A shared history and optimism for a bright shared future
Keidan Harrison LLP will be partnering with ThoughtLeaders4 (TL4) for the TL4 India Disputes Summit, in Mumbai on 1-2 December this year. This will be an exciting new event reflecting the fact that the experienced India-focussed team of the firm, comprising co-founding Partner Marc Keidan and Managing Associate Srishti Jain, supported by Anya Prasad, continues to see an uptick in relation to India work. The conference aims to provide up-to-date strategies and discussions on recent trends, legal developments and practical considerations in the field of dispute resolution across diverse jurisdictions. This event provides an opportune time to reflect briefly on the increasing amount of India-related work outbound to the UK, in the form of litigation and arbitration, and to look ahead as to what the next few years might bring in this area.
In 2021, the Prime Ministers of UK and India made a landmark commitment to strengthen trading ties between UK and India over the next decade. This comprehensive strategic partnership, dubbed the “2030 Roadmap,” for an increased cooperation in trade, healthcare, education, etc., has also seen its positive effects in the legal sector of both nations. Viewed against the backdrop of a post-Brexit environment, London emerges as an attractive location in the region; it boasts a highly respected, reliable and welldeveloped judiciary. Even more so after Brexit, London is well placed in Europe geographically as it provides access to European and US Courts whilst maintaining its neutrality. This enables London to draw on the international legal expertise of world-class commercial lawyers and arbitrators.
Conversely, there have been contending dispute resolution centres that have emerged in the last decade or so for outbound India related work, specifically Singapore and Dubai. The growth of the Singapore International Commercial Court, with its strategy to reform laws, regulations as well as establish the requisite infrastructure to handle the demands of businesses operating across different jurisdictions, represents a challenge to London, to add to the already very well-established presence of Singapore International Arbitration Centre. London undoubtedly has to continue to make its case to maintain its historic position as the preferred seat for disputes involving Indian parties.
The establishment of London International Disputes Week (LIDW) in 2019 and the participation of a vast international disputes community every year, is a positive indication of the recognition that London can no longer rest on what it may have considered were its laurels.
Interestingly, one of the notable features of LIDW from the outset, which reached a peak with LIDW23, was the significant popularity of the event with the Indian legal disputes community. India was by far the most well represented jurisdiction after the UK and practically all of the top firms in India for dispute resolution were here. About 25 India lawyers registered formally for LIDW and probably more than that number again chose that time to visit London and attend the many side-line LIDW events and parties, as well as meet with their contacts. There were at least six India-centred main events, one of which Keidan Harrison co-hosted with Bird & Bird and the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration LIDW 2023 – ‘Interim reliefs and enforcement of judgments and awards in India and the UK’, in addition to a large number of unofficial and side-line events hosted by Indian firms or co-hosted by London and Indian firms.
Keidan Harrison also co-hosted, at the new International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC), a roundtable discussion on the ‘Future of dispute resolution, exploring trends, the roles of both nations as dispute resolution hubs, and fostering UK-India collaboration’, together with the UK Ministry of Justice. The event offered a platform for dialogue and a chance for the UK government to gather intelligence on what really mattered to the lawyers from India who attended. The various events and panels that took place this year were too numerous to list in this short piece, but they did include a number of appearances from probably the most well-known of all the Indian Senior Counsel, Mr Harish Salve, who is now based in London.
A month after LIDW23, Keidan Harrison and TL4 worked together to host the India Dispute Resolution Forum, a two-day conference in London that saw the attendance of India based law firms, in-house counsel and key members of the Indian Judiciary. Managing Associate Srishti Jain participated on a panel titled ‘Potential for Mediation in India and Lessons from the English Experience’. The conference saw an insightful keynote discussion that captured the Judges’ perspective of the future direction of Indian Courts delivered by Hon. Justice Hima Kohli of the Supreme Court of India and Hon. Mr Justice Knowles of High Court of England and Wales.
Keidan Harrison co-founding Partner Luke Harrison is again LIDW co-chair in 2024 and he anticipates an even greater turnout of India lawyers for the event in 2024 which is taking place in the week commencing 3 June 2024 not least given the cultural and common law ties between the two jurisdictions.
Events such as these are demonstrative of the reciprocal interest that the Indian and UK disputes communities share in cross-cultural exchange, mutual learning, and the enrichment of legal expertise on both sides. Another development of the legal landscape in the UK has witnessed a remarkable influx of dual qualified Indian barristers establishing themselves as tenants in chambers. Some of these prestigious commercial chambers in London such as One Essex Court, 3 Verulam Buildings, Fountain Court, etc., many of which Keidan Harrison regularly instructs, have noteworthy Indian senior advocates as associate members or tenants. This surge represents a significant trend that reflects not only the globalisation of legal practice but also the growing recognition of the skills and expertise that Indian legal professionals bring to the international stage.
The Bar Council of India (BCI), Bar of England and Wales and The Law Society have also in recent months taken a historic first step reflecting India’s growing economic influence and international outlook. By signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June this year, the BCI has officially committed to implementing its recently announced regulations allowing English and Welsh lawyers and law firms to practice home jurisdiction law in India, based on the principle of reciprocity. Whilst this is expected to take a long while to come into effect, it signals to the creation of huge opportunities for businesses, solicitors and advocates.
According to the 2023 Commercial Courts Report by Portland, sixty percent of litigants in the past year were non-UK residents1, marking the highest proportion and number of international litigants ever recorded, with a record-breaking diversity of seventy-eight countries2 represented in the Courts. Furthermore, this year, India constituted the fourth-largest country group in the Commercial Courts, featuring forty-four litigants3. Among them, banks accounted for thirty-five percent of all Indian litigants4.
The analysis of cases reveals a trend where not only UK-based banks and businesses, but also Indian entities situated in the EU and India, appear to prefer the UK as the forum for dispute resolution against foreign counterparts. This inclination is supported by the global reach of London-based arbitral institutions like the LCIA and LMAA. The Essar Oilfields5 case’s positive outcome has boosted confidence among Indian parties, as evidenced by six Indian banks initiating proceedings against an Australian entity for alleged defaults6.
Despite external uncertainties, India remains the second largest FDI investor in the UK7, resulting in increased Indian assets in the country, a crucial factor in legal proceedings, recovery and enforcement of awards. With the recent Enhanced Trade Partnership between India and the UK, the prevalence of Indian litigants is anticipated to become an increasing feature in the UK Courts, likewise also with international commercial arbitrations.
The theme Perspectives on Issues in Indian and cross-border transactions with particular focus on London, Singapore, and the Middle East of the imminent TL4 India Disputes Conference in Mumbai, is a timely one. The agenda comprises six key sessions covering topics such as the future of arbitration in India, the evolving landscape of commercial disputes, cross-border insolvency, mediation in India compared to England and Singapore, asset recovery and the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.
As the Keidan Harrison India Disputes Team head out to India this week, we believe that the future for cross-border disputes work between India and the UK is marked by close collaborations, technological innovation and a commitment to diversity. As legal practitioners from both nations continue to converge, London stands poised to maintain, and possibly further enhance, its reputation as a global hub for resolving international disputes.
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1 Portland Litigation and Disputes, (2023). Commercial Court Report 2023. [online] United Kingdom: Portland. Available at https://Portland-communications.com/publications/commercial-courts-report-2023/, at pg 1
2 Portland Litigation and Disputes  at pg 3
3 Portland Litigation and Disputes  at pg 13
4 Portland Litigation and Disputes at pg 13-14
5 Essar Oilfields Services Ltd v Norscot Rig Management Pvt Ltd  EWHC 2361 (Comm)
6 Bank of Baroda & Ors GVK Coal Developers (Singapore) PTE Ltd & Ors  EWHC 1916 (Comm)
7 UK’s Department for International Trade Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) 2021/22 figures