December 14, 2022
Sukhendu Sekhar Ray’s speech on The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (Amendment) Bill, 2022
Sir, at the outset, I may please be allowed to give a short background of the 2019 Act, that is, New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Act before I deal with the present Bill. If I refer to the Act of 2019, it says inter alia, and I quote, “And whereas the International Centre …” There was an International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution. There was a Centre; and it was set up in the year 1995 under the aegis of Central Government and registered under the Societies Act, as mentioned by Vivek Tankhaji. Now “Whereas the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution has not been able to actively engage and embrace developments in the arbitration ecosystem and to create a reputation par excellence keeping pace with the dynamic nature of arbitration over more than two decades.” “And whereas it has become expedient to take over the undertakings, etc. …” On 2nd March, 2019, an Ordinance was promulgated to take over that Centre, its assets, moveable and immovable, everything, and the fund. So, in 1995, that Centre was set up by the Central Government and it was taken over by way of promulgation of an Ordinance on 2nd March, 2019, after a lapse of 14 years. I am not saying that the previous Government was responsible for that or the present Government is, but the fact remains that it took 14 years for the Government to understand that that society of arbitration was not functioning as per international, or any other standards. That Ordinance was challenged by the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution, the earlier Centre, in the Delhi High Court and the Delhi High Court granted stay initially. Ultimately it was vacated, but in between, the Government was pressing hard and a question was raised in the court as to what was the hurry. Then, the learned Counsel — I hope I remember it right; I have gone through the records — appearing for the Government said, “We have committed before the World Bank and by 19th May, 2019, we shall come out with some positive results.” So, it was committed before the World Bank by the Indian Government that by such and such date they would come out with some positive results and that was the reason for the hurry. So, an Ordinance was hurriedly promulgated and on the same day that old Centre was taken over. Shortly thereafter, the new regime came in 2019, as we all know, and the Cabinet passed a Resolution approving this New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill. The Bill came to the Lok Sabha on the 10th of July, 2019 and the Rajya Sabha passed it on 18th July, 2019, in just eight days. The original Bill of 2019 was neither referred to any Standing Committee nor discussed in any Select Committee. I am referring to these developments to underline the fact that in the earlier case, the Government was under pressure from the World Bank, and the intention was not as is being spelt out by the Government now, that they want to develop an international centre, an institute of national importance, etc. That was not the real intention; the real thing was pressure from the World Bank. Be that as it may, it is stated here that the only purpose of bringing this Amendment Bill is to change the name of the Centre from ‘New Delhi International Arbitration Centre’ to ‘India International Arbitration Centre’ and to make some other small amendments and rectifications. My question to the hon. Minister is as to whether rules and regulations have been framed during the past three years under this Act, whether the objects and functions to be exercised by this Arbitration Centre have already been set up and to what extent these have been fulfilled. For example, Section 14 of the 2019 Act says, “Objects of the Centre” — I am not going into the details of the Bill, but just make some bullet points — ‘to bring targeted reforms to develop it as a flagship institution for conducting international and domestic arbitration, to promote research study, providing training, etc., to provide facilities and administrative assistance for conciliation, mediation and arbitral proceedings and to maintain panels of accredited arbitrators and conciliators’. Even in his opening remarks, the hon. Minister said that they wanted to create a panel of arbitrators, and so on. My question is: during the past three years, how many of these objects have been implemented by the Government? Section 15 of 2019 Act, the original Act, contains certain provisions and, says: (a) to facilitate for conducting international and domestic arbitration and conciliation in the most professional manner; (b) to provide cost effective and timely services for the conduct of arbitration and conciliation at national and international level; (c) to promote studies, etc., etc. Now, there are seven such functions to be performed by the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre. My question to the hon. Minister is: Has this Institution at all become functional as per Section 15 of the Act during the past three years? If so, to what extent? Now, there is nothing more to elaborate or elucidate because I should confine myself to the present Bill. Now comes the question: Why ‘New Delhi’ and why ‘India’? That has been explained by the hon. Minister very carefully and in a nice manner. He said that there are so many institutions under the name and style of ‘New Delhi Arbitration Centres’, etc. The Government has come to understand or know of this after a lapse of three years. When the 2019 Bill was originated, neither the Legislative Department nor the Law Ministry, as a whole, or any other authority of the Government was aware of existence of such ‘New Delhi Arbitration Centres’ in the country! It took them three years to know, understand and come before the Parliament to spoil its valuable time for the change of name, and with this speed, we are going to establish an international centre of excellence for arbitration, mediation, etc! Who will come to India? Those who are going to Stockholm or Paris or London or Singapore, will they come to India if we move in this direction with such time that we took three years to change the name of the institution? So far as I understand, neither the rule, nor has the regulation been framed under this Act. The Government is concerned only with change of name to show that here is a bigger Arbitration Centre; for the past 14 years nothing happened, but we have done it. What you have done, you are denying it. You have come with a Bill to change the name. I am not opposing it. Don’t laugh at me; I am not opposing it. I am putting some relevant questions. If you satisfy any Member of this House by replying to these questions, I will be the happiest person. What is in a name? It reminds me the act 2, scene 2, of Shakespeare’s epoch-making drama ‘Romeo and Juliet’ wherein Juliet’s famous soliloquy was, and I quote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet meant to say that Romeo would still have all the perfection he had even if he were not called Romeo. Whether it is called ‘New Delhi’ or ‘India’, it matters little to me. And, I know that for those, who will be interested in international arbitration, it will be meaningless whether its name is ‘New Delhi’ or ‘India’ because everybody knows that New Delhi is the Capital of India. Even though the smell of the rose, ‘New Delhi’, is not less than that of ‘India’, yet it need not be undermined too. Similar is the position regarding this Arbitration Centre. Finally, there is a trend, and I must say that without any reason or rhyme, this renaming of roads, railway stations, places, stadiums, medical colleges, etc., is happening. Therefore, on introduction of such a Bill today for the change of name of an Act, I would like to know whether it will be a regular feature in the future for renaming other Acts also. Thank you, Sir.