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LCIA yet to bag 10th case as high-powered Hiranandani arbitration resolved with Cherie Blair, AP Shah, Karanjawala

Cherie Booth QC: Not cheap
Cherie Booth QC: Not cheap

The London Court of International Arbitration’s (LCIA) Indian subsidiary resolved real estate giant Hiranandani Group’s family business dispute yesterday with an award in favour of Priya Hiranandani Vandrevala, after over two-and-a-half years of arbitration.

This was LCIA India’s first ever reported arbitration, out of fewer than 10 disputes handled by the Indian subsidiary since its inception in May 2010.

“It is not that you open an institution and you have a flood of cases coming in. LCIA London has taken a 100 years to be in the position they are,” commented LCIA India registrar Ajay Thomas, according to whom the cases handled by the body were “in the single digits” so far, and were mostly related to international trade contracts and construction and infrastructure deals, while the oil and gas sector was also gaining traction.

He told Legally India that depending on whether parties to a dispute appointed a single arbitrator or three arbitrators, the average length of the resolution process ranged from 12 to 18 months.

“If there is just one [arbitrator] you don’t have to coordinate the diaries of three different arbitrators,” he said, adding that in India it was more common for parties to appoint three arbitrators.

Hirandani

In the Hiranandani dispute, Vandrevala filed the arbitration plea in January 2011, according to the Business Standard, while Cherie Booth QC – the eminent Queen’s Counsel (QC) barrister and wife of Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair - headed the panel of arbitrators. Former Delhi high court chief justice AP Shah and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Hong Kong partner and global international arbitration head, Lucy Reed, were the other two arbitrators.

Karanjawala & Co founding partner Raian Karanjawala, with partners Manik Karanjawala and Ruby Singh Ahuja, and former associates Ruchira Gupta and Jatin Mongia acted for Vandrevala, according to a press release from the firm. Vandrevala had alleged that her brother and father had violated a business association agreement with her, the Business Standard reported.

She had asserted in her January 2011 plea that new land bought for 28 real estate projects worth Rs 3,000 crore was not translating into profits for her and that the agreement required her brother and her father to exclusively transact with her in buying and developing the land.

US firm Pepper Hamilton, with its Philadelphia-based partners Matthew Adler and Jeremy Heep, and associates Lydia Furst and William Taylor also acted for Vandrevala.

Ahuja said: “Institutionalised arbitration gives more structure to the whole process. If you’re a party based in India it is more economical.”

Thomas said that LCIA India was currently trying to spread awareness about incorporating an LCIA India clause in arbitration agreements ahead of time. “Most of the disputes we have received have had ad hoc arbitration clauses. For a dispute to be referred to us the agreement has to have a specific LCIA India clause,” he commented, explaining that the Indian subsidiary was operationally independent of its UK parent, and was started with “the idea of bringing London quality to Indian parties at Indian rates”.

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