Law relating to arbitration in India has been evolving through various decisions of courts and amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 ("Act"). PASL Wind Solutions (P) Ltd. v. GE Power Conversion (India) (P) Ltd. (2021) 7 SCC 1 ("PASL Judgement") was one such landmark decision wherein the Supreme Court of India allowed 2 (two) Indian parties to choose a seat of arbitration outside India. In this case, an arbitration agreement was entered into between 2 (two) Indian Parties being PASL Wind Solutions Pvt. Ltd. ("PASL") and GE Power Conversion India Pvt. Ltd. ("GE"), the agreement mentioned Zurich as the seat of arbitration. Arbitration was invoked by PASL due a dispute relating to supply and warranties of certain converters. GE being the respondent in the arbitration had objected to the seat being in Zurich, however the arbitrator upheld that the seat would be Zurich and the venue would be Mumbai as per the suggestion and convenience of parties. The award was rendered in favour of GE, and during the enforcement proceedings initiated by GE, PASL submitted that the seat cannot be in a foreign country for an arbitration between 2 (two) Indian parties on the grounds that it is violative of Section 28(1)(a) of the Act. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether 2 (two) Indian parties can choose an arbitration seat outside India and whether an award arising from such proceedings would be enforceable in India. The Supreme Court held that the Section 28(1)(a), which states that 2 (two) Indian parties cannot choose a foreign substantial law, falls only within the scope of part I of the Act and applies only in cases where the seat of arbitration is India. The said section does not bar 2 (two) Indian parties from basing their arbitration seat in a country other than India as forbidding two Indian parties from resolving their disputes at a neutral forum other than India would be a tortuous process of reasoning and violative of party autonomy. It was also held that the award resulting from these proceedings will be enforced in India as a foreign award under Part II of the Act even though the proceedings are not considered as 'International Commercial Arbitration'. After PASL judgement it is settled that 2 (two) Indian parties can choose a foreign seat, which leads us to the analysis of which seat of arbitration should be chosen amongst the most popular seats of Paris, London, Geneva, Zurich, Singapore, Hong Kong, Stockholm and New York. This article aims to focus on which seat would be more appropriate for the specific needs of the parties in the event the parties decide to choose a foreign seat. Before getting into this question, it is imperative to first understand why the choice of seat is important in an arbitration.

  1. Importance of seat

The seat of arbitration is the centre of gravity of arbitration proceedings. It is regarded as the "the jurisdiction in which an arbitration takes place legally."1 Seat of arbitration is not the same as the venue of the arbitration2 because the seat "refers to the legal, rather than physical, location of the arbitration"3 whereas, the venue is the "geographical setting and the location where hearings are to take place".4 The seat of arbitration is of utmost importance as it determines many factors of the arbitration proceedings such as procedural rules, duration, expedited procedures, enforceability of award in India, etc. The seat also determines which courts will have supervisory jurisdiction over the procedure and will entertain applications challenging an award or order of the arbitrator. The procedural law or curial law of the arbitration proceedings will be law of that jurisdiction of the seat of arbitration.5

  1. Factors to Consider

a. Duration: An important factor that will be determined by the seat is the time taken to deliver the award and to complete the arbitration proceedings. Rule 32 of Singapore International Arbitration Act provides that the Tribunal must deliver a draft award within 45 (forty-five) days following the closure of proceedings. There is no provision specifying the time limit for completing the arbitration in the Singapore International Arbitration Centre Rules, 2016 ("SIAC Rules") but a study shows that the average duration of completion of an arbitration is 13.8 months.6 Similarly, Hong Kong International Administered Centre Arbitration Rules, 2018 ("HKIAC Rules") have a provision stating that the Tribunal must render its final award within 3 (three) months from the date of closure of proceedings. ICC Arbitration Rules ("ICC Rules") provide for a timeframe of 6 (six) months for rendering the award once the proceedings are over. However, the London Court of International Arbitration Rules, 2020 ("LCIA Rules") is vague in this regard as it provides that the Tribunal should make its award as soon as reasonably possible. As such, studies show that the average duration of an arbitration in London is 16 (sixteen) months.7

b. Expedited Procedures: Expedited procedures allow for a shorter process where documents filed are fewer and the deadlines are shorter. In the event the parties require an expedited procedure, SIAC rules and HKIAC rules should be preferred. SIAC Rules provide for an expedited procedure in cases of exceptional urgency, agreement between parties or where the value of the claim is under S$6 (six) million. The expedited procedure under the HKIAC Rules is available in identical circumstances, except that the value of the claim must be under HK$25 (twenty-five) million. In the ICC Rules the expedited procedure can only be invoked where the value of the dispute is under US$2m and the parties have not opted out of the Expedited Procedure Rules in the arbitration agreement or at any time thereafter. The LCIA Rules provide that "in the case of exceptional urgency, any party may apply to the LCIA Court for the expedited formation of the Arbitral Tribunal." There is no other pre-requisite for expedited procedures to be initiated.

c. Confidentiality of procedures: London as a seat places confidentiality as a high priority. Article 30 of the LCIA Rules states that the general principle is keeping all documents used in the arbitration and arbitral award confidential from public domain. The exception to this principle is when disclosure is mandatorily required due to legal duty, protect / pursue legal rights or enforce / challenge the arbitral award. The only time LCIA publishes any award is when there is prior written consent of all parties and the Arbitral Tribunal. The duty of confidentiality is not only on LCIA but also on authorised representatives, witnesses of facts, experts or service providers. In Singapore, Rule 39 of SIAC Rules states that the parties, arbitrators, administrative secretary and any expert must treat all pleadings, evidence, award and other documents of the proceedings as confidential unless consented otherwise by the parties. If this duty is breached, the tribunal has the power to issue sanctions or costs. The exceptions to these are enforcement / challenge of award, pursuance of legal right, etc. To waive this confidentiality, the permission of the court is not required, if the breach is for the reason of protection of legal interests of a party. This is a deviation from the English position which requires the leave of the Court before disclosing information necessary to ensure justice. The rules of confidentiality are similar in Hong Kong with respect to the fact that the parties are bound by confidentiality unless they have agreed otherwise. According to Article 45 of HKIAC Rules, no party or party representative may publish, disclose or communicate any information relating to the procedure or award. The exceptions occur when the award is being challenged / enforced and when a legal right is being pursued. Further, HKIAC is only allowed to publish the award when all identifying information is deleted and the parties consent to it. When it comes to places like Paris and New York, there is no such obligation levied on the parties unless the parties agree to keep the matter confidential. Hence, if parties would like to go for a seat in Paris and maintain confidentiality then that has to be requested according to Article 22 of ICC Rules. Therefore, if confidentiality is not an important factor, Paris or New York could be preferred since there, it is not the norm but the exception. However, if maintaining confidentiality is a primary factor of consideration for the parties, Hong Kong should be preferred. The advantage Hong Kong has over London and Singapore is that is has mandated that the identifying information be removed when awards are published.

  1. Ratification of New York Convention or Geneva Convention

According to Part II of the Act, for the enforcement of the foreign awards, the seat should be in a country which is a signatory to either the New York Convention or the Geneva Convention and must be notified by the Indian government as a reciprocating territory.8 Thus, the seat should be in a place whose state has ratified these conventions.

  1. Lex Arbitri

The selection of the seat is crucial because it generally determines the "lex arbitri". The lex arbitri has been defined as the totality of national law provisions that apply generally to arbitrations in each country which includes "the law governing the arbitral proceedings, arbitrability, decisions on jurisdiction, the courts with supervisory jurisdiction over the arbitration, national court intervention in support of arbitration, and the grounds on which awards may be challenged and set aside."[9] Governing rules will be dependent on the seat of arbitration. "Beginning with Balco, the Supreme Court has uniformly accepted the principle that the choice of seat will generally imply the choice of law of the seat as the law governing the arbitration unless the parties have expressly provided for another law to apply."10 Governing laws refers to the laws applicable to the merits of the dispute and arbitration agreement. In Paris, the applicable rules of law as per Article 21 of ICC is that the parties are free to choose the rules of law governing the merits of the dispute. In the absence of any such agreement, the arbitral tribunal shall apply the rules of law which it determines to be appropriate by taking account of the provisions of the contract and of relevant trade usage. When it comes to claims arising from the administration of the arbitration, the Rules shall be governed by French law and settled by the Paris Judicial Tribunal (Tribunal Judiciaire de Paris) in France, which shall have exclusive jurisdiction.11 Coming to Singapore and Hong Kong, SIAC Rule 31 and Article 36 of HKIAC says that the merits of the matter will be decided by the law / rules chosen by the parties filing which the arbitrator will have the discretion to choose the appropriate law. Tribunal will also place reliance on the terms of the contract. London does not have clear provisions on this aspect except that according to Article 16.5, the LCIA Rules shall be interpreted in accordance with the laws of England. With respect to Court interference, the degree to which national courts interfere varies among different seats. If parties would prefer to have less interference of courts in modifying awards, they should choose LCIA and HKIAC Rules as it does not allow for any institutional scrutiny of the award, this also has an effect of reducing the time taken for enforcement of an award. However, if parties prefer a two-stage scrutiny, they should choose for ICC rules as Article 34 lays down that before signing any award, the arbitral tribunal shall submit it as a draft to the Court. The Court may lay down modifications as to the form of the award and, without affecting the Tribunal's liberty of decision, may also draw its attention to points of substance. No award shall be rendered by the arbitral tribunal until it has been approved by the Court as to its form. Similarly, the SIAC Rules provide for scrutiny of the award on the same grounds, but the scrutiny is done by the registrar instead of the court as per Rule 32.3. The type of interference also varies from seat to seat. France is a pro-arbitration jurisdiction, and the courts usually intervene only in support of arbitration, like offering interim relief. However, in other jurisdictions, the court "may intervene in the arbitration and even decline to respect the arbitration agreement, severely impacting the proceedings." 12 Generally, it is suggested to conduct the proceedings in a place where courts do not unduly interfere with arbitration and frequently set the arbitration award aside but instead assist with it, when necessary, like Paris. The seat determines which country's courts will entertain the challenge to the arbitral award and on which grounds it can be set aside. "Every country will allow an award to be challenged on certain, limited grounds (for example, that the arbitrators lacked jurisdiction or were corrupt), but some also allow the challenge of the award based on errors of law or grounds of public policy, which means different things in different jurisdictions."13 It is important to choose a seat for a challenge with limited grounds otherwise courts may allow wide challenges that amount to reopening of the merits of the dispute. For example, in New York, an award may be challenged based on a "manifest disregard of the law," which is not the case in Paris, where arbitral awards are more likely to be truly final and binding. There are only limited grounds available for challenging an award. "These grounds include where a tribunal has wrongly assumed jurisdiction, irregularity in the constitution of the arbitral tribunal, failure by the tribunal to comply with the terms of reference, failure to give one party an opportunity to present its case, and violation of a rule of international public policy."14 The English Arbitration Act does allow for challenge of an award based on an error of law, but the threshold is set so high that it only allows this challenge if the award is obviously wrong or subject to serious doubt. Additionally, the right to use this ground for challenge may be waived off. Thus, Paris is one of the safest seats of arbitration.

  1. Conclusion

Keeping in view various factors enlisted above, it can be concluded that ideal choice of seat of arbitration purely depends on the factors considered significant by the parties. In the event, parties have a need for expedited procedures, Singapore or Hong Kong should be opted. In the event, the parties are seeking flexibility in the rules, London should be the seat as it is less prescriptive than those of other institutions especially in matters of duration, expedited procedures, consolidation and joinder of claims. On the point of confidentiality, Hong Kong should be the preferred destination as it allows breach of confidentiality in only exceptional cases and even then, the identifying information is removed before publication / disclosure. If the parties prefer that there is less interference by the courts in the arbitral procedure, they should go for London or Hong Kong but if they want a 2 (two) stage scrutiny with respect to the award then they should choose Singapore. If the parties' main consideration is finality of the award, Paris should be chosen as it allows for lesser grounds for challenge and the courts adopt a pro-arbitration stance. All in all, the parties should consider each of these factors meticulously with respect to the needs of their case.


1. Simon Greenberg, Christopher Kee & Romesh Weeramantry, "International Commercial Arbitration: An Asia-Pacific Perspective," 54 Cambridge Univ. Press (2011).

2. Laura Warren, "The Seat of Arbitration: Why is it so Important?," Clyde & Co (Sept. 13, 2011); Link

3. Clayton Utz, "A Guide to International Arbitration," 2nd Ed., (2012).

4. Vial, Gonzalo, "Influence of the Arbitral Seat in the Outcome of an International Commercial Arbitration." The International Lawyer, vol. 50, no. 2, 2017, pp. 329–46. JSTOR, Accessed 13 Jul. 2022.

5. Hiroo Advani, "Seat v. Venue in Contemporary Arbitral Jurisprudence" SCC Blog (2021); Link

6." SIAC Releases Costs and Duration Study" Singapore International Arbitration Centre (2016); Link

7. "Costs and Duration: 2013-2016," The London Court of International Arbitration, (2016); Link

8. Sanjeev Kapoor , Madhav Khosla, Tejas Karia, Pallavi Kumar and Sneha Janakiraman, "ICC India Arbitration White Paper," International Chambers of Commerce,

9. Supra note 4.

10. Supra note 12.

11. Article 43 of ICC Rules.

12. Supra note 4.

13. William Kirtley, "The Importance of The Seat of Arbitration," International Arbitration Information by Aceris Law LLC (2014)

14. "Guide to Leading Arbitral Seats and Institutions," K & L Gates, (2012).

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