Fast-Track Arbitration: Analysis of Section 29(B) of Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015

By Dr Sandeep Singh

The Arbitration & Conciliation Act of 2015 primarily focuses on Fast-Track Arbitration, an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. Emphasizing expediency and cost-effectiveness in commercial dispute resolution, fast-track arbitration provides a specialized approach for swift and efficient dispute resolution. Introduced by the Arbitration and Conciliation Amendment Act of 2015 in India, this concept, as outlined in Article 30 and Annexure V of the Rules by the International Chambers of Commerce, mandates proceedings to conclude within six months. Notably, oral proceedings are not allowed; instead, resolution is expected through written pleadings. In line with recommendations from the 14th Commission, India aimed to establish 1800 Fast Track Courts by 2020, specifically handling heinous crimes and civil cases involving women, children, and senior citizens.

Fast-track procedure

“Section 29-B of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 was inserted by way of Section 15 of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015. This section provides for a “fast-track procedure” for conducting an arbitration with an agreement of parties to the arbitration.

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the parties to an arbitration agreement, may, at any stage either before or at the time of appointment of the arbitral tribunal, agree in writing to have their dispute resolved by fast-track procedure specified in sub-section (3).

(2) The parties to the arbitration agreement, while agreeing for resolution of dispute by fast-track procedure, may agree that the arbitral tribunal shall consist of a sole arbitrator who shall be chosen by the parties.

(3) The arbitral tribunal shall follow the following procedure while conducting arbitration proceedings under sub-section (1):--

  • (a) The arbitral tribunal shall decide the dispute on the basis of written pleadings, documents and submissions filed by the parties without any oral hearing;
  • (b) The arbitral tribunal shall have power to call for any further information or clarification from the parties in addition to the pleadings and documents filed by them;
  • (c) An oral hearing may be held only, if, all the parties make a request or if the arbitral tribunal considers it necessary to have oral hearing for clarifying certain issues;
  • (d) The arbitral tribunal may dispense with any technical formalities, if an oral hearing is held, and adopt such procedure as deemed appropriate for expeditious disposal of the case.

(4) The award under this section shall be made within a period of six months from the date the arbitral tribunal enters upon the reference.

(5) If the award is not made within the period specified in sub-section (4), the provisions of sub-sections (3) to (9) of section 29A shall apply to the proceedings.

(6) The fees payable to the arbitrator and the manner of payment of the fees shall be such as may be agreed between the arbitrator and the parties.”

Understanding Fast-Track Arbitration

Fast-track arbitration operates on the principle of expediency. Specially designed courts ensure speedy trials, often conducting daily hearings with minimal delays. The primary goal is to address cases promptly while maintaining the integrity of the legal process.

Key Features That Set Fast-Track Arbitration Apart

Simplified Procedures: Fast-track arbitration distinguishes itself through simplified and condensed procedural rules. This streamlined approach minimizes delays and provides a clear and efficient path to resolution.

Limited Discovery: In contrast to traditional arbitration, fast-track proceedings limit the scope of discovery. This targeted approach focuses on essential evidence directly relevant to the dispute, ensuring a quicker process without sacrificing thoroughness.

Expedited Timelines: Time is of the essence in fast-track arbitration. Strict schedules are adhered to by all involved parties, ensuring a significantly shorter resolution timeframe compared to standard proceedings.

Single Arbitrator: While traditional arbitration often involves a panel of arbitrators, fast-track arbitration typically opts for a single arbitrator. This not only reduces administrative burdens but also contributes to a more efficient decision-making process.

Benefits of Fast-Track Arbitration

Reduce Backlog: Fast-track arbitration plays a crucial role in reducing the backlog of pending cases, providing relief to an overwhelmed judicial system.

Improve Judicial System Efficiency: By emphasizing efficiency, fast-track arbitration contributes to an overall improvement in the effectiveness of the judicial system.

Speedy Justice for Victims: Victims and their families find solace in the swift justice delivered through the fast-track arbitration process.

Cost-Effectiveness: In a world where traditional litigation can be financially burdensome, fast-track arbitration offers a cost-effective alternative, allowing parties to save on legal expenses.

Time Savings: Businesses operating in a fast-paced environment benefit from the expedited timelines, preventing prolonged disputes that could impact operations.

Expert Decision-Making: Fast-track arbitrators are selected for their expertise in the specific area of law relevant to the dispute, ensuring well-informed and precise decisions.

In conclusion, the enactment of fast-track arbitration stands as a compelling solution for parties seeking a prompt and cost-effective resolution to their disputes. As businesses navigate a rapidly changing landscape, the demand for efficient dispute resolution mechanisms is likely to grow. Fast-track arbitration not only addresses the urgency of resolving disputes but also offers a cost-effective alternative, making it an essential consideration for parties seeking expedited procedures. As we embrace this dynamic approach to arbitration, the legal landscape continues to evolve towards a future where swift justice is not just a necessity but a reality.

—Dr Sandeep Singh is an Advocate and Mediator