Right to access internet in the context of net neutrality is non-negotiable in India and it flows from right to information, Union law minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said on Monday.
Prasad was speaking at the book launch of the fourth edition of ‘Commentary on the Law of Arbitration’ authored by Supreme Court judge, justice Indu Malhotra.
“On the issue of net neutrality, I told Parliament that I will not go into any debate at all. Access to internet in India is plainly non-negotiable. It flows from our right to have information,” he said.
Prasad also said that the government’s approach would be to allow foreign arbitrators with specific reference to New Delhi International Arbitration centre which was established with the passage of the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Act in July, 2019.
“New Delhi arbitration centre will be completely autonomous. Foreign arbitrators will be permitted. This is our approach,” he said.
The event was also attended by Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, Vice-president of International Court of Arbitration, Salim Moollan, and senior advocate, Darius Khambata.
The discussion at the event centered on bilateral investment treaty arbitration with Prasad hinting at subjective elements creeping into such arbitration since no big economy has faced an adverse award.
Investment treaty arbitration is arbitration based on an investment treaty between two or more nations. In such arbitrations, the arbitral tribunal judges the host nation’s behaviour towards the foreign investor and gives its findings on the same.
CJI Bobde said that investment treaty arbitration is an asymmetrical mechanisn as only one party, that is, the foreign investor can be a claimant.
He pointed out that such disputes, many a time, relate to cases pending before domestic courts and also referred to the White Industries case of 2011 in which an arbitral tribunal found that India had violated the India-Australia bilateral investment treaty and, therefore, awarded AUD four million to White Industries.
“The decision attracted much criticism within and outside India,” said CJI Bobde.
Justice Indu Malhotra said that there are over 30 claims against India currently under bilateral investment treaty arbitrations with the claim amounts running to over $100 billion.
“It is, therefore, a matter of serious national concern,” said justice Malhotra.
She said that proceedings arising out of international commercial contracts should be fast-tracked.
“Otherwise interest component in the award keeps ticking everyday and eventually will become an unbearable burden on a growing economy,” she said.