As businesses increasingly seek more stable and implementable alternative dispute resolution, they also want to choose suitable avenues, both commendably and geographically. In this article, Daniel Albuquerque presents Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) as the most popular destination for commercial dispute resolution. Finally, he even offers a challenge!
Rule: Recourse to a court against an arbitral award may be made only by an application for setting aside in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3) of this article.
(Article 34 – Application for setting aside as exclusive recourse against arbitral award, UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (1985). The above indicated clause 2 states that the arbitral award may be set aside only if the party making the application provides proof for the claim. Further, clause 3 states a time limitation of three months after the arbitral award is made if appeal has to be filed.
The Context: This is fairly the newest arbitration case that came to light due to one of the parties to arbitration having appealed to the High Court of Singapore, for relief concerning the grievance against conferring of the award by the Arbitral Tribunal. The Court, in turn, refused to interfere with the arbitral award. Consequently, this judgment further strengthened the confidence of the companies in the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). Global trading businesses have developed trust and confidence in the neutral and wholly free of corruption processes. The legal fraternity has further strengthened the faith in the arbitration system by rendering exemplary efficient and professional service. The following case demonstrates as to how even the local judiciary respects the awards of the arbitral verdicts.
The Case: The dispute arose concerning the arbitral award between two companies, CDM and CDP partnered for offshore oil rig who had arbitral contract with SIAC. The appellant (CDM) and the defendant (CDP). The appellant approached the High Court and finally the Supreme Court of Singapore. To begin with the appellant had pleaded that the arbitral award by SIAC was unfair and partial. Hence, the suit under Article 34(2) of the UNCITRAL Model Law. The appellant challenged the arbitral award in the High Court with the plea that the Arbitral Tribunal had overshot its jurisdiction. But the challenge was dismissed. It was challenged in the Apex Court praying that the company suffered a miscarriage of natural justice. Having diligently applied its mind, the Court held: a) the appellant failed to establish that the Tribunal had acted in excess to its jurisdiction; b) there came nothing in the way of in breach of natural justice. The Court dismissed the appeal and dealt with order for costs. (https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/-2021-sgca-45-pdf.pdf).
Analysis: The experts hailed the judgment. The media opined the ‘Trojan Horse’ strategy by the appellant company whose intention was to hide behind the UNCITRAL Article 34 for its own gain was exposed. Further, there arose an entirely unnecessary controversy raised in the middle of the judicial process, this time by the respondent concerning the costs. The plea was that with regard to costs of the Court it should be indemnified in its favour. The Court rendered the prayer fruitless by declaring: ‘No presumption of indemnity costs.’
Needless to say that the judgment was immediately received by the corporate world wholeheartedly.
SIAC’s Growth and Popularity
Singapore International Centre (SIAC) was founded on 1 July 1991. Over the past three decades it has made remarkable progress and has built a reputation as admirable as all the other things that Singapore is known for. It is a non-profit organization which is guided by its professed values of efficient service, ethically unyielding integrity, building sincere relationships, global outreach, and pursuit of excellence. With well over 400 highly qualified arbitrators and scores of representative offices around the world, it presently holds the top position of arbitration centre in the world, a close second to The London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) which has a very long history since its establishment in 1883.
It is highly encouraging to note that out of the eight members on the board of directors of SIAC, four of them are of Indian origin, including Chairman Davinder Singh. SIAC has established representative offices in India, in Mumbai and Gujarat International Finance-Tec-City (GIFT), Gujarat. Indian companies are increasingly flocking to these centres which also establish a very close relationship with the mother institution in Singapore.
SIAC Advantage to Singapore
In every field of human development and progress, Singapore, irrespective of its tiny size, is second to none in the world, from the best human development of human indices to science and technology, research and environmental issues. SIAC has further helped to make it a hub of world commerce and trade. It has enormous impact on Singapore’s financial and legal influence. The city-state of 728 sq km gained independence from UK only in 1959; and has a multi-cultural sub continental population, close to 7 million. The most important characteristics of Singapore for SIAC popularity are: a) top companies of the world either establish their headquarters or their subsidiaries; b) it functions as the financial capital of the East with the well-known financial institutions; c) modern infrastructure and communications; d) geographical location is the best for global connectivity; e) as has been already demonstrated above no company can wish for a better administration of the legal system.
Indian Dream: India has all the characteristics of Singapore – geography, history, multicultural population, weather and scores of other qualities – and yet the ‘Singapore Dream’ is a mere phantasm in the imagination. The answer for the success of Singapore is its trustworthy legal system and implementation of clear policies, both with a human face.
India can make this dream come true by following these two principles. The Singapore Model is after all is a success, thanks to Indians who have played a role in its making and they are continuing to do so.
Can Goa Do it?
In conclusion, to be closer home – is such a dream possible for Goa? More specifically can Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) set up an international arbitration centre which would be a natural undertaking to follow? For it has a collective experience of over a century as one of the oldest in the country under the banner Associação Comercial da India Portuguesa established in 1907, and after the Liberation (1961) as Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) in 1962. Under British India, Bengal Chamber of Commerce was the oldest, established in 1854. However, it is an open challenge either to the GCCI or for any other group of experts to take up such a project.
The columnist is a writer with Oxford University Press and a published author. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org