‘Lack of professionalism’ by arbitrators bringing bad name to the country: CJI Thakur

New Delhi: Suggesting that the legal format of arbitration process must undergo a change, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur on Friday said “lack of professionalism” by arbitrators was bringing a bad name to the country.

“Lack of professionalism on the part of arbitrators and lawyers is bringing a bad name to the country,” he said, adding, “I think that the legal format (of arbitration process) has to undergo a change.”

The CJI also said that the overburdened judiciary is supportive of the alternate dispute resolution mechanism of arbitration in view of the huge pendency of cases.

“We would welcome a system like arbitration. We are supportive of arbitration as it relieves us of the burden of pendency of cases. Entire judiciary, from top to bottom, is supportive of arbitration process,” he said. “What is heartening is that the government is conscious of this requirement. They have brought in an ordinance and that shows that they want to make changes, they want to make amends, things are moving and the fact that they are making some amendments in the ordinance is very heartening,” Justice Thakur said.

Under the amendments proposed by the government to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, an arbitrator will have to settle a case within 18 months. However, after the completion of 12 months, certain restrictions will be put in place to ensure that arbitration case does not linger on. In his inaugural address at the two-day international conference here on ‘Arbitration in the era of globalisation’, Justice Thakur spoke about the challenges faced in the Indian arbitration process.

He also said, “For arbitration to flourish in India, you ought to make yourself professional.” Stressing on the need to have a smooth arbitration process in India, he said that the judiciary welcomes a system that is alternative to the system of adjudication. “We would welcome a system where people would go for resolution of a domestic problem. Like arbitration where people can choose their judges and agreeing to solve their dispute with the help of those judges. We have absolutely no difficulty.

“Actually we welcome these measures where parties agree for an effort to arbitration which consume less time and money…, Justice Thakur said. The CJI also said that in India, where the population is over 1.25 billion, there are around 15,000 judges in the lower judiciary while 800 judges are there at the High Courts followed by 30 judges in the Supreme Court besides the Chief Justice. “We have a large number of cases pending all over the country.

Judiciary processes five crore cases a year and out of this, the judiciary disposes around two crore cases per year despite the infrastructure problems and vacancies of judges,” he said, adding that pendency of cases is a great concern.

Justice Thakur said arbitration is even mythologically known to India and to arbitrate and mediate is a divine function. “If you fail, it does not make a difference as even Lord Krishna had failed in his attempt,” he said while referring to the epic Mahabharata where Lord Krishna had tried to mediate between the Pandavas and Kauravas to prevent the war.