India among top three nations to approach dispute settlement in Singapore

Singapore International Arbitration Centre handled 222 new cases in 2014, of which 37 cases involved at least one Indian party

Mumbai: India is among the top three countries along with the US and China that approach the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) for dispute settlement.

SIAC, which provides nuetral arbitration services to global business community, handled 222 new cases in 2014 with the total sum in dispute amounting to SG$ 5.04 billion. Of this, 37 cases involved at least one Indian party, according to senior officials of SIAC who were on a visit to India last week. The total sum in dispute for cases involving Indian firms was SG$ 652.3 million.

Around 32% of the cases involving Indian parties were trade-related disputes, while other categories included commercial, maritime/shipping, corporate and construction disputes, the officials said.

Chief justice of Singapore Sundaresh Menon said that mediation today is one of the most effective ways to resolve disputes quickly and cost-efficiently. “In mediation, parties are able to control the outcome and do not have to surrender control to a third party. This gives them the ability to craft solutions suitable for all parties. As a result, this has contributed greatly to the rise of mediation and the increased interest for it as an alternative choice of dispute resolution," Menon said.

SIAC was opened in 1991.

Singapore also opened Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) in November 2014 and Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) in January this year to complement the arbitration process.

The SICC has 12 international judges and is considering having Indian judges in its ranks in the future. The SIAC has 17 India-based arbitrators on its Panel of Arbitration currently.

Lim Seok Hui, chief executive officer of SIAC, said companies from India, China, Indonesia and the US are among the top five foreign users of SIAC for the last three years.

“Largely, the pattern of the disputes are commercial issues including sale of goods, and parties include companies from energy, infrastructure, commodity, shipping and construction industries," Lim said.

Most recently, Punj Lloyd Pte Ltd and Sembawang Engineers and Constructors Pte Ltd, the Singapore subsidiaries of diversified group Punj Lloyd, had filed an application seeking approval from that Singapore’s high court to enter into a scheme of arrangement with their respective creditors.

On 16 September, Mint reported that Mercator Lines (Singapore) Ltd, the Singapore-listed dry bulk ship-owning unit of India’s Mercator Ltd, has asked the city state’s high court to stay proceedings in a case seeking to put the company under judicial management.

“We have seen more and more Indian companies use Singapore as a base for their international operations, especially for expanding their business operations in South East Asia," said Kshitij Dua, associate partner at the Singapore branch of law firm SNG and Partners. “So, Singapore as the seat for arbitration and SIAC as the centre becomes a natural choice as a dispute resolution mechanism in cross-border agreements entered by such Indian companies with international counter parties."

The cabinet on 26 August had cleared the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, 2015, aiming to make the country a hub of international commercial arbitration.

Incorporating many of the recommendations made by the Law Commission of India, the bill is an attempt to improve the legal framework relating to arbitration, a government press statement said.

As a part of amendments suggested to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, the bill seeks to set a 12-month time limit for arbitrators to rule on disputes being heard by them. The amendments also include a provision for disputing parties to opt for fast-track arbitration or dispute resolution within six months.

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