17 July 2021 Posted in [Speeches]
Honourable Mr Justice N.V. Ramana,
Chief Justice of India
The Honourable the Chief Justice Mr Sundaresh Menon,
Chief Justice of Singapore
Honourable Judges and Distinguished Guests, Members of the Bar from India and Singapore and elsewhere
Ladies and gentlemen
- A very good morning to all of you joining us from India, and a good afternoon to the rest of us in Singapore.
- Thank you very much for being with us.
- I am delighted to be here today, to give some opening remarks at the inaugural India-Singapore Mediation Summit, ISMS.
- In more usual times, we could perhaps be having this Summit in India, indeed that’s what we had planned to do. We could be meeting in person, as we not just exchange views, but also catch up with old friends.
- Unfortunately, we are still battling COVID-19, and although the situation has improved since May, when we originally planned to hold this Summit, the situation throughout, I must say, has been very fluid. Our organisers have had to be equally fluid.
- Let me start by expressing my appreciation to the organisers – SIMC, CAMP Arbitration and Mediation Services, and Mediation Mantras – for adapting to the evolving situation so well; pressing on, and turning this into a virtual event, which has in turn led to a very strong participation. More than 3,000 have signed up. And indeed, I see many familiar faces on my screen.
Use of Mediation in India
- I last visited India in August 2019, together with Minister Shanmugam, just after the Singapore Convention on Mediation Signing Ceremony and Conference. During that trip, I met a number of judges, lawyers, in-house counsel, and of course, mediators. We had lots to discuss, on not just the Singapore Convention on Mediation, but also international dispute resolution in general.
- I recall the strong support among Indian businesses and practitioners for the use of mediation as a means to resolve cross-border disputes, and the Singapore Convention as a means to enforce the mediated settlement agreements that arise from the mediation.
- As in many parts of Asia, mediation in India dates back many centuries. Respected village elders, known as Panchayats, mediated in community disputes. The often-quoted story was that of two women claiming to be the mother of a child, and how the Panchayat identified the mother. I think many of you know this story. Business associations are often also called upon for impartial, neutral and respected businessmen, or Mahajans, to mediate commercial disputes between their members. So, the use of mediation to resolve conflicts is certainly not unfamiliar to many.
Potential for Bilateral Cooperation in Mediation
- As Indian businesses and companies became more and more international, and deal with business partners from around the world, it will be natural, and perhaps even inevitable and necessary, to extend mediation to international commercial disputes.
- The economic activities in India are only going to increase. Today, India is the 6th biggest economy in the world. The Centre for Economic Business Research projects that India will overtake the UK to become the 5th largest by 2025, and will also be in serious contention for the 3rd spot by 2030 – so, within a ten-year horizon.
If you take a look at our two countries, trade and investment between Singapore and India are also on the rise.
a. Today, Singapore is the biggest contributor to FDI inflows into India from April 2020 to March 2021, a figure which has continued to grow even from the preceding pre-COVID period in 2019 to 2020, and
b. Indian companies today form the largest overseas contingent that have invested in Singapore.
There is therefore impetus for us to collaborate more closely on mediation, for several reasons.
a. It’s a dispute resolution mechanism that has been historically practised by both our societies.
b. Both our economies, our judiciary, are very comfortable with it. It’s a known quantity. And more importantly, it is a means of resolving disputes in a manner which gives parties the best chance of maintaining what could very often be hard-won, long-standing commercial relationships. Our companies are very familiar with this aspect and many welcome it. It’s generally faster, more cost-effective, and as I said, helps to preserve business relationships.
It’s especially imperative during this period, when:
a. More disputes may arise due to disruptions in supply chains and of course various other unanticipated restrictions; and
b. Businesses may be on tighter budgets.
- The pandemic will pass someday, and they would want these business relations they have maintained, built up over the years, to remain harmonious.
- In mediation, what’s most vital is having a mediator who understands not just the disputes, but the parties. Not just the industry they operate in, but also the cultural nuances, particularly for cross-border mediations, and the little details, which often can be unarticulated.
- Therefore, when we set up SIMC in 2014, we insisted on having the best mediators from around the world, and not just from Singapore. We are agnostic as to where they come from, as long as they can be the best in mediation.
- This is so that parties will be able to have access to first-class mediators who would be able to meet their requirements and their counterparty’s requirements.
- Today, I am happy to say, SIMC has an international panel of over 70 mediators from 17 jurisdictions with expertise in a variety of areas, including 6 from India.
This is also supplemented by specialist mediators from key jurisdictions.
a. I recall that when I was in India in August 2019, we empanelled 21 such specialist mediators from India.
COVID-19 Mediation Protocol
This will be further enhanced after SIMC and CAMP Arbitration and Mediation Services sign an MOU to collaborate on a Joint COVID-19 Protocol.
a. Under this Protocol, which I think is really much needed, one co-mediator is selected from SIMC’s panel of mediators, and another co-mediator from CAMP’s panel of mediators, who are familiar with each country’s different legal regimes, and also different cultural contexts.
b. The filing fees will be reduced as we recognise that businesses are already facing tremendous financial difficulties and pressure because of COVID-19.
c. Mediation will be conducted online or perhaps in a hybrid form, to overcome the current limitations on travel.
SIMC has successfully managed the mediation of the first case under their Joint COVID-19 Protocol with the Japan International Mediation Centre (JIMC):
a. The case involved a complex and high-value dispute between an Indian entity and a Japanese entity over a joint venture agreement. The parties had commenced arbitration but thankfully, wanted to start and try mediation first.
b. SIMC and JIMC each appointed a co-mediator who was familiar with India and Japan respectively; they helped the parties to build strong cross-cultural understanding and also foster rapport – two ingredients which are really very important at the start of mediation. And they did so with the centres’ end-to-end support.
c. By the second day of the mediation, the parties had agreed in-principle to settle the dispute.
d. This took place within seven weeks of the suspension of arbitration.
e. Having the dispute resolved in a matter of weeks, and in a non-contentious manner, has undoubtedly saved a lot of time and resources, and of course, I hope, preserve the commercial relationship as well.
- I am very confident that the Protocol between SIMC and CAMP will similarly benefit dispute resolution users in Singapore and India.
Singapore Convention on Mediation
- While getting a mediated settlement agreement is a good first step, there will always be a niggling worry, especially when you deal with a cross-border party, that the other party may not fulfil their part of the agreement. So what’s important in the mediation is the assurance that any agreement that parties reach will be complied with.
- The Singapore Convention on Mediation, which facilitates the enforcement of mediated settlement of an international commercial dispute, offers this assurance.
- So far, 54 countries have signed the Convention, and 6 countries have gone on to ratify the Convention.
- India was one of the first countries to sign the Convention, and we look forward to India’s ratification soon.
- We will be happy to share Singapore’s experience in this regard, if necessary.
- Singapore will also be organising the Singapore Convention Week and UNCITRAL Academy events from 6 to 10 September 2021 later this year, where thought leaders from around the world will share their expertise and experience on mediation and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
- I invite all of you to participate in the events, which will be streamed online.
- Before I end, let me thank SIMC, CAMP Arbitration and Mediation Practice, and Mediation Mantras once again for the tremendous effort putting all of this together, and for inviting me to this platform.
- I hope that one day, we would be able to travel again soon, so that we can really catch up with old friends, and make new ones.
- I think we have two tremendous speakers coming up. I’m looking forward to listening to them.
- I wish all of you a very fruitful Summit ahead.
- Thank you very much.
Last updated on 17 July 2021