Ordinance promulgated to widen jurisdiction of commercial courts, create appellate courts and mandate mediation in certain disputes

The Government on May 3 published an Ordinance in the Gazette of India which made major changes to the Commercial Court structure in India. These courts were set up below the District Judge level, keeping in mind the increasing number of commercial disputes with a growing economy, and to bring about a speedy resolution of conflict, to showcase India as a lucrative destination for foreign investment. This ordinance sought to amend the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and the Commercial Appellate Division in High Courts Act of 2015 (the Act).

The amendment made the following important changes to the Act:

1. Addition of the phrase “Commercial Appellate Courts” to the long title of the Act, and prescribing “Commercial Courts Act, 2015” as the short title.

2. In S. 2(i) of the Act, ‘specified value’ was lowered from amounts exceeding One crore rupees to amounts exceeding Three lakh rupees, substantially increasing the ambit of the courts’ jurisdiction.

3. In the High Courts of Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Himachal Pradesh, which exercise ordinary original civil jurisdiction in respect of territories of the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and the State of Himachal Pradesh, the State government, in consultation with the respective High Court, shall constitute Commercial Courts at District Judge Level, and also specify the pecuniary value for these courts, which shall be greater than 3 lakhs but less than the pecuniary value of the jurisdiction of the District Court.

4. Where the High Courts do not exercise ordinary original civil jurisdiction, the State government may, in consultation with the respective High Court, establish Commercial Appellate Courts at the District Judge level, to hear appeals against judgments passed by the Commercial Courts below the District Judge level.

5. Insertion of Chapter IIIA to the Act which mandates, in suits not contemplating any urgent interim relief, pre-institution mediation, the manner and procedure of which is to be prescribed by the Central Government. Such a suit shall not be instituted till the remedy of mediation has been exhausted.

Ministry of Law and Justice

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