Mr. Dhandapani Saravanan is a leading arbitration practitioner based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. He practices as Advocate, Arbitrator, Adjudicator, Conciliator, Examiner, Mediator, Neutral, and Negotiator. He has extensive experience in domestic and international commercial arbitration both as arbitrator and advocate. He served as sole arbitrator and tribunal chair in ad-hoc and institutional arbitration. He has handled more than 100,000 domestic arbitrations and more than a hundred domain names.
Swastika Nandwani from Libertatem Magazine interacted with Mr. Saravanan about his early days to his current practice. Here is the excerpt from the conversation.
Swastika: You have been a lawyer for over 28 years. What motivated you to choose law as a career?
Mr. Saravanan: I hail from a village called Ananthapuram, Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu. When I was studying 9th Standard in a Government High Secondary School, there was a vexatious partition dispute involving my family and my father was going around the lawyer’s office, courts regularly. The sufferings of my father and my family made me conceive a goal to pursue law.
Swastika: Your practice areas include Intellectual Property Law and International Commercial Arbitration. What do you give a higher preference to, Litigation or Arbitration?
Mr. Saravanan: As far as the disputes that are amenable to arbitration, I strongly prefer arbitration.
Swastika: On account of the COVID- 19 situations, the Supreme Court of India passed an order saying that the period of limitation in all proceedings before any Court or any Tribunal (whether under the general law or Special Laws) shall stand extended w.e.f. March 15, 2020, till further orders, are passed. However, when it comes to Arbitration, the time period fixed for passing the arbitral award is twelve months from the date of reference to the arbitral tribunal and is extendable by another six months with the consent of the parties. Do you feel that this extension in the period of limitation would lead to Arbitration being afflicted with the same problems as those of Litigation, for example, high costs, delayed awards, etc? If so, what are your suggestions for dealing with these problems?
Mr. Saravanan: Unless any moratorium kind of government directions are involved and subject to parties and arbitrators’ consent, many arbitrations are taking place through video conferences throughout the world. But the only solution to curtail the delay is encouraging Online Dispute Resolution or Digital Arbitration.
Swastika: You are a panelist at the Canadian International Internet Dispute Resolution Centre (CIIDRC). Do you feel that the arbitration laws in Canada are more concrete and well implemented as compared to India?
Mr. Saravanan: As far as CIIDRC is concerned it is focusing to resolve the domain name disputes based on Uniform Dispute Resolution Procedure (UDRP). As far as UDRP is concerned all the Dispute Resolution Centre throughout the world are very prompt in resolving the disputes in the time-bound manner as prescribed under UDRP. In India, the .IN Registry under the National Internet Exchange of India is also promptly resolving the disputes within the maximum time of 60 days.
Swastika: In India, Arbitration is still considered to be a relatively new field. However, in other countries like the USA, it has been prevalent for a very long time. What are your opinions on the fact that Arbitration has not been that successful in India as compared to the USA? What do you think can be done to make Arbitration as popular as Litigation?
Mr. Saravanan: In my personal perspective, as far as commercial and contractual disputes are concerned, the arbitration is becoming very popular in India. Union Government is taking fruitful efforts. Arbitration Council of India has been brought in Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 which will affiliate arbitration and mediation centers in India including accreditation of arbitrators and ADR professionals which steps would definitely bring more credentials to the ADR practice. We are going to witness in India that there would be many educational institutions with diplomas, degrees, masters for arbitration, and ADR courses in the coming years. Every law colleges in India should have arbitration and mediation centers both physical and virtual and should propagate and encourage the disputants nearby to avail such ADR methods. Arbitration is mostly used by corporates in India. We shall make an endeavor to bring the practice and benefits to the common public at the rural level.
Swastika: You are one of the founder trustees and Chairman of Council for National and International Commercial Arbitration. What motivated you to think out of the box and start an arbitration center during a time when most of the people were not aware of the concept of Arbitration?
Mr. Saravanan: Well. I was an associate to a senior lawyer in Chennai, Mr.K.T. Palpandian. I was assisting him in arbitration matters relating to a PSU. The less procedural aspects, no waiting time, convenience, comforts, focus only upon the merits of the disputes that were attracted me towards arbitration practice. In 2001, there was no institutionalized arbitration in India except ICA and ICADR. The Internet had come to usage. I was searching for the arbitration practice worldwide and realized that institutional arbitration was very popular in Europe and the US. Sensing the importance of institutional arbitration, we formed the Council for National and International Commercial Arbitration (CNICA) and CNICA Mediation Centre under the aegis of Trust for Alternative Disputes Resolution. I would say that CNICA is the first arbitration center that was set up in Tamil Nadu.
Swastika: These days a lot of students are gaining awareness about Alternate Dispute Resolution and want to choose the same as their career path. What is your piece of advice to these students? Also, do you think that the field of Arbitration has a good scope in India?
Mr. Saravanan: Yes. No doubt, the arbitration, and ADR practice are going to play a vital role in settlement of the disputes including transnational commercial disputes and there is a very good scope of resolving the same through online. Hence, the students who are interested in arbitration and ADR may have their internship with arbitration and mediation centers, arbitration, and ADR practitioners, participate in moot arbitrations, pursue higher degrees with a specialization of arbitration, and other ADR. The students shall also focus and equip themselves with the technologies.