The Supreme Court on Wednesday recalled its order on appointing a former Australian chief justice as presiding arbitrator for resolution of a dispute between Reliance Industries (RIL) and the Centre over cost recovery for developing the gas field in KG basin.
Justice S S Nijjar withdrew the appointment of James Spigelman, former chief justice and Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, after the Centre contended that his name was mentioned in the list of seven persons recommended by RIL as the third arbitrator.
“There seems to be a bonafide mistake… the arbitrator appointed by this court on Monday is one among those who were recommended by Reliance. In fact, the gentleman’s name topped the list of preferred arbitrators. But the court had told us that an independent arbitrator, outside the list of names supplied by us and Reliance, was being appointed,” senior advocate Dushyant Dave told Justice Nijjar.
Appearing for the Mukesh Ambani-owned company, senior advocate Harish Salve said he had no problem in withdrawing Spigelman’s name. Dave then asked Salve why RIL had not pointed out to the court that Spigelman’s name was in their list and hence the order needed correction.
Salve replied that RIL was planning to mention the matter later this week when Justice Nijjar was sitting for arbitration matters.
“Oh, oh! Give me a break, Mr Salve,” retorted Dave.
Agreeing to recall his order, Justice Nijjar said it was an oversight and he would appoint another presiding arbitrator.
The court had earlier asked the Centre and RIL to furnish their preferred lists of eminent national as well as foreign arbitrators for consideration. RIL had nominated former chief justice S P Bharucha as its arbitrator while the Centre chose former chief justice V N Khare.
But in its final order, the court said: “Although two lists have been duly supplied by the learned counsel for the parties, I am of the opinion, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, it would be appropriate if an individual not named by any of the parties is appointed as the third arbitrator… I have discreetly conducted a survey to find a suitable third arbitrator…”
On March 31, the court had named Spigelman as the third arbitrator who would act as the chairman of the Arbitral Tribunal.