Presiding judge for a three-member arbitration panel set up to decide on the Rs 22,100-crore tax demand from Indian tax authorities on UK’s Vodafone Group has been identified and an announcement is likely shortly.
Vodafone had initiated two separate arbitrations under the India-Netherlands Bilateral Investment Treaty and the India-UK Bilateral Investment Treaty against the tax notice linked to a legislation that gave the I-T Department powers to raise retrospective demand.
While appointment of arbitrators in the dispute raised under the India-UK treaty has not yet taken off, the two sides had named one arbitrator each under the Dutch treaty.
“The presiding arbitrator was pending and the judge has now been identified. I think the announcement will be made shortly,” a source said.
Vodafone had in March moved the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) after arbitrators appointed by it and the Indian government failed to reach a consensus on selection of a presiding judge of the three-member panel.
Vodafone International Holdings BV had on April 17, 2014, served a notice of arbitration under the Dutch Bilateral Investment Treaty seeking resolution of the tax demand imposed by India through a tax law with retrospective effect to sidestep a Supreme Court judgement that went in the company’s favour.
Conciliatory proceedings were initiated to resolve the dispute, but differences led to a breakdown following which the arbitration was initiated.
The government had in June 2014 appointed former chief justice of India R C Lahoti as arbitrator while Vodafone named Canadian trial lawyer Yves Fortier as its choice.
The two had zeroed in on Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of ICJ as the presiding arbitrator.
However, Lahoti recused himself from the case in May 2015 and a month later, Yusuf too declined to be part of the panel.