Advani & Co managing partner Hiroo Advani, and partners heading the arbitration practices at Juris Corp, DH Law Associates, Amarchand Mangaldas, J Sagar Associates (JSA), Economic Laws Practice (ELP) and Nishith Desai Associates (NDA), have formed the Indian Arbitration Forum (IAF) – a body that aims to “encourage best practices” and exclude the judiciary from arbitrating Indian disputes.
Advani who will preside over the IAF said: “Most of the judges arbitrating disputes in India right now charge by the day. In Bombay they have started this obnoxious practice where they hold a [arbitration] session in the morning and one in the evening and charge for two days. In Delhi they hold a session in the evening, sit for one or two hours, get tired and disappear.
“We have not seen this anywhere else but India. The corporate community is fed up. They need cheaper and faster resolution.”
Former MMTC general counsel and Indian Corporate Counsel Association’s founding president Ashok Sharma, Juris Corp senior partner Mustafa Motiwala, DH Law Associates managing partner Nusrat Hassan, Amarchand Mangaldas Delhi partner Pallavi Shroff, J Sagar Associates Bangalore partner Pramod Nair, Economic Laws Practice partner Vikram Nankani and Nishith Desai Associates partner Vyapak Desai are vice presidents of the body.
Advani told Legally India that the idea of IAF first came into existence last year and the body was finally registered this month as a company limited by guarantee after a four month long online registration process and after “smaller [arbitration] associations” in Bangalore and Bombay combined themselves with the IAF.
After receiving an “overwhelming response” for membership, IAF’s executive committee is now in the process of filtering the list of members to 25 or 30, he said. The membership currently costs between Rs 2,000 to Rs 20,000 for Indian nationals annually depending on their number of years and designation in the profession.
In a covering letter explaining the body’s objective Advani stated: “All of us are singularly unhappy at the way arbitrations are run in India especially when you compare them to international arbitrations. IAF does not propose to be an institution to administer arbitrations but merely an association of prominent arbitration lawyers to encourage ‘Best Practices’.”
“We also recommend fees for arbitrators based on value of the claim and this ensures that arbitrators do not have any incentives in prolonging the hearings,” he added in the letter.
While the IAF’s statement of purpose lists it an objective of the body to “liaise with the Government of India to introduce reforms in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996,” Advani said that in the current pre-election period they will lobby more with the judges than with the government in setting up a more affordable fee structure for Indian arbitrations.
“The [Indian Council of Arbitration] has recommended very high fee and the [London Court of International Arbitration] charges on an hourly basis, so that does not leave people with the feeling of how it is going to cost at the end of the day,” he commented.