NHAI Dispute Settlement Panel Resolves 124 Claims at 10% of the Original Cost
Adispute settlement committee set up by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has resolved 124 arbitration claims on the authority at just 10% of the original claim value, saving both litigation costs and time for NHAI as well as private contractors. Buoyed by the success of the committee, which was set up in December 2012, the NHAI is now trying to bring highway developers on board for a body on similar lines—Society for Affordable Resolution of Disputes—to resolve public-private partnership disputes arising in the future.
Officials said out of total disputes of over .` 20,000 crore, the committee succeeded in resolving pending claims and financial disputes worth .` 9,395 crore for just .` 910 crore. This is particularly significant because many of these disputes were going on for over a decade before various arbitration tribunals. In some of the cases where the tribunals had come through with decisions, the cumulative amount settled amicably with highway con- tractors is roughly one-third of what was awarded by the tribunals. “Some of these cases have been going on since the time of Golden Quadrilateral,” an NHAI official said, referring to the highway network project launched by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in 2001. “These cases went to the arbitration tribunals, where decisions have either taken very long or were not acceptable. Since NHAI’s dispute settlement committee was formed in December 2012, about 124 disputes have been amicably resolved.”
The official said that of the cases taken up by the committee, only 17 cases involving nine companies remained unresolved.
NHAI’s main contention is that in many cases the proceedings in the arbitration tribunals have dragged on for years and the arbitrators, who are usually retired judges, charge very high fees. Officials said NHAI has limited capacity to bear such high payments. The tribunals, however, could recover the amount from the other party. “So, apprehension does arise whether justice will be done to NHAI for its claims. And, in cases where our viewpoint is not acceded to, we would have to then go to court for suitable relief,” said another official, giving the example of a recent arbitration case involving the Panipat-Jalandhar stretch of national highway, where the tribunal has imposed high fees despite NHAI not agreeing to it.