Arbitration law

Arbitration Law In India|Everything You Need To Know

A land without apt implementable laws and the necessary judiciary is 'everyone's land.' Mediation and settlement outside the court seem like an appropriate win-win for all in some cases. Let us dive deeply into the Indian legal landscape and learn about arbitration law in India.

Brief History of Arbitration Law in India

Arbitration law in India offers a private and confidential way to resolve disputes outside of court. It involves a neutral third party, the arbitrator, who listens to both sides and makes a binding decision. This alternative to traditional litigation is faster, cheaper, and more flexible, benefiting businesses and individuals.

The history of arbitration law in India can be summarized as follows:

Enacted in 1899, the Indian Arbitration Act provided a legal framework for arbitration in the three presidential towns (Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras).

The Act of 1899 was replaced by the Arbitration Act of 1940, which focused only on domestic arbitrations and was insufficient for enforcing international awards.

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, replaced the Act of 1940. It aligned Indian arbitration clauses with international standards, providing a legal framework for domestic and international arbitration.

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, is a pivotal legal framework in India governing domestic and international arbitration and enforcing foreign awards. Enacted to provide an effective legal proceeding for dispute resolution, the Act has undergone significant amendments to align with evolving legal landscapes and international standards. It also includes international commercial arbitration arising out of legal relationships between companies.

Key Provisions:

Arbitral Tribunal Establishment: The Act facilitates the formation of arbitral tribunals for dispute resolution, emphasizing party autonomy in selecting arbitrators.

Conduct of Arbitral Proceedings: It outlines procedures for conducting adjudication, ensuring fair and impartial hearings, and allowing parties to present their cases.

Enforcement of Awards: The Act empowers parties to enforce adjudication awards through judicial intervention, promoting the finality and enforceability of awards.

International Commercial Arbitration: Specific provisions cater to the unique aspects of international commercial arbitration, harmonizing with global practices.

Challenges and Appeals: Mechanisms for challenging awards and seeking judicial intervention are defined, maintaining a delicate balance between party autonomy and judicial oversight.

Amendments Over the Years

Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015: This amendment aimed to expedite the adjudication process, introducing stricter timelines for the completion of proceedings.

Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019: Signifying a substantial overhaul, this amendment focused on enhancing the credibility of adjudication in India. It introduced measures to minimize judicial interference, expedite proceedings, and promote institutional arbitration.

Key Changes Introduced: The 2019 amendment clarified the definition of 'public policy,' established an Arbitration Council of India, and introduced provisions for the appointment of emergency arbitrators.

Impact on International Arbitration: The amendments have made India an attractive destination for international arbitration, fostering a more efficient and reliable dispute resolution ecosystem.

In conclusion, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, has evolved to meet contemporary demands, balancing party autonomy and legal oversight. The amendments reflect a commitment to aligning India's adjudication framework with global standards, making settling disputes an effective and valid arbitration agreement.

Key Provisions

The key provisions of the Act include the following:

Arbitration Agreement: The Act provides for an arbitration agreement's validity and an arbitrator's appointment.

Composition of arbitral tribunal: The Act provides for the number of arbitrators and the appointment of arbitrators.

Jurisdiction of arbitral tribunals: The Act provides for the arbitral tribunal's competence to rule on its jurisdiction and interim measures ordered by the arbitral tribunal.

Conduct of arbitral proceedings: The Act provides for the equal treatment of parties, determination of rules of procedure, and place of adjudication.

Making of arbitral award and termination of proceedings: The Act provides for the settlement, form, and contents of the arbitral award and termination of proceedings.

Recourse against arbitral award: The Act allows the application to set aside arbitral awards when justifiable doubts exist.

Finality and enforcement of arbitral awards: The Act provides for the finality of arbitral awards and enforcement. The amendments aim to reduce the court's involvement in disputes in arbitration proceedings, introduce fast-track procedures, and provide for the time limit for arbitral awards.

Types of Arbitration

Arbitration in India encompasses various types tailored to address diverse dispute resolution needs. Here's an overview:

Domestic Arbitration: Involves disputes within the geographical boundaries of India, governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

International Arbitration: Involves disputes with a foreign element, such as parties from different countries; adheres to international rules and standards.

International Commercial Arbitration: This specific type of international arbitration deals with commercial disputes; parties often choose internationally recognized arbitration institutions.

Institutional Arbitration: Conducted under the rules of recognized institutions like the Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA) or the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI); provides a structured framework for arbitration proceedings.

Ad-hoc Arbitration: Parties independently agree on the procedures and rules for arbitration; it is more flexible but requires effective coordination between parties.

Fast Track Arbitration: Aimed at expediting the arbitration process; particularly useful for swiftly resolving straightforward disputes.

Statutory Arbitration: Arises from statutes and laws that mandate arbitration for specific types of disputes; provides a statutory framework for resolution.

Understanding the nuances of these arbitration types is crucial for parties to choose the most suitable method for their dispute resolution needs in India.

Domestic and International Arbitration

Arbitration is an out-of-court settlement for disputes between parties to a contract, which reduces the burden on the court system. Domestic arbitration is within the internal jurisdiction of the country, while international disputes involve a foreign element. Domestic arbitration is governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, and its award is domestic, while international arbitration is governed by international law and its award is foreign. Domestic arbitration uses the local language, while international arbitration uses English. International arbitration is generally more expensive and takes longer than domestic arbitration.

Institutional and Ad-Hoc Arbitration

There are two types of arbitration: institutional and ad hoc arbitration.

Institutional arbitration involves specialized institutions that administer the arbitration process. Institutions like LCIA (London), ICC (France), DIFC (Dubai), and DIAC (Dubai) have their own rules and administrative support. It is preferred when administrative charges are not a concern, as it offers pre-established rules and procedures for timely proceedings. The institution provides administrative assistance, including a secretariat, qualified arbitrators, encouragement for reluctant parties, and an established format. Institutional arbitration saves parties and lawyers' effort in determining the arbitral procedure and drafting an arbitration clause, as the institution provides these services.

Ad hoc arbitration, on the other hand, is where the parties to a dispute agree to resolve their dispute without the intervention of an institution. The parties determine the rules and procedures governing the arbitration, and they appoint the arbitrator(s) who will hear the dispute. Ad-hoc arbitration is preferred when the parties involved want more control over the arbitration process, allowing them to tailor it to their specific needs. It is also less expensive than institutional arbitration and is better suited for more minor claims and less affluent parties. However, it places more of a burden on the arbitrator(s) and, to a lesser extent, on the parties to organize and administer the arbitration effectively.

In choosing between institutional and ad-hoc arbitration, parties should weigh factors like complexity, cost, and desired control over the arbitration procedure.

Role of the Arbitrator and the Arbitration Tribunal

Arbitrators and arbitral tribunals play crucial roles in alternative dispute resolution. Here's an overview:

Arbitrator's Role: An arbitrator is an impartial third party chosen by disputing parties or appointed as per the arbitration agreement. Their primary duty is to resolve disputes fairly, applying legal principles and contractual terms. Arbitrators must act judicially, ensuring equal treatment and unbiased arbitral decisions.

Arbitral Tribunal's Composition: An arbitral tribunal refers to either a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators, depending on the arbitration agreement. The tribunal is responsible for adjudicating disputes and providing a forum for resolution.

Power and Functions: Arbitral tribunals have the authority to determine the procedure for arbitration, decide on matters related to evidence and arguments, and render a final and binding award, settling the dispute between parties.

Impartial Adjudication: The arbitrator or tribunal must maintain impartiality, ensuring a fair hearing for both parties. They act as a neutral entity, avoiding conflicts of interest and conducting proceedings like a court.

In essence, arbitrators and arbitral tribunals serve as independent decision-makers, facilitating the resolution of disputes outside traditional court systems. They uphold fairness, impartiality, and adherence to applicable laws and contractual terms.

Appointment of Arbitrators

Arbitrator appointment is a critical aspect of the arbitration process, and several factors influence this procedure.

Parties' Agreement: Appointment of arbitrators often begins with the parties' agreement on the selection process, either through a pre-determined list or mutual nomination.

Unilateral Appointment: In certain situations, one party may unilaterally appoint an arbitrator, especially if the other party fails to participate or agree on the appointment process.

Number of Arbitrators: The number of arbitrators can vary, often decided by the parties or the institutional rules governing the arbitral process.

Selection of Arbitrators: The process generally involves a three-step approach: compiling a long list, narrowing it down, and making a final selection.

Appointment in India: In India, the appointment of arbitrators follows specific procedural rules and principles, ensuring fairness and adherence to legal requirements.

Substitute Arbitrators: There are instances where substitute arbitrators may be appointed, especially in cases of challenges or unavailability.

The arbitration process hinges on the effective and impartial appointment of arbitrators. The chosen arbitrators must possess the necessary expertise and independence to ensure a fair and just resolution of disputes.

Arbitral Proceedings

In India, arbitration proceedings begin with a written advance notice of intention to refer the subject matter to arbitration. The respondent then files an answer within the specified period, stating relevant facts and defences. Unless otherwise agreed, arbitration proceedings are deemed to commence when the respondent receives the notice. The Limitation Act, 1963, applies to arbitration proceedings, and any claim filed after the limitation period (three years from the cause of action) is time-barred. Both parties to arbitration should be treated equally and given equal opportunities to present their cases. There are no specific rules on procedure, allowing parties to agree or for the tribunal to determine the appropriate procedure.

The Civil Procedure Code and Evidence Act does not bind the tribunal. If an arbitral institute administers the arbitration, its rules become part of the arbitration clause. The tribunal has the power to determine the admissibility and weight of the evidence. The parties can agree on the language used, and oral hearings may be held for evidence and arguments. Suppose a party fails to appear or produce evidence. In that case, the tribunal can continue the proceedings and make an award based on the available evidence.

Challenges and Issues

Hurdles Faced by Arbitration in India

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method in India governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. However, it faces challenges such as excessive judicial intervention, issues with the enforceability of arbitral awards, cost and time concerns, a shortage of qualified arbitrators, a lack of awareness, including a lack of access to law journals, inadequate infrastructure, and negative perceptions. The government has amended and promoted institutional arbitration to address these issues. However, further efforts are needed to ensure efficient, cost-effective, and fair dispute resolution.

These challenges collectively impact the credibility and efficiency of the arbitration process in India, emphasizing the need for reforms and improvements to foster a more robust dispute-resolution mechanism.

Delays in the Indian courts

The Indian judicial system faces significant delays, impacting arbitration award proceedings in various ways.

Procedural Bottlenecks: Indian courts are often burdened with a high volume of cases, leading to procedural bottlenecks and delays in resolving disputes through traditional litigation processes.

Inoperative Arbitral Proceedings: Delays within the legal system may render arbitral proceedings ineffective, emphasizing that interruptions in resolving arbitration do not invalidate the arbitration reference under Section 21 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.

Frustration of International Parties: Despite a pro-arbitration stance in Indian courts, delays and uncertainties can frustrate international parties involved in arbitrations, impacting the attractiveness of India as a seat for dispute resolution.

Increased Costs and Slow Processes: The diminishing popularity of arbitration in India stems from escalating expenses and sluggish procedures. Lawyers on either side play a role in prolonging the proceedings, thereby impeding the overall efficiency of the arbitration process.

Misconceived Applications: Lawyers filing misconceived applications at various stages of arbitration proceedings contribute to prolonged delays and rising costs, impeding the expeditious resolution of disputes through arbitration.

Impact of Precedents: Recent judgments introducing additional layers of scrutiny in appointing arbitrators, as seen in the Supreme Court of India's ruling, can further exacerbate delays in arbitration processes.

In summary, delays in the Indian judicial system, coupled with increased costs and procedural challenges like documentary evidence, pose significant obstacles to the efficient resolution of disputes through arbitration, impacting both domestic and international parties involved in arbitration proceedings.

Lack of Creditworthy Institutions and Governmental Support

Arbitration in India faces significant hurdles, hindering its success and efficiency. Two prominent challenges are the need for more creditworthy institutions and inadequate governmental support.

Lack of creditworthy institutions: India encounters difficulties due to unreliable arbitration institutions. The success of the arbitration process heavily depends on credible organizations that can administer proceedings impartially and efficiently.

Inadequate government support: The absence of robust support from the government poses a significant challenge. To ensure the effectiveness of administrative matters, the government plays a crucial role in creating a conducive legal system, facilitating enforcement, and promoting arbitration as a preferred dispute resolution mechanism.

Institutional arbitration in India has not been as popular as ad hoc arbitration due to factors such as the lack of creditworthy arbitral institutions and government support. The Indian government has taken steps to promote institutional arbitration by establishing bodies like the Mumbai Center for International Arbitration (MCIA) and the New Delhi International Arbitration Center (NDIAC). However, further efforts are needed to ensure widespread acceptance and use of seats of arbitration in India.

Revocation of an arbitral award is warranted when the party initiating the application was not given proper notice of the arbitrator's appointment or details of the arbitral procedures or faced hindrances in presenting their case.


In brief, arbitration law in India commenced in the late 19th century with the inception of the Indian Arbitration Act in 1899. This legal framework, designed for dispute resolution beyond traditional courts, has grown substantially, reaching its pinnacle in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. This comprehensive legislation synchronized Indian arbitration practices with global standards, establishing a legal structure for domestic and international arbitration.

Over time, the Act has flexibly adapted to changing business dynamics. While arbitration in India has demonstrated success, challenges persist, including a lack of reputable institutions, insufficient governmental support, and delays in the judicial system, impacting overall efficacy. Nevertheless, India's evolution in arbitration law underscores its commitment to providing a flexible, fair, and time-efficient approach to dispute resolution, in line with broader trends of liberalization and globalization in international business relations.


What is the full form of ADR?

ADR stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

What are the advantages of ADR?

The advantages of ADR include faster resolution of disputes, cost savings compared to traditional litigation, flexibility in the process, and the opportunity for more creative and mutually beneficial solutions.

What are the 4 types of ADR?

The four types of ADR are negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and conciliation.

What is the difference between conciliation and arbitration?

The main difference between conciliation and arbitration lies in the role of the third party. In arbitration, the third party makes a binding decision, while in conciliation, the third party facilitates communication and helps the parties reach a voluntary agreement without imposing a decision.

Usha Menon

With over 25 years of experience as an architect, urban designer, and green building consultant, Usha has been designing sustainable, and visionary spaces. She has published a book, has been actively blogging, and is on social media. Now, her journey is transitioning to full-time writing. Her words will continue to craft stories, not brick and mortar, but in the realm of ideas, fostering a better, more inspired world.

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