Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud has lamented that less than 10 percent of all Indian arbitrators in various international panels are women, terming the situation a ‘diversity paradox’.
The CJI was speaking at the opening session of the United Nations South Asian Conference on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), 2023 on Thursday.
Justice Chandrachud welcomed the fact that several international arbitration institutions have now “constituted regionally diverse panels of arbitrators.”
“However, the gendered compositions of these panels are hard to miss. We are faced with what is called a diversity paradox, that is, a discrepancy between our stated objectives and actual appointments. Less than 10 percent of all Indian arbitrators in various international institutional panels are women,” he said.
He referred to a report on gender diversity and said it found that “unconscious biases” contributed to this gender mismatch.
“It suggests the use of gender-neutral pronouns in our laws and regulations. It is encouraging to see that some arbitration rules have taken the lead in using gender-neutral pronouns in their texts. However, the vast majority of empaneled arbitrators are men. Women, as persons of all genders, also belong in all dispute resolution institutions,” he said.
The CJI said countries must learn from others and the successes and difficulties they faced with their people, businesses and legal systems. “This is all the more possible at this conference because South Asian countries have much and more in common – the many similarities in our cultural and social structure undoubtedly filter down into our business practices and legal systems. Our economies are also interconnected, especially in the digital age…,” he said.
Our legal frameworks must keep pace with the expansion of the digital economy, he said, referring to the MoU signed by India and Singapore last week on promoting cooperation in judicial education and research.
“Sunshine, as they say, is the best disinfectant. Fortunately, UNCITRAL has helped countries simplify and unify their laws and regulations, which in turn has made the legal system more accessible,” he said.
Legislative efforts in India to provide clarity, as well as legal pressure on party autonomy, have significantly reduced the sense of unease among the contracting parties, he said, stressing the importance of an alternative dispute settlement mechanism (ADR).
“With a view to best practices, India has steadily charted a course where arbitration is the preferred method of dispute resolution,” he said, adding: “Indian courts have over the years encouraged the use of ADR mechanisms. In enforcing arbitration agreements, they have remained vigilant against attempts to undermine party autonomy through artfully crafted contracts.” Besides the CJI, Attorney General for India R. Venkataramani and senior advocate Fali Nariman attended the meeting.
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