NEW DELHI: Thirty-eight sittings, comprising 17 double sittings a day, spread over 18 months by an arbitration tribunal in a case involving the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway in Haryana has yielded no result. The litigants have paid about Rs 6 crore to the arbitrators and one of them has resigned, forcing the entire process to start all over again.
In order to fast-track the resolution of disputes, a new law had stipulated clear time-frames of one year with a maximum extension of six months. This arbitration case started in June 2016, after the Haryana government terminated the contract to build the 135-km expressway which was awarded to DS Constructions-promoted KMP Expressway Ltd with IDBI as the lead lender.
Lenders moved SC to recover dues
Documents show the arbitration case started after the lenders approached the Supreme Court seeking direction from it to recover dues from the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC), which owned the project. It was referred to a three-member tribunal consisting of Justices N K Sodhi (Retd), T S Doabia (Retd) and K B Singhal (Retd), which was also dealing with another arbitration relating to the project involving KMPEL and HSIIDC. It had held more than 30 sittings between 2013 and 2016. The two litigants had paid about Rs 1.23 crore as fees.
Though there was an application by the litigants to merge the two arbitrations, the members rejected it, and for every sitting, the arbitrators got Rs 1.5 lakh each.
On the expiry of the extension period, IDBI had approached the Delhi high court for further extension of the tribunal. On November 28, the court extended the term, but reduced the fee for each arbitrator to Rs 1 lakh per sitting. Documents show the arbitrators resigned on December 2, at which IDBI approached the court to review the fees, which the HC did not accept even though the bank offered to pay the higher fee on behalf of the other two litigants.
In his order on December 13, Justice Naveen Chawla observed, "Any direction or even acceptance of the plea that only the petitioner would pay for the differential fee between the one vide order dated 28.11.2017 and the one fixed by the arbitral tribunal earlier can cause a reasonable apprehension in the respondents. This cannot therefore be accepted to."
Following this order, Doabia resigned from the tribunal stating that HSIIDC seemed to have lost faith in the tribunal. While Sodhi and Singhal refused to comment on the issue, Justice Doabia did not respond. HSIIDC and IDBI did not respond to repeated emails.