New regulations offer opportunity for fast-track and emergency arbitrations

New regulations unveiled on 31 August 2023 provide guidance on arbitrations at the India International Arbitration Centre. The Centre is a statutory body established through the India International Arbitration Centre Act, 2019 with the purpose of creating an independent and autonomous centre for institutional arbitration.

The India International Arbitration Centre (Conduct of Arbitration) Regulations, made under Section 31 of India International Arbitration Centre Act, 2019, apply to arbitrations where the parties have agreed to refer their dispute to the Centre, or any Court has directed that the arbitration be conducted at the Centre.

The regulations provide for procedures which are aimed at achieving fast, fair and efficient conduct of arbitration. Apart from the standard procedures in arbitration, some of the notable features of the regulations are consolidation of arbitration, fast track procedures and emergency arbitration.

A. Consolidation of arbitration

There are broad grounds for consolidation of arbitration under Regulation 8, which states that arbitration can be consolidated in cases where the parties agree to the consolidation or the claims in the arbitration are made under the same arbitration agreement.  Even if the dispute is not under the same arbitration agreement, the arbitration can be consolidated if the disputes are identical and between the same parties or between the parties having commonality of interests, or where such disputes arise out of separate contracts but relate to the same transaction. Consolidation of arbitration can save costs and time for the parties. It also increases efficiency by eliminating the possibility of contradicting awards.

B. Fast-track procedure

The fast-track procedure under the regulations can be used if the parties mutually agree to it either before or at the time of appointment of the Arbitral Tribunal (Regulation 17). Arbitration which is conducted under the fast-track procedure will be decided on the basis of pleadings and documents filed by the parties. An oral hearing may be held only if all the parties make a request or if the arbitral tribunal considers it necessary to have an oral hearing to clarify certain issues.

Awards under the fast-track procedure may be made within six months of the constitution of the arbitral tribunal. The arbitral tribunal may decide that the arbitration should not be conducted as a fast-track procedure upon application by a party. In such cases, it will be the same arbitral tribunal which will continue to conduct the arbitration.

C. Emergency arbitration

Emergency arbitration is provided for by Regulation 18. A party may apply in writing to the registrar for emergency interim relief if the party cannot wait till the Arbitral Tribunal is constituted. Such a request can be made at the time or after the filing of the request for arbitration but prior to the constitution of the arbitral tribunal. The benefit of such a procedure is that an interim relief can be obtained in a short space of time. The regulations provide three days for the appointment of an emergency arbitrator and two days for the arbitrator to schedule a hearing. Any scope for appearance of bias is also avoided by providing that the emergency arbitrator may not act as an arbitrator in any future arbitration relating to the dispute unless agreed by all the parties.

The India International Arbitration Centre (Conduct of Arbitration) Regulations, 2023, are a comprehensive and modern set of rules for international commercial arbitration in India. The regulations provide for a wide range of procedural options, giving the parties flexibility in conducting their arbitration. They also reference the use of technology in the conduct of arbitration by making express provisions for hybrid hearings and online filing. The regulations are also designed to be user-friendly and accessible to all stakeholders and mark a positive step forward in promoting institutional arbitration in India.

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