"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Alt+Law: Technological Innovation and the Law

[The legal profession is regarded as one of the least innovative professions (see, here, for instance). Lawyers do not accept technological improvements easily. Given this, Ms. Aarvi Singh's Alt+law bot comes as a pleasant surprise. She is a student of RGNUL, Punjab and an avid researcher with several papers published in various law journals/ reviews.

Ms. Singh's bot in Telegram has the potential to help stressed out law students. The bot purports to summarise pdf files and provide summaries of these files. Apparently, the bot runs even on pdfs containing more than 500 pages. In this post, Ms Singh explains to the world her bot, "Alt+Law". Do test the bot and give your feedback to Ms. Aarvi Singh at aarvi03singh@gmail.com ]

Introducing my project Alt+Law 
by Aarvi Singh

During my first internship, I was assigned the task to give a summary of a number of judgments and one such judgment was LIC v Escort, (1986) 1 SCC 264. It was way too long a judgment to summarize in half an hour. At that very moment of fear, the anxiety of being judged as poor reading capacity loomed over me. I completed the task, but always wished for some tools to assist students in researching especially when time is all that matters.
Finally, I took this task to create some tools that would assist students in creating a summary of bulky papers. I created a bot on Telegram which will summarize any judgment, paper, or any pdf with content.

Technical Aspect of the bot

@altpluslaw_bot, currently is a Telegram bot, which receives and sends pdf file to an apache tika grobid document parser (open-source software). The software extracts citations and references (if any) with fair accuracy (currently 60%). Once the citations and the overall text is received then it is sent to a summarizer. Currently, I have deployed different types of summarizers which gives the summary of the text by reducing the number of word counts to approximately 10% of the original words.
Image as available on Telegram

Scope of Improvements

I am working to improve the model and soon the model will be able to extract and summarize text from websites. The next version will come with options of summarization ratios. A new bot will be publishing three distinct newsletters on various topics but as of now topics are alternative investment, technology law and energy law updates. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

No Injunction/ Interim Measure Against Infrastructure Projects: Calcutta HC Decides

Golden Edge Engineering Private Limited vs. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (18.06.2020 - CALHC) : MANU/WB/0558/2020 is an important decision under the Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018. Petitioner was the contractor of the Owner, BHEL in respect of an Infrastructure Project as defined in Explanation to Section 21A r/w Schedule to the Specific Relief Act, 1963 (as amended) (SRA).

The Petitioner (Contractor), in an agreement entered into in 2017, contended that BHEL had delayed in providing the frontage for the work and in making payments. The Contractor also relied on the lockdown due to Covid19 to argue that delay in performance was beyond the control of the Contractor. The Contractor argued that despite assurances of completion, BHEL had gone ahead with floating a tender for performance of the remaining works that the Contractor was yet to complete. Consequently, the Contractor prayed for an injunction restraining BHEL from withdrawing the work from the Contractor and awarding it through a new tender to some other person.

The court rejected the said contentions on several grounds, some of which are provided below:
  • BHEL allowed time to the Contractor to complete the work after the lockdown period but the after the lifting of restrictions, it cannot be said that there has been uncertainty as the availability of manpower. In reality, there has been no migration of workers from the State of Jharkhand, which is the state where the project is located.
  • The Contractor could not adhere to the schedule even before the Covid19 pandemic. 
  • The prayer granted in the petition was barred by the SRA, as amended. in terms of Sections 41(ha) and 20A. 
  • There is no provision in the Tender/ Contract specifically restricting BHEL from proceeding on risk and cost.
  • Even if there is a legal injury to the Contractor, the same can be adequately compensated in terms of money. 
  • Balance of convenience is in favour of BHEL. As a PSU, if it is prevented from engaging a new contractor in case the existing Contractor is unable to perform, it will lead to a situation where BHEL will be stuck with the non-performing Contractor and substantial time will be wasted and project will come to a standstill in the event BHEL is unable to go ahead with the new tender. 


    Para 42 of the judgment is interesting and important, for it seeks to examine the issues at stake if an injunction is passed. It deserves noting, as it is, in the judgment:

    "42. So, the balance of convenience is entirely in favour of the Respondent as a Public Sector Undertaking engaged in power generation ought not to be prevented from engaging a new contractor if the existing contractor is unable to provide the requisite standard of work as the documents on record clearly show that ample opportunities have been provided and are being provided by the respondent to the petitioner to complete their outstanding work as per requisite standards but instead of utilising the same the petitioner intends to secure a monopoly and ensure the Respondent is stuck with the Petitioner in whatever performance and/or quality of work they offer. It is stated and submitted that the entire project has been severely lagging behind the requisite standards and the Respondent's employer i.e. the National Thermal Power Corporation has been constantly reprimanding the Respondent because of the cascading effect the Petitioner's under performance has been having on the entire project. A lot of time will be wasted and the project will come to a standstill in the event the Respondent is unable to go ahead with the New Tender and have a candidate ready to replace the Petitioner in the event of the failure to complete the work as such new tender would have to be conducted post the Petitioners failure."

    There are three interesting points in the decision:
    • In respect of infrastructure projects, courts will not grant stay in view of the statutory mandate pursuant to the amendments to the SRA.
    • Covid19 cannot be used as an excuse in respect of infrastructure projects especially where the Contractor is unable to perform the contract expeditiously;
    • Tendering processes in respect of risk and cost contracting can be commenced even before termination, and would not be a ground for granting injunction.  
    All the three points made above are significant in the current context. The court, rightly, analysed the importance of not passing stay orders on infrastructure projects. The judgment seems to be in line with the recent legislative mandate and seeks to balance competing interests and further the general principle of specific relief: injunctions will not be passed when damages would be adequate remedy.

    However, the ultimate conclusion that: "I am of the opinion that the petitioner would be left with a claim for equitable compensation as there would be no significant prejudice to the petitioner in the event of refusal to grant interim injunction at this stage." is not entirely clear. Was the court indicating that the Petitioner/ Contractor could pursue the remedy of seeking compensation but that no prejudice would be caused to the Contractor if its prayer was refused.

    [full disclosure: Till early last year, this blawgger was an employee of BHEL. However, this blawgger was in no way connected to the case or the subject-contract.]

    Tuesday, July 7, 2020

    International Arbitration: In the Age of the Technological Revolution - Volume 1 (2020)

    One, the book deals with a unique subject-matter. It deals with the interface between international dispute resolution and technology, and covers topics such as cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.  According to the Book Description:

    "The first volume of the International Arbitration Collection in the Age of the Technological Revolution addresses the future (and the present) of arbitration, relating it to topics such as compliance, cryptocurrencies, startups, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Most interestingly, this vision of technological revolution and arbitration is presented by authors from almost every continent, as there are opinions from professionals from Australia, Brazil, Spain, France, India, Portugal, Singapore and Switzerland. Several questions are formulated and answered by the authors in order to allow the reader a better understanding of how technology and arbitration already connected and they will increase their connection.
    This is an extremely interesting book for anyone who wants to know more about arbitration, technology, or their interaction."

    Two, the book contains a paper titled "Start-Ups & International Dispute Resolution: Challenges & Possible Solutions" penned by this blawgger, which deals with the challenges faced by Start-Ups in engaging with international arbitration. The paper also provides explores various solutions  to the common problems that start-ups face while fighting an international arbitration. Summary of the paper is as below:

    "Globalisation as a phenomenon has encaptivated the world in the last part of the 20th century leading to the rise of a global service sector, where services could be offered across national borders. These factors have acted as catalysts in bringing forth a start-up revolution world over. Several start-ups have become great success stories.

    The legal services industry world over has changed its approach to cater to start-ups and has adapted itself to the demands of a start-up. Even so, dispute resolution especially in the international sphere, has not been so forthcoming to provide legal services appropriate for start-ups. Start-ups face unique challenges in the context of international commercial dispute resolution. Already strained of funds, a cross-border dispute is a nightmare and might even result in shutting shop for the start-up.

    This short paper identifies challenges faced by start-ups in resolving their international commercial disputes and offers possible solutions to these issues. To this end, the paper is structured in the following manner: Part II discusses the concept of a start-up. Different jurisdictions define start-ups differently. Since the scope of the paper is not constricted to a definite jurisdiction or region, start-up is defined in a general manner. Part II addresses the issues faced by start-ups in international dispute resolution, which is the primary focus of this paper. Part III offers possible solutions to these problems. Part IV concludes."

    The paper concludes by putting forth the following points:

    "Arbitral institutions are the centrepiece of international arbitration and significant reforms in the area have emanated from them. Hence, they should take the lead and formulate rules tailor-made for start-ups. Such rules could define start-ups and provide that in case disputes involved start-ups, certain special provisions such as appointment of sole arbitrator instead of a three member tribunal, documents-only arbitration, etc. would apply, with opt-out mechanisms. 

    Internally, start-ups should put in place robust governance mechanisms and internal policies. This will aid them in not only putting forth their case well in a dispute but also ensure better governance. Start-ups should also negotiate with their clients for favourable dispute resolution and confidentiality clauses. Disputes between warring founder partners of a start-up also derail its case in legal proceedings, especially international arbitrations. Suitable systems / agreements should be put in place in consultation with lawyers to address possible future disputes between co-founders. 

    All said and done, it is critical for start-ups to realize the importance of getting legal advice. There are umpteen legal issues that could crop up unexpectedly and have disastrous consequences. Therefore, it is crucial to have legal advice, preferably in-house legal counsel, who could also play multiple roles in the organization."

    Friday, July 3, 2020

    Call for Research Internships (Online)

    Any UG or PG student studying law and is interested in Commercial law and Dispute Resolution can apply at lawbadri@gmail.com for a month's research internship (online). During the internship, an intern would be writing about four blog posts and a research paper, hopefully, of publication quality. The internship is unpaid. 

    More information about the internship can be found here