1 . Cabinet approves the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018
The Union Cabinet has approved the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018 for introduction in the Parliament. It is a part of the efforts of the Government to encourage institutional arbitration for settlement of disputes and make India a centre of robust Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism.
The Amendments in the Act of 1996 will facilitate achieving the goal of improving institutional arbitration by establishing an independent body to lay down standards, make arbitration process more party friendly, cost effective and ensure timely disposal of arbitration cases.
To facilitate speedy appointment of arbitrators through designated arbitral institutions by the Supreme Court or the High Court, without having any requirement to approach the court in this regard. It is envisaged that parties may directly approach arbitral institutions designated by the Supreme Court for International Commercial arbitration and in other cases the concerned High Courts.
Arbitration Council of India (ACI)
The amendment provides for creation of an independent body namely the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) which will grade arbitral institution and accredit arbitrators by laying down norms and take all such steps as may be necessary to promote and encourage arbitration, conciliation, mediation and other ADR Mechanism and for that purpose evolve policy and guidelines for the establishment., operation and maintenance of uniform professional standards in respect of all matters relating to arbitration and ADR mechanism. The Council shall also maintain an electronic depository of all arbitral awards.
The ACI shall be a body corporate. The Chairperson of ACI shall be a person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice or Judge of any High Court or any eminent person. Further, the other Members would include an eminent academician etc. besides other Government nominees.
It is proposed to amend sub section (1) of section 29A by excluding International Arbitration from the bounds of timeline and further to provide that the time limit for arbitral award in other arbitrations shall be within 12 months from the completion of the pleadings of the parties.
A new section 42A is proposed to be inserted to provide that the arbitrator and the arbitral institutions shall keep confidentiality of all arbitral proceedings except award. Further, a new section 42B protects an Arbitrator from suit or other legal proceedings for any action or omission done in good faith in the course of arbitration proceedings.
A new section 87 is proposed to be inserted to clarify that unless parties agree otherwise the Amendment Act 2015 shall not apply to (a) Arbitral proceedings which have commenced before the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 (b) Court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such arbitral proceedings irrespective of whether such court proceedings are commenced prior to or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and shall apply only to Arbitral proceedings commenced on or after the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 and to court proceedings arising out of or in relation to such Arbitral proceedings.
The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, was amended by the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015 in order to make arbitration process user friendly, cost effective and ensure speedy disposal and neutrality of arbitrators. However, to give a boost to institutional, arbitration vis-a-vis ad hoc arbitration and to remove some practical difficulties in applicability of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015, a High Level Committee (HLC) under the Chairmanship of Justice B. H. Srikrishna, Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India, was constituted by the Central Government.
The HLC submitted its Report on 30th July, 2017 and has recommended for amendments in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The proposed amendments are as per the recommendations of the High Level Committee.
2 . Cabinet approves the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2018
The Union Cabinet has approved the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2018 for introduction in the Parliament.
Objectives of the Bill
1 . The Bill brings down the specified value of a commercial dispute to 3 Lakhs from the present one Crore: Therefore, commercial disputes of a reasonable value can be decided by commercial courts. This would bring down the time taken (presently 1445 days) in resolution of commercial disputes of lesser value and thus further improve India’s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business.
2 . The amendment provides for establishment of Commercial Courts at district Judge level for the territories over which respective High Courts have ordinary original civil jurisdiction i.e in the cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and State of Himachal Pradesh. The State Governments, in such territories may by notification specify such pecuniary value of commercial disputes to be adjudicated at the district level, which shall ‘not be less than three lakhs rupees and not more than the pecuniary jurisdiction of the district court. In the jurisdiction of High Courts other than those exercising ordinary original jurisdiction a forum of Appeal in commercial dispute decided by commercial courts below the level of District judge is being provided, in the form of Commercial Appellate Courts to be at district judge level.
3 . The introduction of the Pre-Institution Mediation process in cases where no urgent, interim relief is contemplated will provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve the commercial disputes outside the ambit of the courts through the authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.will also help in reinforcing investor’s confidence in the resolution of commercial disputes.
4 . Insertion of new section of 21A which enables the Central Government to make rules and procedures for PIM.
5 . To give prospective effect to the amendment so as not to disturb the authority of the judicial forum presently adjudicating the commercial disputes as per the extant provisions of the Act.
With the rapid economic development there has been considerable increase in commercial activities and consequent steep rise in number of commercial disputes at domestic and international level. Increase of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and overseas commercial transactions have further contributed to a significant increase of commercial disputes.
With a view to address the issue faster resolution of matters relating to commercial disputes and to create a positive image particularly among the foreign investors about the independent and responsive Indian legal system, the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015 was enacted and commercial courts were established at District Levels in all jurisdictions, except in the territories over which the High Courts have original ordinary civil jurisdiction.
These five High Courts i.e. the High Courts of Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and of Himachal Pradesh, exercise ordinary original civil jurisdiction in regard to territories of cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and the territory of the State of Himachal Pradesh respectively. In such territories of these High Courts as per proviso to sub-section (1) of section 3 there are no commercial courts at district level and instead Commercial Divisions have been constituted in each of these High Courts. The specified value of such commercial disputes to be adjudicated by the Commercial Courts or the Commercial Division of High Court, as the case may be is presently Rs. one Crore.
Ease of Doing Business
Ease of Doing Business is an index of World Bank which inter alia refers to the dispute resolution environment in a country which facilitates the investors in deciding for setting up of and operation of a business. This index has been created by the World Bank Group and since 2002, it has been evaluating almost all the countries of the world. A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of the business.
On 31st October, 2017, World Bank released its latest annual ‘Ease of Doing Business’ report for the year 2018 in which India has emerged out as one among top ten improvers and for the first time ever, India has jumped 30 positions and reached 100th ranked country in terms of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ amongst 190 countries. This manifests that India is fast adopting the best practices in regulatory framework for Ease of Doing Business at all fronts.
3 . NITI Aayog to launch Women Entrepreneurship Platform on International Women’s Day
NITI Aayog will launch its Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) on 8th March , on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.
Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) would provide a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem where women do not face any gender-based barriers. The platform aspires to substantially increase the number of women entrepreneurs who will create and empower a dynamic New India. WEP will provide opportunities to women to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale-up innovative initiatives and chalk-out sustainable, long-term strategies for their businesses.
The WEP shall aim to-
1.Promote women entrepreneurship by collaborating with various partner organisations
2. Provide industry linkages & partner support to women entrepreneurs Increase the visibility of existing schemes, programmes & services across government and private sectors
3. Identify and address issues and bottlenecks through appropriate channels
4. Develop a national database through a centralised portal for registration of women entrepreneurs
5.Provide evidence-based policy recommendations to develop a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem
Nominations for the third edition of the Women Transforming India Awards 2018, shall also be opened on the occasion. The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Women and Entrepreneurship’ which will be launched in partnership with United Nations.
4 . National E-Mobility Programme launched
National E-Mobility Programme has been launched by the Government on 7th March. The Programme aims to provide an impetus to the entire e-mobility ecosystem including vehicle manufacturers, charging infrastructure companies, fleet operators, service providers, etc.
The Programme will be implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) which will aggregate demand by procuring electric vehicles in bulk to get economies of scale. These electric vehicles will replace the existing fleet of petrol and diesel vehicles.
EESL had procured 10,000 e-vehicles last year and will issue a new tender very soon for 10,000 more e-vehicles to cater to the growing demand. With these 20,000 electric cars, India is expected to save over 5 crore litres of fuel every year leading to a reduction of over 5.6 lakh tonnes of annual CO2 emission.
It makes sense from point of view of environment and economy both. The per kilometer cost for an electric car is just 85 paisa against Rs 6.5 for normal cars and these would also help us achieve autonomy from expensive petroleum imports.
Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under the Ministry of Power, Government of India, is working towards mainstreaming energy efficiency and is implementing the world’s largest energy efficiency portfolio in the country. Driven by the mission of Enabling More – more efficiency, more innovation, EESL aims to creating market access for efficient and future ready transformative solutions that create a win-win situation for every stakeholder.
So far, EESL has distributed over 29 crore LED bulbs and retrofitted 50 lakh LED streetlights across India through self-sustaining commercial models. EESL aims to leverage this implementation experience and exploit new opportunities in overseas market for diversification of its portfolio. As on date, EESL has begun its operations in UK, South Asia and South-East Asia.