NHAI Dis­pute Set­tle­ment Panel Re­solves 124 Claims at 10% of the Orig­i­nal Cost

The Economic Times - - Economy - YASHOD­HARA DAS­GUPTA

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.

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