Stewarts launches profession-wide pledge to help promote Indian arbitrators globally

India Promise addresses under-representation of Indian arbitrators on tribunals
Formal portrait photo of Sherina Petit

Sherina Petit: 'India Promise crucial to rectifying conspicuous underrepresentation of Indian talent'

Specialist UK disputes firm Stewarts has called on members of the arbitration community to sign up to a pledge committing them to boost the number of Indian arbitrators appointed to international tribunals.

The India Promise was initially unveiled at the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) Symposium 2023 in Mumbai and is being promoted by Stewarts with the goal of addressing a marked under-representation of Indian arbitrators on tribunals.

Despite possessing a reservoir of skilled arbitrators, relatively few – usually the most senior advocates only – have had the opportunity to oversee international arbitration cases.

The pledge calls on arbitrators, counsel, corporates, arbitral institutions and experts to take “reasonable steps” to ensure a “fair representation” of Indians on governing bodies, conference panels, rosters and lists.

It also advocates for the establishment of mentoring programmes and “cross-institutional collaborations between Indian arbitral institutions and foreign arbitral institutions to share knowledge, increase capacity and bolster the standing of India’s international arbitration presence”.

The initiative is the brainchild of partner Sherina Petit, head of Stewarts’ international arbitration and India practices, and is inspired by her own career experiences as an advocate in Mumbai and a City solicitor. 

She said: “The launch of the India Promise is crucial to rectifying the conspicuous underrepresentation of Indian talent in international arbitrations. It is essential to acknowledge and utilise the extensive expertise available within India to foster a more inclusive and diverse arbitration community globally.”

Petit, who joined Stewarts last September from Norton Rose Fulbright, currently sits on the board of the LCIA and is a member of the ICC Indian Arbitration Group. She is also on the steering committee of the Pledge for Equal Representation for Women in Arbitration.

The Promise has been welcomed by leading lawyers. Fountain Court Chambers’ Leigh-Ann Mulcahy KC told GLP: “I have come into contact with many very impressive Indian arbitration practitioners over the years, and it makes absolute sense for global disputes to benefit from that expertise and skillset, including by way of arbitrator appointments in tribunals around the world.”

Srishti Jain, a managing associate at London disputes firm Keidan Harrison, added: “The India Promise is a commendable step forward in recognising and elevating the abundant young talent in India. It’s a global initiative, not just a local endeavour, and it’s heartening to see such proactive measures being taken to integrate Indian arbitration professionals into the global dispute resolution landscape.”

Related initiatives to address the issue have seen London chambers including 3 Verulam Buildings, Fountain Court Chambers and Essex Court Chambers recruit senior Indian advocates as door tenants, available to act both as counsel and arbitrators.  

Last month saw the inauguration of the Arbitration Bar of India in New Delhi, reflecting India’s commitment to becoming a premier destination for arbitrations and the establishment last summer of a high-level expert committee to examine its current arbitration law and to explore reforms to its flagship Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996.

Initiatives to foster greater recognition for India’s arbitrators come amid expectations that its legal market will soon become more accessible to international law firms following last year’s decision by the Bar Council of India in principle to allow firms and counsel to practise foreign law in India.


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