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India will become a global hub for arbitration, the day Indians start trusting own arbitration centres: Kiren Rijiju

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Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Saturday that India has the potential to become a global hub for arbitration, but the citizens need to trust their own arbitration centres.

Addressing the gathering at the launch of the ‘Arbitrator’s Handbook’, a LexisNexis publication edited by Shashank Garg, the Union Minister said, “If we prefer Singapore, London, Hong Kong or Dubai, then the outsiders will not trust us.”

Speaking about the image of Indian judiciary at the global level, he said, “Indian Judiciary is respected worldwide and I was very happy when I was in the House of Commons, we have many people of Indian origin in UK. They all told me, the Indian Supreme Court judgements are referred and quoted in the UK. I really take pride in getting such kind of observations from a country, which is source of the common law for us.”

He went on to say that although the judiciary was independent, it required a support system, which the government was duty-bound to create.

“I take responsibility as a government representative here to ensure that whatever bottlenecks, whatever support, infrastructure creation or any conducive atmosphere is to be created, or all kinds of policy support needed from the government, I fully commit to do that,” added Rijiju.

Talking about the pendency of cases, he said though he agreed there was no easy way out to reduce the pendency of cases in Indian courts, but the issue would be addressed soon and the judiciary would be strengthened further.

Rijiju said that the time he took charge of office, India had above four crore pending cases in India and now, in a year’s time, they have almost come close to five crores.

The Minister said that people think as a Law Minister, “I must do something, please reduce the cases”. It is not good that five crore cases are pending in various courts in India. It is not an easy answer to give. But definitely, I have a role to play and I must ensure that Indian judiciary is strengthened further.

Besides Rijiju, four Supreme Court judges were also guests at the event.

Justice UU Lalit discussed the recent features and trends in international arbitration, along with case laws from various jurisdictions relating to the dichotomy in multi-tier or escalation clauses, access to justice and arbitration, the approach to determining proper law of arbitration agreement and more.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul discussed the relevance of the topic, particularly the extent to which judicial intervention has impeded arbitration.

He highlighted how the arbitration regime saw many twists and turns in the Supreme Court, though the top court eventually reached the conclusion that it is not the job of a judge to sit as an appellate court and scrutinise arbitral awards.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna said that arbitration is one of the oldest, if not the first method known to the society for adjudication and resolution of disputes.

Though he conceded that there is some reluctance to take recourse to arbitration as a default dispute resolution mechanism, but those aware of its advantages are reaping the benefits of it.

Justice B.R. Gavai in his speech shared his views on the Indian arbitration landscape. He underscored that despite the importance of India being a hub for international arbitration, it is necessary to be mindful of the fact that the chief majority of arbitration in any jurisdiction would always be domestic arbitration.

Therefore, we have to ensure that even at the domestic level, issues and challenges arising with respect to the arbitration ecosystem is addressed at war footing by both the legislature and the judiciary, he said.

“And in order to ensure that Indian domestic arbitration also flourishes, of course there is a clear need of quality arbitrators who are well-versed with both domestic and international procedures,” he added.

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