Lord Goldsmith Calls for Delay to Arbitration Changes at New Delhi Conference

18 February 2019

Lord Goldsmith KC, Chair of Asian and European Litigation at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, has delivered the inaugural address at the 11th Annual International Arbitration Conclave in New Delhi. During the address, Lord Goldsmith KC called on the Indian government to delay the controversial amendments to arbitration law in the country.

The proposed changes are contained in The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The Bill was passed by the lower house of the Indian Parliament in August, but is yet to be passed by the upper house or to receive the President’s assent.

Amongst other measures, the Bill proposes that the Arbitration Council of India will regulate the practice of arbitration in the country. Lord Goldsmith KC argued in his address that “the idea that a government appointed body should regulate arbitration and arbitrators is anathema to the idea of free and autonomous arbitration.”

The Bill also proposes changes to the required qualifications of arbitrators, setting restrictions that would prohibit the appointment of foreign lawyers as arbitrators in Indian seated arbitrations.

Lord Goldsmith KC went on to argue that these amendments, if they become law, will dissuade non-Indian businesses from signing agreements providing for Indian arbitration.

During the address, Lord Goldsmith KC predicted that the Bill could “set back the cause of Indian arbitration by many years, perhaps a generation. Not a case of one step forward and two steps back but one step forward and ten steps back. Having pushed the Sisyphean rock of Indian arbitration painfully step by step up the steep slope of international acceptability it will release that boulder to plummet in free fall back down again.”

He went on to say that “it is not too late. There is a good chance that this Bill will not pass before the election. It should be delayed so better advice can prevail and these pernicious elements removed.”

The full text of Lord Goldsmith KC’s address can be found here.

Since the early 1990s, Debevoise has advised on a range of India-related activities, working with clients investing and operating in the country as they grow and protect their businesses. The firm’s dispute resolution credentials in the country are well established having advised investors on several India focused matters, including high profile investment treaty arbitration claims. The firm also routinely advises on white collar investigations, anti-corruption and compliance related issues.

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