The amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 were passed by both the Houses of the Parliament and became a law on August 09, 2019 after the President of India gave its assent to the amendments. The amendments shall be known as Arbitration and Conciliation (Act), 2019 and will be treated as additional to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (Amendments), 2018.
Some of the key highlights of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019 (‘Amendment Act’) are set out below:
1. Arbitration Council of India: Under the amendment establish an independent body called the Arbitration Council of India (ACI) for the promotion of arbitration, mediation, conciliation and other alternative dispute redressal mechanisms.
2. Appointment of arbitrators: Under the new amendments, the Hon’ble Supreme Court and Hon’ble High Courts of various states may now designate arbitral institutions, which parties can approach for the appointment of arbitrators. For international commercial arbitration, appointments will be made by the institution designated by the Supreme Court. For domestic arbitration, appointments will be made by the institution designated by the concerned High Court. In case there are no arbitral institutions available, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the concerned High Court may maintain a panel of arbitrators to perform the functions of the arbitral institutions. An application for appointment of an arbitrator is required to be disposed of within 30 days.
3.Relaxation of time limits: Under the old Arbitration Act, 1996, the arbitral tribunals were required to make their award within a period of 12 months (extendable to 18 months with party consent) for completion of all arbitration proceedings. The new amendment, 2019 seeks to remove this time restriction for international commercial arbitrations. It adds that tribunals must endeavor to dispose of international arbitration matters within 12 months.
4.Completion of written submissions: Under the old Arbitration Act, 1996 no time limit to file written submissions before an arbitral tribunal. The amendment now requires that the written claim and the defense to the claim in an arbitration proceeding, should be completed within six months of the appointment of the arbitrators.
5.Confidentiality of proceedings: The Bill provides that all details of arbitration proceedings will be kept confidential except for the details of the arbitral award in certain circumstances. Disclosure of the arbitral award will only be made where it is necessary for implementing or enforcing the award.
6.Amendment to Section 34: Section 34 of the Act replaces the words “furnishes proof that”, with “establishes on the basis of the record of the arbitral tribunal that”.
7.Amendment to Section 45: Section 45 of the Act has been amended to substitute the words “unless it finds”, with the words “unless it prima facie finds”.
8.Applicability of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 2015: The Amendment, 2019 also clarifies that after the insertion and adoption of Section 26 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 2015, the Arbitration Act, 2015 shall only apply to arbitral proceedings which started on or after October 23, 2015.