Title: Understanding the Fast Track Procedure under Section 29B of The Arbitration and Conciliation Act: A Comprehensive Analysis
The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (the Act) aims to streamline dispute resolutions in India and make the arbitration process more user-friendly by minimizing court intervention. One of the significant advancements in this regard is the introduction of the Fast Track Procedure under Section 29B through the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015. Our legal experts at SimranLaw unpack the critical aspects of this provision and elucidate its application through relevant case laws.
Under Section 29B, parties opting to resolve their disputes can choose the fast track procedure. This accelerated process requires the arbitration tribunal to decide the dispute purely on the basis of written pleadings, documents, and submissions filed by the parties without oral hearings, unless requested by all parties. The award must be made within a period of six months from the date of entering upon the reference.
The Fast Track Procedure is a voluntary process proposed by either all parties involved, or as per provisions in the arbitration agreement itself. In other words, both parties need to agree to adopt the fast track process for it to proceed.
One major advantage of this procedure, as suggested by its name, is its efficiency. It is designed to expedite resolution, thereby saving precious time and resources for all parties involved. Additionally, its emphasis on written submissions over oral representation helps minimize potential biases and ensures a more objective decision-making process.
However, critics argue that this fast-paced approach may not provide adequate opportunity for parties to present or elaborate on complex arguments, potentially affecting the quality or fairness of the decision.
The efficacy of the fast-track arbitration procedure has been affirmed through a few landmark judgments.
1. In Punj Lloyd Ltd. Vs. National Highways Authority of India, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of fast-track arbitration and confirmed that the fast track procedure is a legally valid method of dispute resolution under the Act.
2. The decision in Ssangyong Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. vs. NHAI further cemented this view where the Supreme Court reiterated that time is the essence in arbitration proceedings and the fast track procedure can play a significant role in achieving this objective.
3. In Afcons Infrastructure Ltd. Vs. Cherian Varkey Construction Co. Pvt. Ltd., the courts stressed that arbitration should be the first choice for commercial disputes and endorsing fast track arbitration.
While these cases illustrate the judiciary’s support for the Fast Track Procedure under Section 29B, the benefits and drawbacks of this process must be weighed carefully before opting for it.
In conclusion, the Fast Track Procedure under Section 29B represents a significant step towards efficient dispute resolution, fulfilling the principle of ‘party autonomy’ in arbitration procedures. However, parties need to be wary of the implications and potential limitations of this process before choosing it blindly over a traditional arbitration procedure. At SimranLaw, our experienced attorneys can provide a comprehensive understanding of such complex legal issues and guide you in making informed decisions.