The Supreme Court Tuesday appointed Australia’s Justice (retd.) Michael Hudson McHugh to chair the arbitration proceedings in disputes between Reliance Industries and the Indian government over the shortfall in gas production in the KG basin and its consequential implications.
A bench headed by Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar named Justice McHugh as the third arbitrator, and the chairman of the arbitration panel after the earlier former Australian judge James Jacob Spigelman had to be withdrawn as his name figured in the list of names suggested by the RIL as possible third arbitrator.
Besides Justice McHugh, the other two arbitrators are former Chief Justices of India V.N. Khare and S.P.Barucha. Justice Khare is for the central government aqd Justice Barucha is for RIL.
Justice Nijjar vouched for the independence and objectivity of Justice McHugh as he said that he was not biased towards any one.
Justice Spigelman had to be withdrawn, because Justice Nijjar in his March 31 order had said that the court was not appointing anyone who was in the list of names suggested by the RIL and the government.
The court April 2 recalled its March 31 order appointing Justice Spigelman after senior counsel Dushyant Dave brought to its notice the dichotomy.
“It has been pointed out that, in judgment dated March 31 delivered in Arbitration Petition No.27 of 2013, in spite of my earlier observations that I shall not appoint an arbitrator from either of the list submitted by the parties, the arbitrator actually appointed happens to be on the list of the petitioners,” Justice Nijjar said in his April 2 order.
“In that view of the matter, the aforesaid direction appointing James Spigelman, former chief justice and Lt. Governor of New South Wales, Australia, as the third Arbitrator is hereby withdrawn. The substitute arbitrator shall be appointed subsequently by a separate order,” it added.