Attorney General submits that the issues which have been raised before the constitution bench will also come within the remit of the committee. After a report of the committee, the government will take a considered view on whether the modification of legislation is warranted. Mr Fali S Nariman has also joined in and made the same submissions as has the other party. Hence, presently we direct that the two references before the Constitution bench be deferred by a period of two months. The court shall be apprised on the next date of the progress which has been made following the constitution of the committee. List on September 13, 2023.”

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