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EMERGENCY ARBITRATION, WHETHER VALID IN INDIA UNDER ARBITRATION ACT,1996?

September 9, 2021

This interesting issue came up before Delhi High Court in Amazon.Com Nv Investment vs Future Coupons Private Limited & ors passed on 18 March, 2021 Three important questions arose for consideration before Delhi High Court :- What is the legal status of an Emergency Arbitrator i.e. whether the Emergency Arbitrator is an arbitrator and whether the interim order of the Emergency Arbitrator is an order under Section 17 (1) and is enforceable under 17(2) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act? Observed: Section 2(8) of the Indian Arbitration Act 1996 expressly provides that where Part I of the Indian Arbitration Act 1996 refers to an ―agreement of the parties‖, such agreement shall include the arbitration rules referred to in the parties’ agreement. In this way, the Indian Arbitration Act 1996 provides that any arbitration rules agreed to by the parties are incorporated into the arbitration agreement. Unless expressly excluded, it is trite that the parties cannot resile from the terms of their arbitration agreement, including their agreement to allow either party to request the appointment of an emergency arbitrator. Further, Section 17 of the Indian Arbitration Act 1996, which empowers an arbitral tribunal to grant interim reliefs, does not preclude or intimate that parties cannot agree to institutional rules which allow recourse to emergency arbitration. In the absence of a mandatory prohibition contained in the Indian Arbitration Act 1996 or public policy constraints, the parties may agree to any arbitral procedure. Whether the Emergency Arbitrator misapplied the Group of Companies doctrine which applies only to proceedings under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act? Held The Indian Arbitration Act 1996, does not preclude parties from agreeing to arbitrate under institutional rules that allow either party to request appropriate reliefs from an emergency arbitrator. The Respondents’ references to the 246th Law Commission Report do not assist its submissions on this issue in a meaningful way. It is just as plausible that Parliament, in its wisdom, did not consider it necessary to amend the Indian Arbitration Act 1996 to make a specific reference to emergency arbitrators because it was legally unnecessary – that is to say, it might have been an instance of the Law Commission making a suggestion to gild the lily. There was no need for statutory recognition if the courts and case law did not find this a problematic issue. Indeed, given the prevalence, even then, in the employment and use of this useful procedure internationally, this is likely to have been the case. It is also noteworthy that the power to appoint an emergency arbitrator is currently recognized in a number of domestic Indian arbitration institution rules, including (a) the Delhi International Arbitration Centre of the Delhi High Court; (b) the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration; and (c) the Madras High Court Arbitration Centre, all of which include, under their rules, provisions for emergency arbitration and set out the appointment process, applicable procedures, and timing as well as the powers of an emergency arbitrator. Emergency Arbitrators are recognised under the Indian Arbitration Framework The Claimant rightly asserts that the Respondents’ insistence that the notion of emergency arbitration is […]

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