Shri P.R. Sheshadri, President, Indian Institute of Technical

Arbitrators [IITA],

Shri K.S Sasidharan, Chairman Kerala State Centre, IITA

Shri N. Hariharan, Chairman, IITA, Trivandrum Centre

Dr. K.R. S. Krishnan, Chairman, Organizing Committee,

Friends in the Media,

Priyappetta Sahodaree Sahodaranmare,

Ellaavarkkum Ente Namaskaaram,

I am very happy to inaugurate this National Seminar on Contract Management and Dispute Resolution organized by the Indian Institute of Technical Arbitrators, Thiruvananthapuram.

       I would like to begin by complimenting the Indian Institute of Technical Arbitrators, Thiruvananthapuram for taking initiative to conduct this significant seminar highlighting the current trends in Contract Management.  As a professional body with branches in many major cities of the country, the Indian Institute of Technical Arbitrators facilitates technical arbitration and other dispute resolution mechanisms so as to ensure an environment of litigation-free infrastructure development.

       As we all know, governments all over the world are focusing on development of infrastructure. We all have seen how our highways have grown in length and width and how the connectivity in our villages has grown from 56% in 2014 to 82% now.  And we have a target of over 70,000 km of roads to be built.

       But, infrastructure is not limited to roads and buildings alone.  If we look at Kerala, apart from the Metro, Port etc., we are focusing on housing, airports, creation of facilities for healthcare and modernization of our classrooms.  All these can be carried out only with the contractual involvement of the private sector, including from abroad. Today, speedy development depends on how effectively the contracts are drafted and implemented.

       But, this is easier said than done in our country and   especially, in a State like ours where constant societal vigil rakes up controversies that delay the implementation of projects. Often, the formal tendering process is carried out without proper implementation of activities like detailed feasibility study, land acquisition, regulatory clearances etc.

       This leads to disputes due to inadequate definition of requirements and bidding on the basis of approximations. Disputes can also arise due to delay in payments, mid-way adoption of new technology, legal issues and even due to misunderstanding caused by improper documentation of the contract.

       It is here that the role of Arbitration and Technical Arbitrators becomes significant. Arbitration helps to solve disputes to the satisfaction of all parties. Maybe, there are some debates about the advantages and disadvantages of arbitration of international disputes by national courts, but Arbitration certainly involves a policy of give and take.  It is easy to be stubborn and let disputes escalate, but the price that we pay for prolonged disputes would be heavy. Moreover, a dispute that stalls a development project is a threat to the progress of a nation. Hence, it is imperative that we see Arbitration as something carried out in the national interest.

       The importance of Arbitration lies in the fact that nearly
3 crore cases are pending in various courts in our country and that 46% of them involve the various government bodies. Considering this, the Department of Justice had encouraged the Government Departments to settle their disputes through alternate methods like Mediation, Arbitration, conciliation etc, on-line or otherwise. This also helps our Courts to concentrate on ensuring justice to people.

As a person hailing from the Judiciary, I must remind this august audience that our Constitution has provided for the   Establishment of Specialized Tribunals like Administrative Tribunals, Inter-state Water Dispute Tribunals, Income-tax Appellate Tribunal etc., which are better suited to respond to the prevailing needs than the regular courts. Appeals from orders of some these tribunals lie directly before the Supreme Court. The statutory tribunals are not bound to strictly follow the rules of civil procedure but are guided by the principles of natural justice and have great flexibility.

We also have the Alternative Dispute Redressal (ADR) which allows arbitration, negotiations, conciliation and mediation. Department of Legal Affairs has set up International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution as an autonomous body with the main objective to promote, popularize, and propagate Alternative Dispute Resolution so as to reduce the burden of arrears in the Courts. I am certain that your work in terms of Arbitration has been inspired by these provisions.  I also feel that we need to standardize our approach to this process and go for a further liberalization of the ADR process for which inputs should come from people like you who handle the arbitration process.

         As you are well aware, in India, the process of Arbitration is regulated by ‘Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, which was amended in 2015. This Act deals with both domestic and International Commercial Arbitration and is based on the model law adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and the UN Commission on International Trade Law Conciliation Rules 1980. The latest Amendment has given a time-line of 12 months, expendable up to 18 months for passing an arbitration award.  I find this a very useful clause, if carried out properly.  Besides, the use of technology like on-line data collection and video conferencing, which can be employed during the preliminary stages would also help to speed up the process. I would suggest that all our Technical Arbitrators should ensure the use of modern methods for speedy settlement of disputes.

The recent amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act is to be seen as a first step towards making arbitration a preferred mode of dispute settlement. I hope this would encourage more people in the Techno-legal professions to take up Arbitration as a profession. What we need now is an accelerated capacity building so that we get adequate number of professionals in the practice of Arbitration.

       However, this capacity building should not be limited to the legal side alone. Our technocrats who design projects and prepare Assessment Reports need to be made aware of the possibilities of disputes arising at the various stages of a work. These matters should form part of not just legal, but technology education, too.  I sincerely hope that the Indian Institute of Technical Arbitrators would take a lead role in capacity building and in proposing positive modifications in the process of Arbitration.

I greet all the delegates of this conference and compliment the Indian Institute of Technical Arbitrators for conducting this function in a befitting manner.


Ellavarkkum Ente Aashamsakal

Nanni /Jai Hind