Party autonomy, independence from governmental control the guiding principles of IAMC: Registrar Tariq Khan

IAMC Registrar Tariq Khan speaks about the developments at the Centre over the past few months.
Tariq Khan
Tariq Khan

Six months after commencing operations, the International Arbitration and Mediation Centre (IAMC) at Hyderabad has released its International Arbitration Rules, which will be effective from August 1, 2022.

Bar & Bench interviewed IAMC Registrar Tariq Khan to learn more about the developments at the Centre over the past few months.

How did IAMC come into existence?

IAMC is a non-profit public charitable trust. The Government of Telangana was keen that Hyderabad should have a world class arbitration centre so as to provide a facility for expeditious and quality dispute resolution. The government felt that such a centre would enhance the attractiveness of Telangana as a destination for foreign and domestic investment. With this avowed purpose, it was willing to provide the necessary infrastructure for an autonomous institution, keeping in mind the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna Committee for the promotion of institutional dispute resolution in India.

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana supported the initiative and declared a public charitable trust for this purpose. However, he is neither a trustee nor a member of the Governing Council. Copies of the Trust Deed as well as the Constitution of the Governing Council, along with other important documents pertaining to the IAMC, are available on our website www.iamch.org.in

IAMC has been provided with the infrastructure by the Government of Telangana. Does that mean that the government will have interference in the functioning of the Centre?

The Justice Srikrishna Committee had recommended that to provide a boost to institutional arbitration in India, governments could play a useful role by providing the required infrastructural support without interfering in any manner in the actual functioning of the arbitral institution. The Srikrishna Committee Report expressly noted that the support of the respective governments was a significant factor in the success of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. Such a model was worth emulating in India as well, in order to establish a credible dispute resolution institution.

The Telangana government has embraced the Justice Srikrishna Committee Report on arbitration. In light of such recommendations, the government has offered IAMC, Hyderabad dedicated state-of-the-art infrastructure for dispute resolution services with no further interference.

Though the State government has been promoting the institutionalization of dispute resolution in India, it does not interfere in the functioning of the institution. For instance, a recently published government order directs all State entities involved in disputes above ₹3 crore to use IAMC, Hyderabad facilities wherever feasible and similarly to incorporate IAMC, Hyderabad dispute resolution clauses into their contracts. I learn that similar directions have been issued by the governments of some other states.

The Government of Telangana has identified suitable rented premises and equipped it as a state-of-the-art arbitration and mediation centre. It provides an annual grant for meeting expenses, including rent. It has also allotted land to the Centre for housing the IAMC’s facilities in its own campus. It may be clarified that that the land has not been allotted to any individual.

Who are the trustees of IAMC?

The trustees of IAMC are a retired judge of the Supreme Court (life trustee), a sitting judge of the Supreme Court - now retired (life trustee), a judge of the Supreme Court (term trustee), the Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court (ex-officio trustee) and the Law Minister of the State (ex-officio trustee). The sitting and retired Supreme Court judges who act as trustees of IAMC offer guidance and ensure that the Centre operates independently without any external influence or control by the government or other agencies.

None of the trustees receive any sitting fee or remuneration for their work, and they cannot be appointed by IAMC as arbitrators/mediators, nor can the trustees appoint anyone as arbitrator or mediator. The trustees have neither received nor can receive any monetary compensation or benefit whatsoever from the trust or the Centre for performing their respective roles.

Can you tell us about the management of IAMC and the role of the Governing Council?

The Centre is run under the guidance of the Governing Council while the day-to-day affairs of the IAMC are handled by a separate Secretariat under their supervision. The Governing Council comprises eminent arbitration specialists from India, three reputed members in the field of arbitration from other countries (at present UK and South Korea) and a well-known specialist in the field of mediation. The two life trustees are members of the Governing Council. The members of the Governing Council also do not receive any sitting fee or remuneration from the Centre. They cannot be appointed by IAMC to work as arbitrators or mediators.

All these provisions and internal checks and balances ensure that IAMC operates as an independent body, free from any governmental or other control. I may add that the rules of IAMC are in line with party autonomy, enabling the parties to choose arbitrators or mediators. Only if there is no consensus, the Registrar, in consultation with the Governing Council, will assist in the constitution of an arbitral tribunal or appointment of a mediator.

How many matters have been referred to IAMC by courts and tribunals till date? Were these matters referred by the consent of parties?

Till date, only two mediations have been referred for administration under the IAMC rules. In both matters referred by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), the parties themselves, exercising their freedom of choice, selected mediators of their preference, which was confirmed by IAMC. A plain reading of the orders of the NCLT would indicate that the matters referred to mediation at the IAMC did not in any manner have the intent or effect of ‘overriding party requests to choose other mediators/institutions’. The Mediation Rules provide that the mediator(s) will be appointed by the parties. This is the default rule. IAMC will only assist in the appointment of the mediator(s) only where the parties have not been able to agree upon the mediator.

In one of the two mediations being administered under IAMC Rules, the parties, independent of any input from IAMC, proposed and appointed Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu, as the mediator, which was confirmed by IAMC. In the other mediation being administered under IAMC Rules, the parties appointed Justice (retd) K Kannan from among the names suggested by the Centre.

The two mediations referred by NCLT relate to cases where one or both of the parties are Hyderabad-based. I may add that an ad hoc mediation was also referred to mediation by the Supreme Court. The Court appointed the mediators in consultation with the parties, and the Centre provided only online support.

The Centre has conducted more than 50 hearings, including ad hoc hearings in which it was used as a venue. We have been most fortunate to see our cost-effective world-class infrastructure being utilized as a venue for some arbitration/mediation sessions.

How is IAMC promoting the cause of mediation in India?

Mediation in India is at a nascent stage and the concept of institutional mediation is new. IAMC’s endeavour, since its inception, has been to increase the popularity and credibility of this process. To this end, IAMC has organised training sessions which are highly subsidised in order to broaden access to such sessions and build much-needed capacity in this area. Recently, IAMC conducted a 15-hour refresher course for trained arbitrators to empanel them with the IAMC. The cost of this programme was ₹2,500 (including GST) per candidate, which is a fraction of what is charged for comparable programmes by other institutions.

IAMC is using its own funds to popularise and propagate ADR (not just mediation) as per its charter. IAMC has organised a number of round table conferences for lawyers and potential users of arbitration and mediation processes and such engagements will continue on a regular basis. IAMC also proposes to conduct (i) regular mediation trainings for upskilling of trained mediators to ensure a high standard of quality and expand the pool of mediators, and (ii) sensitisation/refresher programmes for trial judges to enable them to effectively refer cases to mediation and other ADR processes.

IAMC, Hyderabad is guided by expert mediators in its endeavours and its Mediation Rules have been very carefully drafted by experts. Further, IAMC has involved senior mediators like JP Sengh, AJ Jawad, Uma Ramanathan and others in its training programmes to ensure an excellent blend of theory and practical experience in these sessions. Soon, we will also be engaging other domestic and international mediation experts and trainers to promote the cause of mediation.

[Read International Arbitration Rules here]

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