Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2019 that seeks to make India a hub of arbitration for settling commercial disputes in a shorter period of time.

The Upper House also cleared another bill for setting up the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) for creating an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration. The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2019 declares the NDIAC as an institution of national importance.

Members of main opposition Congress and other political parties supported the bill. The opposition also gave various suggestions.

TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray and CPI(M) leader Elamaram Kareem said that the bills should have been vetted by the Select Committee of the House before being brought for discussion and approval. Ray protested against government's "unusual hurry" in bringing the legislation and staged a walkout.

As many as 23 members participated in the discussion with most of them supporting the two bills.

The government move to amend the earlier law on the alternative dispute resolution mechanism is aimed at making India a major arbitration centre in the world on the lines of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) among others.

The draft legislation provides for establishing an independent body to lay down standards for timely and cost-effective disposal of cases and eventually improving ease-of-doing business.

The proposed law provides for setting up of an independent body Arbitration Council of India (ACI) to frame arbitral institutions and grade arbitrators.

The Chairperson of ACI will be appointed by the government in consultation with Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Its other members would include eminent persons and government nominees.

Participating in the discussion on the bill, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that appointment criteria of the ACI will make the body seem like a "sarkari centre."

"Who will prescribe composition and functions of committee? The Centre. If eminent jurists are appointed, why can't they define composition and functions? These defects must be corrected. Centre should constitute a collegium to make these appointments," said Chidambaram.

Later, replying to the members, Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad dismissed the view.

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