Arbitration in the digital age post COVID-19

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

Author: Asif Iqbal, Centre for Juridical Studies, Dibrugarh University, Content Writer

Coronavirus has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation as it has spread to more than 190 countries and impacting millions of lives in an unprecedented manner. There is a desperate demand for ventilators, lifesaving machines which will keep patients breathing. The hotspot of the United States of America is New York City, where there is a shortage of more than 30,000 and more requirements for ventilators. On 19th March 2020, an announcement made by General Motors that they will collaborate with Ventec, normally production of ventilators was 200 per month but they will try to inflation by more than 10 times. Moreover, there is a struggle going against the transmission of the virus amongst people which led to lockdown all over the world but there has been a rise in the infected people and people dying due to it. There is a vocabulary which people have come across, like social distancing, flattening the curve and self-isolating during this quarantine and work from home. The International Monetary Fund has declared that the world has entered into recession and things will get better, only in the presence of vaccines which can protect every people belonging to all ages.

There are certain measures which have been announced by the Government of India to protect the interest of corporates in this situation like the announcement mentioned about the extension in the last date for filing income tax return for FY 2018-19 from 31st March 2020 to 30th June 2020. Along with, the deadline for filing the returns for Goods and Service Taxes has been extended from 31st March to 30th June 2020. The Account holder will not have to worry about the maintenance of monthly minimum amount as the non-maintenance charge will be waived off for three months and withdrawals from any ATM bank will be free for debit cardholders, this will be for three months. Estimation of loss was released by Moody mentioning there would be a contract of 0.5 per cent this year and the GDP of America will be shrunk by 2 per cent and Euro zone by 2.2 per cent. This virus has caused an impact on the economy as well due to which the global economy will move downwards and requires massive funding for developing countries. In the G-20 summit, nations pledged for a 5 trillion USD investment into the global economy which will counter the pandemic in the middle of a deep recession forecast. There was videoconference chaired by the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman with the President of USA and Russia, Donald Trump along with Vladimir Putin, respectively.

The aim was to have coordination in controlling oil price war between Riyadh and Moscow which roiled energy markets. The investment of 5 trillion USD as a part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures and countering the social, economic and financial impacts through guaranteed schemes.

Amid the scare of Coronavirus, The Supreme Court of India decided to use Thermal Screener. The precaution was taken in the wake of pandemic declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and entry is restricted to Lawyers, litigants and Journalists in the courtroom. There were long queues at the entry gate with officials from the Health Department checked them with thermal screening. There was uncertainty in the minds of officials as to who should be permitted inside the premises of Supreme Court and courtroom due to restricted entry. Only lawyers and litigants whose matters were listed for the day were allowed to enter the courtrooms and six of 15 benches heard the matters, of which 12 were taken up today.

To avoid, the overcrowding in the courtroom, it was decided that six matters will be taken up by judges after half an hour break they took the next six cases for the day. It was notified by the Supreme Court of India that only urgent matters shall be taken up to avoid overcrowding and usually, 15 Benches of the Supreme Court sit on Monday and Friday and miscellaneous matters are taken upon these days.

Perhaps, there are cases which cannot be arbitrated and those cases fall outside the categories of arbitrable disputes as opined by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Booz Allen and Hamilton Inc vs. SBI Home Finance Limited and these are;

1. Offences concerning criminal activities

2. Matters of Guardianship

3. Insolvency

4. Intellectual Property Rights

5. Competition Laws

6. Fraud

7. Bribery

The Section 2 (1) (f) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 have defined the International Commercial Arbitration as; “an arbitration relating to disputes arising out of legal relationships, whether contractual or not, considered as commercial law in force in India and where at least one party is:(a) An individual who is national of, or habitually resident in, any country other than India (b) A body corporate which is incorporated in any country other than India (c) A company or an association or a body of individuals whose central management and control is exercised in any country other than India (d) The government of a foreign country.

Considering the jargon attached with the definition of Arbitration; it can be defined as an alternative to litigation or court proceedings, where the parties mutually control the terms by which they avoid their national legislation or rules of procedure.

While this Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996 is hushed toward this treatment of negotiation processes by video conferencing, Section 19 allows the Arbitral Tribunal to perform the same. The Arbitral Tribunal rump directs these people before these arbitration proceedings to register pleadings by automated communication; deportment operations in the midpoints of video conversations supporting social distancing with an insignificant decline in the productivity.

Arbitral Tribunals in consonance including some altering expertise, this severe congressional timelines specified in the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996 still resort through video conferencing while routine matters for help as well as cost-effectiveness equivalent in domestic arbitration proceedings.

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