The realm of arbitration has been revolutionized by the introduction of the Fast Track Procedure under Section 29B of the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015. The primary intent behind this amendment was to expedite the arbitration process and make it a truly effective alternative to overcrowded courts. We, at SimranLaw, through this article, aim to demystify this often opaque area of the law by shedding light on Section 29B of the Act and its fundamental implications.
Understanding Section 29B
Section 29B of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 introduces an optional scheme of ‘Fast Track’ arbitration, also known as ‘expedited procedure’, to be opted for by parties either at the stage of entering an arbitration agreement or after the dispute has arisen. The fast-track mechanism represents a conscious shift from a traditional arbitration process, allowing parties to resolve their disputes more quickly and efficiently.
The Key Features Of Fast-Track Procedure
The salient features of the fast-track procedure as per section 29B include:
1. Consent: The fast-track procedure can only be opted by mutual consent of the parties involved.
2. Time Frame: The award in such a procedure must be made within a period of six months.
3. Absence of Oral Hearing: The fast-track procedure largely relies on written pleadings and documents. Oral hearings occur only if demanded by both parties and considered necessary by the tribunal.
4. Award: The tribunal must make an award within six months from entering upon reference.
Amongst the numerous cases that have tested and interpreted Section 29B are a few that really stand out:
1. Pricol Ltd. Vs Johnson Controls Enterprises Ltd.- This case was a landmark judgment where the Supreme Court allowed parties to opt for the fast track procedure even after the start of the arbitration proceedings, thus broadening the scope of Section 29B.
2. Voestalpine Schienen GmBH vs Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd.- In this case, the apex court underscored that the fast-track procedure can be followed even in cases where the agreement was executed prior to the 2015 Amendment of the Act.
3. Kvaerner Cementation India Ltd. Vs Bajranglal Agarwal & Anr- The Calcutta High Court held that the consent of parties for fast-track arbitration should be explicit and cannot be inferred.
Practical Implications and Conclusion
The introduction of Section 29B has been a welcome step towards expediting the pace of arbitration proceedings in India. It provides a channel for parties seeking quicker resolution of disputes. However, its efficacy is still being tested in numerous judgments across the country.
At SimranLaw, we guide our clients in understanding if their case is suitable for fast-track arbitration and help them navigate through this relatively new legal terrain. Through years of experience and a deep understanding of the law, we aim to provide the best service for our clients in this evolving field.
Understanding and utilizing Section 29B effectively can be complex. Yet, with a clear grasp of its provisions and practical implications, parties can make informed decisions about dispute resolution strategies, potentially saving time and resources in the process.