Institutional Alternative Dispute Resolution framework emphasised by experts in a webinar

Speakers in a webinar on ‘’Ad hoc versus Institutional Alternative Dispute Resolution” organised by Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre (BIAC) held on 31 August 2020 emphasised the need of fostering Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) through institutional framework in order to settle commercial disputes more efficiently in a cost effective and expeditious manner. They also opined in favour of integrating ADR mechanism with court proceedings with a view to quick dispensation of justice given the huge backlog of as many as 37 million cases pending in all courts across the country.
The webinar aimed to focus on advantages and disadvantages of ad hoc and institutional ADR, the possible impacts of COVID-19 on the ongoing ADR proceedings and how to address risks arising out of commercial transactions. Business leaders, bankers, lawyers and ADR experts from home and abroad, academicians, corporate representatives and students participated in the webinar. Six outstanding Panelist Discussants took part in the discussion and viewed the issues of ad hoc as opposed to institutional arbitration and mediation as tools to resolve disputes arising out of business contracts.
Addressing the webinar Chief Executive Officer of BIAC Muhammad A. (Rumee) Ali said that for the sake of good governance in the realm of dispute resolution, resorting to institutional ADR mechanism is a must which provides with specific rules, is open for public viewing and institutions like BIAC can always change rules to cater to the need of users, especially during a COVID-19 situation where propensity of non performance of contractual obligations has been on the rise. Ali gave an account of BIAC’s endeavours in the last 11 years of its operation, as the country’s only registered dispute resolution institution, to build up a strong framework of institutional ADR though facilitating arbitration and mediation in particular and by trying hard to reach out to disputant parties in their contractual obligations by way of imparting training on different methods of ADR. BIAC is also organising awareness seminars, webinars, workshops and consultations with stakeholders including bankers, lawyers, corporate officials, civil servants, judges, academicians and students with a view to acclimatising them with norms and practices of ADR. .
Osama Taseer, a garment sector leader, Chairman of Four Wings Limited, and former President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry in his deliberations said that institutional arbitration is most suitable in the context of international business disputes which can be held in many places having set rules and procedures, established format and expert arbitrators.
The largely attended webinar through Zoom transmission was moderated by Barrister Saqeb Mahbub, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Partner, Mahbub & Co., who in course of the discussion preferred institutional arbitration to an ad hoc process and opined that insertion of the BIAC arbitration clause in all business contracts can be the best way to settle disputes between adversaries amicably.
Taking part in the discussion Dr. Jamila A. Chowdhury, Professor of Law, university of Dhaka explained the theme of the webinar and stressed more on adhering to institutional form of mediation as she maintained that arbitration is a win-loss adversarial approach. She argued in favour of mediation to settle newly emerged disputes during the COVID-19 crisis period.
Md. Abdul Wadud, Deputy Managing Director of the City Bank Limited viewed the issue from both pre COVID-19 and post COVID-19 situations and maintained that institutional ADR can bring adversarial parties together and do away with their reluctance to resolve disputes amicably. In this regard BIAC’s Rules of Arbitration and Mediation can help all concerned to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement either by arbitration or by mediation, during the ongoing COVID-19 scenario where existing contracts are being frustrated by non performance on flimsy grounds.

Barrister Suhan Khan, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Managing Partner, Accord Chambers in his deliberations opined that taking the advantages of institutional arbitration with no uncertainty in set rules and having prescribed cost effectiveness Bangladesh can well step up to the modern world’s dispute resolution mechanism.
Kritika Krishnamurthy, Director, Bridge Policy Think Tank, India took part in the webinar as one of the Panelists and emphasised promotion of Institutional arbitration and mediation. She said that given the option to choose between ad hoc and institutional ADR, none would prefer ad hoc procedures in India. Neither in India nor in Bangladesh ad hoc ADR is feasible to resolve commercial disputes, she opined and stressed the need of more practicable legislation in order to strengthen institutional framework of ADR.

On a different note, Barrister Imtiaz farooq, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Head of Farooq & Associates said that empirically he is in favour of ad hoc arbitration. He argued that if there is a breach of existing contract there is no mandatory obligation by the parties to go by any new rules framed under changed circumstances including in a COVID-19 state of affairs.

Director of BIAC M A Akmall Hossain Azad in his opening remarks said that BIAC has reacted to the current global crisis of COVID-19 pandemic and the future new norms for handling commercial dispute resolution. He emphasised practice of institutional arbitration under BIAC Rules in order to ensure quick dispensation of justice and thereby increasing the country’s position in Doing Business Global Index and be able to invite more Foreign Direct Investment and contribute towards overall economic development of the country.

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