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TMC stages walkout, accuses govt of bulldozing par proceedings

Trinamool Congress MPs staged a walkout in Rajya Sabha on Thursday in protest against proposed changes in arbitration laws, terming them "draconian".

Participating in the debate on two bills for amending arbitration laws, TMC member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy alleged that the "government is repeatedly bulldozing" parliamentary proceedings and has brought the bill without scrutiny by the Standing Committee.

He said both the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill and The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill were "draconian" and should have been deferred.

He said this is not a "coffee machine that you push and get coffee".

He alleged that the Bills were "taken up in haste as this government is being dictated upon by the World Bank". He said a related case is listed for court hearing on July 25 but the government did not wait for that.

Ray also alleged that the proposed International Arbitration Centre will be totally controlled by the government and its independence and credibility will be compromised.

He questioned as to why the government did not accept the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee and said "the government is the biggest arbitrator and it is a clear case of conflict of interest".

He said the party is staging a walkout to protests the "draconian" legislations.

Ravi Prakash Verma (SP) cautioned it should not become an arbitration instrument in the hands of corporate sharks to help big companies.

Participating in the debate, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma supported the bills, saying it is important to create eco-system to reassure investors for expeditious settlement of commercial disputes.

However, he said there is scope for improvement in the bills and rued that many important recommendations of the high powered committee have not been included.

Sharma said the scope of power of Arbitration Council has not been defined, defeating the purpose of the Bill. He said there is a need for defined timeframe for dispute resolutions if the country has to become a hub of arbitration.

The Congress member criticised the provision for a government appointee in the council.

He asked the government how it would reassure international and domestic investors about the fairness of the arbitration process as the government is the biggest litigant.

Sharma urged the government to have a rethink on this issue.

He also said there is no reservoir of trained professionals in the country to carry out arbitration.

BJP member Ashwini Baishnab termed the amendments in arbitration laws as a "great step forward" which would improve the arbitration process in the country.

He asked the government to make the Council totally independent and said "there should not be government appointee".

Baishnaw stressed on the need to amend Indian Contract by providing institutional framework of arbitration in this Act as well.

He suggested that there should be arbitration centres in small cities, which should be self-funded.

Prashant Nanda (BJD) supported the Bill saying if India wanted to excel at global level, a centre was needed for quick redressal of money related grievances.

Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JDU) said the Bill will strengthen an alternative dispute redressal system.

K Somaprasad (CPIM) demanded that the Chairman of the Arbitration Centre should be a Supreme Court or high court judge and not a political appointee.

Vijayasai Reddy (YSR Cong) said India needed an arbitration centre on the pattern of Singapore and London. S Malik (BJP) and A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) also participated in the debate.