Parties In Arbitration Must Learn To Accept Awards Rather Than Engaging In Further Litigation: SC Judge

Parties involved in arbitration proceedings must learn to accept the arbitral award, instead of carrying on a battle through multi-tiered scrutiny, Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said on Sunday while hailing the fact that virtual court hearings have raised the level of efficiency.

Justice Kaul said it is necessary to utilise the virtual system for which a vast infrastructure has been created and a large amount of money sanctioned by the government.

“Parties must learn to accept (arbitral) awards and unfortunately, the public sector more so requires this and there is no need to carry a battle through two or three-tier scrutiny just to complete the formality. I think that is something I am sure the law minister will look into,” the apex court judge said while speaking at the concluding session of the four-day “Delhi Arbitration Weekend”.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju was the chief guest at the concluding session.

Justice Kaul said the international arbitration community shifted to the virtual system after the COVID-19 pandemic and gradually, virtual or hybrid hearings will become a norm and physical hearings will become an exception.

To keep the wheels of justice moving as much as possible, virtual hearing was introduced in the courts of India and being a developing country, there were issues related to infrastructure and connectivity, but it did not take long for the stakeholders to find a way to operate efficiently, he said.

Justice Kaul was speaking on the topic of “Arbitration Vision 2030: What the Future Beholds?”

“I would say the virtual system has actually increased the efficiency level and hence, even today, I operate on a hybrid level where I permit lawyers to appear through video-conferencing,” he said while pointing out that the virtual system has reduced the cost of travelling and allows lawyers to prepare for their cases in a short time.

“This is something the chief justice of India also on recent occasions emphasised that having created this vast infrastructure, it is necessary to utilise it to the best possible way, considering that the government has also sanctioned a large amount for further use of technology to strengthen the judicial system,” Justice Kaul said.

He said the virtual system has done away with the need of unnecessarily spending money on travelling to different parts of the world for conferences or hearings and it has also become easier for arbitrators and practitioners to find a suitable date of hearing.

Some arbitration institutions have explicitly come out with virtual arbitration rules, he said, adding that arbitrators and practitioners will be required to know the basics of technology with an attention to cyber security and other issues.

Justice Kaul further said he does not consider virtual hearings to be a foolproof system and the experience has shown that they come with their own set of problems.

He said parties can also insist on physical or hybrid hearing to use it as a means to delay the arbitration process and the arbitral tribunal has to take due steps to balance the process and not delay it.

Regarding artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT, the top court judge said people can get answers to any query and to explore the use of AI, the Supreme Court has formed a committee that is looking into various aspects.

“However, AI tools must be used very carefully as they come with risks of due process rights and public policy violations,” he said.

Justice Kaul also said arbitration constantly reflects the needs of the parties in dispute and the factors that have helped India move towards an arbitration-friendly regime include institutionalising the arbitration system.

He said the mediation bill, which will see the light of the day possibly this year, is also geared towards this institutionalisation.

“There is strict adherence to the principles of non-interference with the arbitral awards by courts. Indian courts have shifted towards this,” Justice Kaul said.

He said future developments for arbitration in India will be in tandem with those taking place globally and added, “W are at an exciting stage domestically and globally with respect to arbitrations.”

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