Amendments in arbitration bill will be terrible mistake: Lord Goldsmith

Amiya Kumar Kushwaha

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) The Indian government will be making a mistake if the proposed amendments to the arbitration are cleared as certain categories of professionals -- for instance, doctors - will be barred from acting as arbitrators, Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General for England, Wales and Northern Ireland has said.

He appreciated the country's efforts for improving its global perception of doing business and said that an effective arbitration regime will aid that process -- but insisted that the parties to a dispute have the freedom to name the arbitrators of their choice as is currently the case.

Presently, one doesn't necessarily have to be a law professional to be appointed an arbitrator. People with a sufficient ammount of experience in other professions can also be named arbitrators.

Goldsmith, one of the UK's leading barristers who served as Attorney General from 2001-2007, was here for the recent 11th Annual International Arbitration Conclave.

In an interview to IANS, Goldsmith warned that some of the proposed changes in the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2018 will be retrograde.

The Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha in August 2018 but is yet to be considered by the Rajya Sabha.

Replying to a question on the adverse impact of the amendments, he said foreign entities of individuals will not have confidence in the Indian system because they will not able to name arbitrators of their choice.

He said that foreign businessmen will prefer other countries like Singapore, Hong Kong or England to resolve their disputes.

As per new bill, the Supreme Court and High Courts will designate arbitral institutions which the parties can approach for the appointment of arbitrators.

He also said that efficient and fair arbitration promotes the rule of law and enables commercial parties build trust that their disputes can be meaningfuly resolved with individuals of their choice.

Agreeing with Goldsmith's submissions, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar said under the amendment, there will be governmental control and supervision on arbitrators.

Citing the example of cases relating to the Bombay Stock Exchange, he said arbitrators are not judges or lawyers but members of the stock exchange itself who better understand the dispute.

"Arbitration is dispute resolution mechanism. You do not need a judge and lawyer to solve the issue," Datar said adding that foreign companies will avoid Indian arbitration if the bill becomes law.

"If people like Goldsmith feel that there is going to be a big setback, then we must completely avoid it," he added.

(Amiya Kumar Kushwaha can be contacted at amiya.k@ians.in)

--IANS

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