The ‘neo’ way of banking - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

Policy & Politics

The ‘neo’ way of banking

Covid-19 pandemic has left no option but to usher in a renaissance in the global banking industry with almost every aspect of life transformed by digital enablers. With the rise in online activities and demand for technologyenabled financial services skyrocketing, banks have the responsibility to offer frictionless services to their customers. This is the right time for banks to use technological expansion and transform their traditional structure.

Kritika Krishnamurthy, Anupam Alok & Akanksha Rathore



With distinct advantages, are neobanks the future of new-age banking?

“Banking is necessary, banks are not.

 Bill Gates


Traditionally, banks have offered a wide range of services from current and savings accounts, money transfer, debit and credit cards, loans, insurances etc. But, technological interventions have brought radical changes in the way these services are being offered to the customers. The technological advancements in the financial sphere resulted in emergence of ‘Fintechs’.

Fintechs are gradually transforming the face of banking by providing novel and customized products to meet the individual needs. Fintechs have overhauled the traditional system by making financial services more accessible, faster, cheaper and efficient.

Remember the 90’s when the only way of transferring money to someone’s bank account was visiting the recipient’s bank and depositing money using deposit slip or by sending money order. However, with changing times and technological advancement the scheme of things took a 180 degree turn. Physical money took shape of plastic money in the form of credit and debit cards, ATMs were introduced in 1987 and finally net banking became a reality in 1996. Though use of debit and credit card for online transaction is still stigmatized and many of our parents are still reluctant to use it. But, India is at the cusp of a transition with 65% population being below 35 years. A large portion of our demography is tech-friendly. The period of demonetization further pushed the use of digital banking by increasing the use of online transactions. And now with the outbreak of Covid-19, the preference for contactless payments via quick response (QR) code has risen, thereby minimizing the chances of contamination or spread of virus.

As per a recent report by Razorpay, digital payment transaction rose to 23% in a month during June 3, 2020 to July 2, 2020. Also, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) continued to be the preferred mode and grew to 43%, while use of cards was up by 40% and net-banking by 10%.

Now, the new era of neobanking is surfacing in the digital banking space. Neobanks refer to complete digitization of the banking structure with 100% virtual operation. The United States (US) is home to some of the oldest neo-banks including Simple, which was set up in 2009, and Moven, which founded in 2011. Neo-banking has also gained prominence in Europe since 2011 with the customer base growing to more than 15 million. However, it is a relatively new concept for India and has started gaining traction only in the past few years.


With increased mobile and internet penetration along with availability of low cost data plans, customers are shifting from ‘paper only’ offline mode to fully automated online platforms for various services. Recently, Mastercard interviewed 17,000 people from 19 different nationalities. Majority of the respondents (82%) view contactless ‘tap and pay’ method as the cleaner way to pay, enabling the customers to get in and out of stores faster. It appears that the trend towards contactless payments is likely to outlive the virus, with 74% of respondents willing to continue contactless options even when pandemic is over.

The Indian banking sector could be changed dramatically with collaboration of all stakeholders, including regulators, market players and investors. Innovation is no more a luxury; rather it has become a necessity. More importantly there has been a rise in startups, which are gradually digitizing the retail financial services delivered to consumers. It is therefore important for banks to innovate in the retail financial services space in tune with the changing times in order to be relevant.

Customers nowadays enjoy a new world of multichannel banking, where they have access financial services while sitting at their home or offices through mobile based applications. Thus, banks need to have dedicated resources, to form an agile innovation unit, with a view to position themselves at the forefront of digital innovations amidst changing customer expectations and competitive landscape.

Traditional banking practices such as requirement of paper documentation and declaration for wire transfer by visiting the bank, emphasis on physically stamped bank statement for incorporation of company, requirement of tendering a cheque from an existing bank account for high value Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transaction etc. is a tedious exercise. Further, considering lockdowns, quarantines, curfews and social distancing measures, customers are not able to reach banks while many other are reluctant to visit a bank due to the fear of contacting Covid-19. Additionally, many financial services including opening and making the bank accounts functional were affected. The accounts can be made functional only by servicing a ‘kit’ containing debit card, cheque book, banking passwords and account details, sent to the customers through courier services. Due to lockdown these kits could not reach the customers. All these factors, calls for revamping of the banking sector to enable the banking services being available with remote, nointeraction and contactless operations in order to cater to the evolving demands of the new age tech-savvy customers.


 Neo-banks are fully digital financial service providers offering a range of services including payment and money transfer, individual and business loan, overdraft facilities, savings account and tips for saving and budgeting thereby offering an immersive customer experience over a 100% virtual platform.

As per data by Zion Market Research, global neobank market which was valued at USD 18.6 billion (2018), shall be registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.5% during 2019-2026, generating USD 394.6 billion by 2026. As per PWC India, the substantial growth potential for neo-banks is driven by their low-cost model for end consumers with no or very low monthly fees.

 It is no secret that traditional banking channels are on the fore-front of increased competition from many arcs of the digital environment. Neo-banks are expanding rapidly, using state-of-the-art technology to win over customers. In the recent years, neo-banks have become the next big thing in fintech.

 As the financial landscape is shifting towards customer experience and satisfaction, a gap is created between what the traditional banks offer and what the customers expect. Neo-banks are making an attempt to fill this gap. Since there is absence of physical structure with 100% virtual operation, the customer fee is significantly reduced. Further, neo-banks being customer-centric are capable of providing personalized services related to money transfer, money lending, and other related services.

Case Study: SBI Yono

Yono digital bank by State Bank of India (SBI) is an integrated digital banking platform offering a variety of services like Credit Cards, Loans, Insurance, Investments and other services such as taxi bookings, online shopping and medical bill payments. SBI Yono provides an appbased banking facility with instant account opening. It provides for digital on-boarding of customers through e-KYC and biometric authentication. However, one time branch visit is required to give biometric in case of digital savings account. While insta savings account can be opened within 4 minutes with no requirement of branch visit.


 Banks often see fintech as competitors but, a broader outlook reveal that banks and fintechs are not heterogeneous. Therefore, they shall act in consonance to attain larger economic goals. From the standpoint of fintech startups, partnering with banks shall enable them to attract a scalable customer base. Alternatively, legacy banking organizations struggling to keep up with consumer expectations shall be able to reach more customers by using technological support of fintechs. Additionally, fintechs can help the banks harness the power of blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analysis and to come up with neo-banking structure with 100% virtual operation.

Recently, speaking at the Global Fintech Fest, SBI chairman, Shri Rajnish Kumar said that only 9 out of every 100 transactions happen in SBI branches, while the rest are done through alternative channels. Besides, transactions on ATMs, which used to comprise 55% of total transactions three years ago, have now declined to 30-32%. All this have been possible through bank-fintech partnership.

Case Study: Kotak 811

Kotak, a private sector banks in India, came up with an innovative product ‘Kotak 811’ addressing the concerns associated with physical branch visit and ‘paper-only’ services. Kotak 811 is a new age banking app with main focus on customer acquisition through digital platform with easy account opening services for customers from every strata of society. Kotak 811 provides for a zero contact, video –KYC facilitated banking solutions and is India’s first downloadable bank account that installs and starts in 5 minutes. It allows people to open a zero-balance digital bank account and comes with a virtual debit card with an option of physical debit card and free online fund transfer using National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) or RTGS. Kotak 811 and Kotak remit are blockchainbased financial products designed in collaboration with fintech platforms.


SBI’s‘Yono’, Kotak’s  ‘Kotak  811’ and Axis Bank’s ‘ASAP’ are the closest model to ‘Neo-Banks’ in India.  Also, ICICI has launched a digital banking platform ‘ICICI Stack’ to provide banking services, including digital account opening, loan solutions, payment solutions, investments, insurance and care solutions. Though virtual banking licenses does not exist in India, foreign banks have managed to offer digital-only products through their Indian subsidiaries.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) remains stern in prioritising a bank’s physical presence in India. Further, RBI mandates the requirement of physical presence for banks to provide mobile payment services to residents of India.

 In order to overcome regulatory hindrances, neo-banks in India are creating strategic partnerships with traditional banks to offer banking services, for example, Niyo solution tied up with Yes Bank. For the end customer, financial and banking services are offered by the neo-bank, but from a regulatory perspective, monetary transactions are managed by the partner banks.


 A robust neo-banking infrastructure cannot be created in vacuum. Thus, a specific regulatory framework is required overseeing the entire operations. In light of the same, the regulatory aspects associated with the traditional banking structure need to be relooked and modified. RBI provides for physical inspection of bank branches for different purposes. In terms of neo banking, necessary changes need to be made in RBI regulations to provide for virtual inspection wherein all the information required for the purposes of inspection shall be made available real time over a technological platform. As most of these accounts and data are stored over blockchain, it shall be more convenient for the regulator to trace any discrepancy. As transactions over blockchain are recorded in a chronological order with time stamps, any mutation of data is easily traceable without spending hours in screening through multiple files with bulks of information.

Recently, RBI has introduced amendment to Master Direction (MD) on Know Your Customer (KYC). Ideally, customer shall be able to send their details over a portal used by verifying entity. However, as per MD, the process of digital KYC shall be performed by officials of reporting entity which require more manpower than the earlier method, as now technicians and IT team is required to be on-boarded for the process. Further, the definition suggests that Digital KYC shall be used by banks only when physical KYC cannot be carried out. Thus, even after the MD on KYC being in effect the issue remains unaddressed. But to ensure the success of neo-banks, 100% digital KYC needs to be implemented.

 Additionally, RBI circular on Storage of Payment System Data requires all data of payment systems to be stored only in India. International players usually store data on global servers and this requirement of data localization shall require additional investment. A foreign neo-bank willing to offer world-class facilities to the Indian customers may be inhibited by this pre-condition. The underlying procedural requirement insistent on physical form of banking needs to be revised. For example, physical stamping of bank statement for company incorporation, requirement of making payment via cheque for high value RTGS transaction from an existing bank account or making several branch visits to open business bank account. The mandatory physical presence by banks to provide mobile payment services to residents of India also need to be revised in alignment with the virtual infrastructure.


After the global financial crisis of 2008, a widespread distrust surfaced for conventional banking system. Traditional banking failed to keep up with financial innovations and the everincreasing complexity of the financial industry. This presented fintechs and neobanks as possible alternative to the archaic banking regime and lead to popularity and adaptability of neobanks worldwide.

 Europe has been a bright spot for neo-banks in the world owing to the relaxed regulatory regime. Payment Services Directive (PSD) Law has helped in the emergence and development of neo-banks in Europe. The PSD regulated payment services provided for rights and obligations of payment service providers and its users. However, soon PSD was realized to be inadequate on some counts, such as not including entities from other countries outside of the EU region within its ambit and loopholes in guaranteeing user safety. Thereafter, the revised PSD2 was passed in 2016 which came into force in 2018. PSD2 made online banking easier and safer, with new provisions for payments and transactions made outside or received from outside the EU economic area. PSD2 has been a revolutionary move in standardizing the digital market and making it more customer-centric. PSD2 has a significant impact on the establishment of open banking in Europe, allowing users to perform variety of financial transactions and processes with greater ease and security. The sense of security and control over data has played key role in increasing acceptance of neo-banks in Europe.

Case Study: Revolut

Revolut is UK-based neobank established in 2015 with over 10 million users. Revolut has been granted a specialized banking license by European Central Bank via the Bank of Lithuania in 2018, allowing it to accept deposits and offer consumer credits. The main difference between a specialized and a full-range bank is that the former is not authorized to provide investment services. It has an internet-only or digital-only interface. Revolut uses cloud computing services of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure and offers all core functions expected out of a traditional bank including current and savings account facilities, wire transfers, insurance, trading, loans and overdraft and business accounts other than handling cash or cheques or offering phone-based assistance.  Customers can make transactions as small as USD 5 using Revolut. Further, Revolut automates bulk payments, regardless of business size or payment amount and allows customers to obtain the entire transaction data using ‘search’ option. It is an ‘end to end’ application for banking and financial services. The business model of Revolut is based on vertical integration where there is no intermediary either for core service or for adjacent services. For example, Revolut has built a card fraud detection system ‘Sherlock’.

All of its services are run, built, deployed, and managed internally allowing changing or pivoting the products quickly and affordably.

 In Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are some of the first regions to issue neo-bank licenses to banks operating solely as digital banks. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued guidelines for authorization of virtual banks primarily delivering banking services via internet or other electronic delivery channels. These guidelines can act as a blueprint for other jurisdictions planning to grant digital banking license. As an autonomous license, distinct from the physical bank shall help in better regulation and management of neo-banks.


 RBI may have problems regulating these virtual banks that will operate mainly with point-of-sales devices and through business correspondents. But, there is a need for RBI to be more sophisticated and have novel regulatory approach in so far as digital banking is concerned. The financial experts in Hong Kong and Taiwan are of the view that granting licenses to neo-banks shall be a boon for specialized sectors such as micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) that are continuously seeking expedited credit approval. Hence, with India’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ mission, we need to consider the specialized banking needs of MSMEs. Creating regulatory sandboxes is a big step towards enabling the growth of digital financial system. Other leading financial regulators including, Monetary Authority of Singapore, HKMA, and Israeli regulators are already taking progressive steps towards neobanking. It is time that RBI follows the trend and chalks out a scheme for rolling out virtual banking licenses in India.


Covid-19 pandemic has left no option but to usher a renaissance in the global banking industry with almost every aspect of life transformed by digital enablers. With the rise in online activities and demand for technology enabled financial services skyrocketing, banks have the responsibility to offer frictionless services to their customers. This is the right time for banks to use technological expansion and transform their traditional structure to discover new opportunities of collaboration with fintechs for transitioning to neo-banking structure.

Neo-banking structure not only hold significance in the current situation of Covid-19 by enabling zero-contact, but shall also prove to be of importance in simplifying and increasing ease of doing business in India. It shall improve the image of India as an investment destination since most jurisdictions are now transitioning to tech enabled banking without the incessant requirement for branch visits. Also, this when backed by specific regulatory norms with adequate measures for data protection shall increase customer confidence and adaptability.

 Kritika Krishnamurthy (Founding Partner, AK & Partners), Anupam Alok (Senior Legal Counsel, Sberbank), Akanksha Rathore (Associate, AK & Partners).

 Assisted by Aashrit Varma (Consultant, Bridge Policy Think Tank).

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.


Policy & Politics

India emerges as the world’s largest producer and consumer of sugar and world’s 2nd largest exporter of sugar



India emerges as the world’s largest producer and consumer of sugar and world’s 2nd largest exporter of sugar

In Sugar Season (Oct-Sep) 2021-22, a record of more than 5000 Lakh Metric Tons (LMT) sugarcane was produced in the country out of which about 3574 LMT of sugarcane was crushed by sugar mills to produce about 394 LMT of sugar (Sucrose). Out of this, 35 LMT sugar was diverted to ethanol production and 359 LMT sugar was produced by sugar mills. With this, India has emerged as the world’s largest producer and consumer of sugar as well as the world’s 2nd largest exporter of sugar.

The season has proven to be a watershed season for Indian Sugar Sector. All records of sugarcane production, sugar production, sugar exports, cane procured, cane dues paid and ethanol production were made during the season.

Another shining highlight of the season is the highest exports of about 109.8 LMT that too with no financial assistance which was being extended upto 2020-21. Supportive international prices and Indian Government Policy led to this feat of Indian Sugar Industry. These exports earned foreign currency of about Rs. 40,000 crores for the country.

The success story of sugar industry is the outcome of synchronous and collaborative efforts of Central and State Governments, farmers, sugar mills, ethanol distilleries with very supportive overall ecosystem for business in the country. Timely Government interventions since last 5 years have been crucial in building the sugar sector step by step from taking them out of financial distress in 2018-19 to the stage of self-sufficiency in 2021-22.

During SS 2021-22, sugar mills procured sugarcane worth more than 1.18 lakh crore and released payment of more than 1.12 lakh crore with no financial assistance (subsidy) from Government of India. Thus, cane dues at the end of sugar season are less than ₹ 6,000 crore indicating that 95% of cane dues have already been cleared. It is also noteworthy that for SS 2020-21, more than 99.9% cane dues are cleared.

Government has been encouraging sugar mills to divert sugar to ethanol and also to export surplus sugar so that sugar mills may make payment of cane dues to farmers in time and also mills may have better financial conditions to continue their operations.

Growth of ethanol as biofuel sector in last 5 years has amply supported the sugar sector as use of sugar to ethanol has led to better financial positions of sugar mills due to faster payments, reduced working capital requirements and less blockage of funds due to less surplus sugar with mills. During 2021-22, revenue of about ₹ 18,000 crore has been made by sugar mills/distilleries from sale of ethanol which has also played its role in early clearance of cane dues of farmers. Ethanol production capacity of molasses/sugar-based distilleries has increased to 605 crore litres per annum and the progress is still continuing to meet targets of 20% blending by 2025 under Ethanol Blending with Petrol (EBP) Programme. In new season, the diversion of sugar to ethanol is expected to increase from 35 LMT to 50 LMT which would generate revenue for sugar mills amounting to about ₹ 25,000 crores.

There is an optimum closing balance of 60 LMT of sugar which is essential to meet domestic requirements for 2.5 months. The diversion of sugar to ethanol and exports led to unlocking of value chain of the whole industry as well as improved financial conditions of sugar mills leading to more optional mills in ensuing season.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

DFS modifies Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme for Civil Aviation sector

ECLGS necessary for collateral-free liquidity at reasonable interest rates to tide over their present cash flow problems



DFS modifies Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme for Civil Aviation sector

Recognising that an efficient and strong civil aviation sector is vital for the economic development of the country, the Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance, has modified the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) yesterday to enhance the maximum loan amount eligibility for airlines under ECLGS 3.0 to 100% of their fund based or non-fund-based loan outstanding as on the reference dates or Rs. 1,500 crore, whichever is lower; and of the above, Rs. 500 crore shall be considered, based on equity contribution by the owners.

All other criteria terms and conditions parameters prescribed under the operational guidelines of the ECLGS on 30.8.2022 shall be applicable as it is.

The modifications introduced are aimed to give necessary collateral-free liquidity at reasonable interest rates to tide over their present cash flow problems.

Earlier in March 2022, the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) was extended beyond March 2022, till March 2023, to implement the announcement made in the Union Budget 2022-23 by Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman. Keeping in view the high proportion of non-fund based credit in the overall credit of the civil aviation sector, the eligible borrowers were permitted to avail up to 50% of their highest total fund and non-fund based credit outstanding, subject to a maximum of Rs. 400 crore per borrower. 

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

Analysis on “Climate resilient housing structures for marginalised communities living in coastal areas” 



Analysis on “Climate resilient housing structures for marginalised communities living in coastal areas” 


Climate change has emerged as one of the pressing issues of the 21st century. Climate change is like a pandemic, it does not spare even the most advanced countries. Weather and climatic extremes are becoming more common as a result of human-caused climate change across the world. Acute occurrences of storms, droughts, floods, cyclical fluctuations in precipitation and long-term variations in temperature and sea levels, are all made more likely by climate change. This will result in deaths, injuries, and poor health related diseases, as well as damage to infrastructure, livelihoods and natural resources. Marginalised communities who live in old and substandard houses and have limited resources are especially susceptible to floods and cyclones. Approximately 40% of the world’s population now lives within 100 km of a coastline and 100 m of sea level. it is anticipated that by 2030 half of the world’s population would reside in coastal areas. As per the World Bank study (2018), climate change will relocate 143 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and south Asia. Climate proofing the houses and infrastructure for all is a necessity.  

Climate change and vulnerability of India’s Coastal infrastructure 

India is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change and simultaneously suffers from endemic levels of poverty. In recent years, India has experienced an increase in the severity and frequency of weather events and climate-related natural disasters.India is the third-worst-affected country due to the climatic disasters. In India 170 million people live in the coastal regions. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, between 2008 and 2018, over 3.6 million Indians were moved every year, the majority as a result of monsoon rains, which are the heaviest in South Asia. As per the report Human Cost of Disasters (2000-2019) published by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, India has the third highest number of disaster events. It is also the second most impacted country by floods with 345 million people affected. Extreme cyclones namely the recent Yaas, Amphan, Fani, Gaja, and Hudhud, as well as catastrophic floods, have wreaked havoc on its coastal states of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. The mangrove ecosystem, which acts as a natural barrier against cyclones and coastal erosion in coastal areas, has been badly harmed and is expected to be further harmed as an outcome of climate change. According to estimates from the Central Water Commission, the total damage from climate-related extreme weather events on infrastructure and housing is more than INR 36 million, or 3% of India’s GDP. 

The major cyclone Fani hit Odisha with a population of around 46 million people, in May 2019. State authorities used an effective early-warning system to evacuate 1.2 million people in 24 hours, making it one of the largest evacuations in history and earning praise from the United Nations. With the increasing effects of climate change, tens of thousands more people may be forced to migrate or be displaced from high-risk areas along the Indian coast. Many families may be forced to relocate within their own state or further afield to avoid the effects of sea level rise and coastal inundation if concrete climate and development action is not taken. It is imperative that climate resilient infrastructure and houses are built which are affordable, safe and adequate which could benefit the people living in poverty.  

Safeguarding future prosperity

Acknowledging the effects of climate change on our lives and directing all our resources and efforts towards the attainment of climate resilience is important. Climate resilience refers to the ability to predict, prepare for, and assess how climate change can create hazardous events and take steps to cope with such events. Adaptation to climate change for people living in coastal areas is a necessity. Infrastructure that is both accessible and functional is critical to human well-being and economic progress. People living in coastal areas are vulnerable to triple threats which are limited resources for affordable housing infrastructure, socioeconomic vulnerability, and increased flooding due to sea level rise.


As climatic conditions worsens and extreme weather events like floods, storms and cyclones are becoming normal in the climate-constrained weather. To maintain the global average temperature below the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree safe limit, collaborative action and funding is required. Government and Non Governmental Organisation should come together to take preventive measures which would ultimately reduce disaster risks and post recovery losses. It is imperative to invest in making climate resilient housing for the people. There is a huge requirement of funds which can be solved if the government incentivises private investors to enter into the long term contracts with Development Financial Institutions to work on innovative and sustainable houses for the marginalised communities. If appropriately managed, relocating communities from hazard-prone places can be a valuable adaptation strategy for providing alternatives to physical protection. However, there is a need for more forward looking sustainable housing planning to protect the people living in coastal areas who are vulnerable. Sensitising and raising awareness amongst the people about the benefits of climate resilient houses is also a significant component for the planning. Furthermore, strong community demand and community support can lead to decision-makers and planners reaching a consensus. Currently, India’s construction industry is altering its building processes in order to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and make sustainable buildings more accessible to individuals with limited financial resources. Failure to do so sufficiently will put marginalised communities in more danger in the future.

Abhinav is an Practicing Advocate based out of Delhi & Parth is a law Scholar. 

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

Dispute, Discrepancy, and Debate: Anti-Arbitration Injunctions in India



Overview of Anti Arbitration Injunctions
The conundrum of anti-arbitration injunctions is similar to the relationship between a devil and deep blue sea, thereby, addressing the two-sided sword of danger and distress irrespective of choosing directions. India’s approach on anti-arbitration injunctions can be summarized more or less on the same lines. In common parlance, an anti-arbitration injunction suit seeks to injunct the initiation of arbitration proceedings. Generally, the parties prefer to take this recourse before the initiating arbitration proceedings. However, the same is not confined to narrow boundaries and hence, recourse can be availed before the tribunal passes the final award.
There are two broad limbs while dealing with such injunctions. On one hand, it is argued that this remedy strikes the power of arbitral tribunal to regulate or decide its own jurisdiction which results in increasing judicial intervention. On the other hand, it is argued in cantena of judgments that the duty of the court to ‘refer’ parties to the arbitration plays a vital role. The Hon’ble Apex Court in Vidya Drolia & Ors. v. Durga Trading Corporation (“Vidya Drolia”) reiterated four-fold conditions for determining arbitrability of disputes by appropriate forum viz., (i) instances where cause of action and subject matter of the dispute relates to actions in rem, not pertaining to subordinate rights in personam which arise from rights in rem, (ii) mutual adjudication would not be appropriate when cause of action and subject matter of the dispute inherently affects third party rights and hence, centralized adjudication must be there, (iii) mutual adjudication not possible when cause of action and subject matter of the dispute relates to sovereign and public interest functions of the State, and (iv) when the subject-matter of the dispute is expressly, or by necessary implication non-arbitrable as per mandatory statute.
Further, in P. Anand Gajapathi Raju v. P.V.G. Raju (Died) another set of principles were crystalised, viz., firstly, there must be an arbitration agreement; secondly, a party to the agreement must bring an action in the court against the opposite party; thirdly, similar subject matter of the action and arbitration agreement; and fourthly, the other party must move to the court for arbitration before it submits its first statement on the substance of the dispute. Simultaneous reading of S. 8 & 45 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”) makes it clear that the remedy of anti-arbitration injunction sustains limited judicial intervention. India is struggling to find a fine line of balance on the issue of autonomy to arbitral tribunals and ability of courts to interfere in matters pertaining to jurisdiction, injustices, or aggravation in any arbitration proceedings.

Narrow Bridge Prior to Bina Modi-Lalit Modi and Amazon-Future Retail
Section 16 of the Act encircles the principle of Kompetenz-Kompetenz which talks about the issue of jurisdiction by arbitral tribunal as sufficient and efficient. In the case of Uttarakhand Purv Sainik Kalyan Nigam Ltd. v. Northern Coal Field Ltd, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, while examining this backbone principle applied this principle and held that “the dispute related to the arbitrability should be decided by the tribunal itself and courts can interfere only when there is no agreement at all or whether the consent to enter into an agreement is vitiated by fraud or misrepresentation.” Hence, under the said Act, the challenge before a court is maintainable only after the final award is passed as provided by sub-section (6) of Section 16. In the case of N.N. Global Mercantile v. Indo Unique Flame Ltd, similar footings were observed while dealing with the said principle. Interestingly, in Kvaerner Cementation India Limited v. Bajranglal Agarwal, it was held that the civil court do not have the jurisdiction to interfere in arbitral matters, owing to the principle of Kompetenz-Kompetenz which focuses on the competence of a court.
Quite recently, the Calcutta High Court denied the contention of forum non conveniens while restraining the other party from taking steps for a London-seated arbitration while reiterating that the contract was signed cautiously. Similarly, in Sancorp Confectionary v. Gumlik, the Delhi High Court refused to interfere and stated that all objections shall be heard by the arbitral tribunal itself. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in World Sport Group v. MSM Satellite Singapore Ltd while analysing the issue whether the arbitration agreement was null and void applied the principles of Section 45 of the Act. However, it is interesting and vital to note the case of Board of Trustees of Port of Kolkata v. Louis Dreyfus Armatures SAS & Ors where the Calcutta High Court granted anti-arbitration injunction and warned that it must only be granted in exceptional and unprecedented circumstances.

Window of Interference Post Bina Modi-Lalit Modi and Amazon-Future Retail
Recently, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Vidya Drolia laid down certain principles while analysing the issue of non-arbitrability, while placing substantial reliance on Duro Felguera and Boghara Polyfab. Firstly, the scope of judicial review under Section 8 and 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”) is identical but vastly limited, secondly, arbitral tribunal is the preferred authority to determine and decide all questions of non-arbitrability and court is the second option on such aspects, and thirdly, the court may interfere rarely only when it is manifestly and ex facie precise that the arbitration agreement is non-existent, invalid, or / and the disputes are non-arbitrable. Further, while following the principle of Kompetenz-Kompetenz, the Apex Court strongly observed that it is the arbitral tribunal which must be preferred as first authority to determine and decide all questions of non-arbitrability. 
Recent judgments have shaken the balance between the courts and tribunals while sliding towards granting autonomy to arbitral tribunals. The suits in Bina Modi vs Lalit Modi were dismissed while reiterating the observation in Kvaerner Cementation wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed suits as unmaintainable since an alternative remedy was present under Section 16 of the Act. Reliance was also placed on Section 41(h) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963, which bars the grant of injunctions when there is a possibility of deriving equally effective relief by any other usual mode of proceedings. The court while disallowing observed that the adequate remedy would be to approach the arbitral tribunal instead.
While hearing the Amazon-Future Retail, Justice Amit Bansal, stated that “there is only a very small window for interference with orders passed by the arbitral tribunal while exercising jurisdiction under Article 227. The said window becomes even narrower where the orders passed by the arbitral tribunal are procedural in nature.” The bench while upholding non-interference stated that the willingness of the court must be of utmost importance and added that arbitrators have a far greater flexibility in adopting procedure to conduct the arbitration proceedings as compared to civil courts and concluded by stating that nothing was found to suggest that the arbitral tribunal has denied equal opportunity to the parties or that it has not been accommodating towards the requests of the petitioners. Recently, the Supreme Court has set aside the orders of the Delhi High Court which initiated coercive steps against the companies and its promoters Biyanis for alleged violation of the Emergency Award passed by the Singapore Tribunal on the application filed by e-commerce giant Amazon.

In Vidya Drolia, the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s attempt to pose responsibility on the lower Courts while ensuring caution in exercising authority over proceedings referred to it under the Act clearly shows that we’re moving towards a pro-arbitration regime which must be accepted by open arms in order to curb over-burdening of judiciary. Prima facie, there are two important questions; firstly, can we have a common rule that everything must be decided by the arbitral tribunal with no power in hands of the court?, and secondly, has India approached this issue as if it were caught between the devil and the deep sea in choosing to exclusively rest the jurisdiction with the arbitral tribunal? Practically speaking, in the Indian context, we cannot shut eyes on the fact that there may be instances wherein the courts need to interfere in rare and exceptional circumstances. At times, the arbitral proceedings can be oppressive, vexatious, and inequitable. The law on anti-arbitration injunction suits in India has certainly reached a stifling point and hence, aim to not evolve as oppressive, manifestly unfair, unreasonable, and prejudicial to the interest of the parties.

Continue Reading

Policy & Politics

Bapu! Why don’t you come back again?

Not only India but the whole world celebrated Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, which made me think…

Vijay Darda



Dear Bapu!
Let me say sorry to you. Your birthday was celebrated yesterday, October 2. It has become a tradition to write something on your birthday, just as there is a tradition of garlanding your statues at various intersections. There is the tradition of singing panegyrics to your virtue and then the misfortune of forgetting everything the next day. Even though I did not write anything, Bapu, my mind kept me restless throughout the day. Several questions kept raising their heads. I kept wondering who imprisoned our dear Bapu only in statues. Bapu! You took on the world’s biggest empire with such an ease and patience that the world was stunned! Have we forgotten the great man who freed us from the slavery of centuries?
As the Sun was about to set after celebrating your birthday, I felt that the questions which were stirring my mind must be agitating more people like me. Was it any easy task to awaken an almost uneducated country that had been in a deep slumber of ignorance for centuries? Bapu, when you came to India in 1915, toured the whole country and became active in the freedom movement in 1917, the literacy rate of the country was not even 7 per cent. The British were sending your sons and daughters across the sea as indentured labourers. The morale of the country was shattered but you did an amazing thing Bapu! No one had even imagined that your efforts, which looked very simple, would infuse consciousness in the country. Be it the Nilaha Kisan movement of Champaran or the 24-day Dandi March in March-April 1930 for the right to salt, they shook the sleeping soul of India awake. You taught this country to talk to the British on equal terms. When the Viceroy gave you the message to come to Delhi to meet him, what a befitting reply you gave! That, this country is ours. If you want to meet me, come down to Sevagram and I will be there! This also reminds me of the incident when you met George V in London. You were asked why you were clad in so few clothes? And what a wonderful answer you gave him: The king is wearing all the clothes!
Bapu! You were a source of inspiration for not just India but more than 40 countries. Thanks to you Bapu, those countries are free today! It was you who created awakening against apartheid. During his visit to India, Barack Obama too had said in the Parliament that had Gandhiji not been there, he would not have become the President.
You experienced and understood the pain in the common man’s life, and that is why you could do what no one could imagine. There is no such feeling of sensitivity left in our leaders, Bapu! I wish our leaders could learn from you! Today, the whole country is engaged in the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, something which you taught us Bapu. You fought for women’s education and equal rights when neither family nor society even thought about it. Today, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is in full swing, but the credit goes to you, Bapu! You must be seeing from wherever you are Bapu that the daughters of Mother India are scaling the pinnacle of success today. The national flag is flying high all over the world. There is a discussion to give one-third reservation to women today, whereas you had said long ago that if the country has to be taken on the path of progress, women will have to be given equal rights. If I think about your philosophy of life, I feel proud that on our soil there was a Mahatma called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who thought about the welfare of humanity. Seeing the women using blowpipes to blow air into the hearth and ending up with damaged lungs, Bapu called the scientist Magan Bhai to Sevagram and asked him to invent such a hearth that would rid women of this problem. In this way, the Magan chulha came into existence! The practice of open defecation is being phased out today, and the credit for this too goes to you, Bapu. You taught us the skill of digging a pit and burying the dirt so that it gets converted into manure. Your goal was that man should get freedom from manual scavenging.
You understood India in a true sense and also found solutions to the problems in accordance with its ambiance. You talked about naturopathy. You taught us the value of everything right from the value of livestock to the value of soil. Rajiv Gandhi talked about ensuring and taking the fruits of democratic power to the last person in the villages, and today our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making rapid efforts in that direction, but you are the father of this concept of village development, Bapu! You understood the power of youth, recognised the power of women, and realised the need for solidarity in society.
You started the eradication of untouchability and opened the temple gates for Dalits. You propagated humanity as the biggest religion to unite the country divided by caste, religion, and creed. When you talked about Ram Rajya, there was no religious exclusivity anywhere in it. There was a sense of equality for all. You paved the way for truth and non-violence when history was being stained with blood due to long periods of violence. That’s why you taught us to sing: Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, Patit Pawan Sita Ram; Ishwar Allah tero naam, sabko sanmati de bhagwan! You believed in forgiveness, non-violence, fasting, friendship, and brotherhood. Lord Mahavir and Lord Buddha resided in your conscience.
You also wanted the villages to benefit from science, so you became friends with the great scientist Albert Einstein. He rightly said about you: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.” The situation is the same today. It is our fault Bapu that today’s generation does not know anything about you properly! Bapu, why don’t you come to this land of Bharat once again? Many of your dreams are still unfulfilled, Bapu!

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

Continue Reading


Bombay High Court grants bail to Anil Deskmukh, remains in jail




In a money laundering case brought by the Enforcement Directorate, the Bombay high court on Tuesday granted bail to former Maharashtra minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Anil Deshmukh.

The bail was granted on a surety amount of Rs 1 lakh. The ED has asked for a two-week delay in the order’s implementation.

Deshmukh was arrested in November of last year and moved the high court after his bail request was rejected earlier this year by a special PMLA court.

Deshmukh has been given bail in the ED case, but he will continue to be held in relation to the CBI case that was brought against him in April of last year.

The Supreme Court had earlier ordered the High Court to quickly hear and resolve the NCP leader’s case because it had been pending for six months.

Deshmukh’s lawyers, Vikram Chaudhari and Aniket Nikam, argued that the senior NCP politician ought to be given bail in light of his age (72), good health, and lack of prior convictions.

Continue Reading