In its endeavour for faster settlement of claims to reduce liabilities the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the state-owned builder of expressways under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, has rigorously started the process of conciliation by constituting three Conciliation Committees of Independent Experts (CCIE) of three members each.
These conciliation committees are headed by retired officials from the judiciary as well as senior experts from public administration, finance and the private sector.
As per the Arbitration Act, 2015 and its amendment in 2019, all the arbitration disputes need to be settled within a period of 12-18 months. However, the possibility of resolution of claims within 12 months is minimal, as it involves various procedures. Simultaneously, the conciliation route ensures an amicable settlement of claims in a faster, fairer and transparent manner.
The conciliation-cum-settlement proceedings are completed in each case through five sittings within a period of not more than six months from the day the reference is made to CCIE. Moreover, conciliation as per the Arbitration & Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015 is far more robust and faster. Settlements arrived through this process have the same legal value as of an arbitral award or decree of a court.
Till now, 108 cases have been referred to CCIE and claims worth Rs 133.49 billion have been successfully settled for an amount of Rs 37.43 billion.
According to an NHAI release, “NHAI is working on a fast-track mode to resolve all the disputes through conciliation. It will not only reduce the legal hassles of both the parties in a long-drawn arbitration process but the money stuck in arbitral cases can be unlocked for the revival of the private sector.”