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Reliance wins as SC appoints Australian judge to arbitrate $1.8bn oil ministry dispute

An Indian Supreme Court bench headed up by Justice SS Nijjar has appointed ex-Australian SC judge James Spigelman to preside as arbitrator between Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries and the oil ministry. At stake is who whether Reliance will be able to recover $1.8bn in its costs from the government for developing the KG-D6 oil field.

Two arbitrators had already been decided on - ex Chief Justices SP Barucha and VN Khare, Reliance and the ministry's nominees respectively - but the parties and other arbitrators could not agree on a presiding arbitrator.

The oil ministry had pitched for an Indian arbitrator, because the law and subject matter of the agreement were Indian and since selection should take place under the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 and not the UN's Uncitral rules. Reliance counsel Harish Salve requested an arbitrator from a country other than India, the UK or Canada, since companies from each of those countries has a stake or role in the dispute, arguing that the procedure from the Uncitral rules should be followed. [Financial Express] [Background to dispute in Business Standard]

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