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J&K Govt cracks down on arbitration delays

New circular sets the clock ticking

Srinagar, July 9: In a bold move to overhaul its arbitration processes, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has issued a game-changing circular that puts time at the forefront of legal proceedings. The Department of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs has sounded the alarm on the critical importance of adhering to strict time limits in arbitration cases, addressing a longstanding issue that has plagued the system with inefficiencies and potential legal pitfalls.
The circular, which comes as a response to observed shortcomings in handling arbitration cases, paints a sobering picture of the current state of affairs. It highlights a troubling trend where departments often delay references to the Law Department until the eleventh hour, a practice that has repeatedly jeopardized the validity of appeals against arbitral awards due to expired limitation periods.
These delays, the circular notes, are further compounded by inadequately drafted condonation applications that lack essential details. The consequences of such oversights are severe, risking the dismissal of potentially meritorious appeals and rendering arbitral awards immediately enforceable without further court intervention. This situation not only undermines the principles of justice but also poses significant financial risks to the government.
Central to the circular’s message is the emphasis on the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, which sets strict time limits for various stages of arbitration. The document cites landmark legal cases such as ‘Assam Urban Water Supply & Sewerage Board v. Subash Projects & Mktg. Ltd.’ and ‘Union of India v. Popular Construction Co.’ (2001) 8 SCC 470, underscoring that these time limits are not mere suggestions but crucial elements that generally cannot be extended.
The circular also addresses the issue of delays in filing appeals under Section 37 of the Arbitration Act, which deals with appealable orders. It stresses that such delays should be exceptions rather than the norm, citing recent court rulings like ‘Government of Maharashtra v. M/s Borse Brothers Engineers & Contractors Pvt. Ltd.’ to highlight the need for timely action in ensuring fair arbitration outcomes.
To tackle these issues head-on, the circular outlines a series of proactive measures:Departments are now required to act swiftly upon receiving arbitration notices. Knowledgeable officers must be nominated to handle cases promptly.
All necessary information for legal review must be gathered efficiently.
The Law Department is tasked with making timely decisions on challenging arbitration awards within specific timeframes to avoid missing critical deadlines.
In a move to streamline operations, the Department of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs has also established specific timelines for different stages of the arbitration process. These include deadlines for evaluating arbitral awards, initiating challenges, and processing judicial appeals, all aimed at preempting any undue delay or oversight.
This comprehensive approach marks a significant shift in how Jammu and Kashmir intends to manage its arbitration proceedings. By setting clear guidelines and emphasizing the importance of timely action, the government aims to protect its interests while ensuring fair and expeditious resolution of disputes.
As this directive takes effect, it is expected to bring about a sea change in how government departments handle arbitration cases. The success of these measures will likely be closely monitored in the coming months, with the potential to set a new standard for arbitration proceedings not just in Jammu and Kashmir, but possibly serving as a model for other states grappling with similar challenges.
With this circular, the clock is now ticking on arbitration delays in Jammu and Kashmir, signaling a new era of efficiency and accountability in the state’s legal landscape.

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