The Executive Council of BCCI with a decision taken at its meeting on 17 December 2020, adopted amendments to the Rules of the Arbitration Court at BCCI proposed by the Presidium of the Arbitration Court.
The amendments enter into force as of 1 January 2021 and are available on the BCCI’s website. HERE
The main priority of the BCCI and the Arbitration Court in the conditions of constantly changing epidemiological situation on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria and worldwide, is the possibility to provide the parties to the cases, in the spirit of the rules for organizing virtual hearings of commercial arbitrations created by the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), with a regulated possibility for holding hearings via videoconference.
The fact that the observance of the court proceedings rules, regardless of whether the arbitration hearing is held in the BCCI building or virtually, is mandatory in order to guarantee the legal principles and must be in accordance with them, has been taken into account.
After the parties were given the opportunity to hold an open meeting (Rules of the Arbitration Court Art. 24, para. 5) or interrogation of witnesses via videoconference (Rules of the Arbitration Court Art. 30, para. 4) with the amendments introduced in the Rules of the Arbitration Court in 2019, the new changes now allow the Arbitral Tribunal to prepare and hold on its own initiative an open arbitration hearing in a virtual environment. (Rules of the Arbitration Court Art. 24, paragraph 6).
“The Arbitral Tribunal, given the circumstances, may at its discretion and upon hearing of the parties, on the basis of a well-grounded ruling, hold an open hearing entirely or partially from a distance by a videoconference by an electronic platform selected by the Arbitral Tribunal. The Arbitral Tribunal may not apply Art. 30, Paragraph 4, Sentence 2. In this event, the Arbitral Tribunal shall adopt rules regarding questioning and interrogation from a distance, which rules shall guarantee the establishment of the interrogated person’s identity and exclude the usage of auxiliary materials or the interference of a third party during the interrogation thus far unrevealed before the Arbitral Tribunal.
The same rules shall apply in the event of hearing of an Expert from a distance.”
The new conditions also create new opportunities for the participants in the arbitration proceedings. For example, at the end of an open hearing which was conducted entirely or partially by viodeoconference, the parties will have access to the video file of the held hearing (Rules of the Arbitration Court Art. 35, para 4).
Holding court hearings online is a sensible solution in view of the current restrictive measures. The Arbitration Court at BCCI guarantees that the requirement for preliminary preparation in order to ensure the proper exercise of the procedural rights of the participants will be met.
A new para. 2 of Article 25 of the Rules of the Arbitration Court stipulates that: “If upon receiving of the Ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal under Art. 24, Paragraph 6, a party to the arbitration case notifies the Arbitral Tribunal, that this party does not have the technical facilities for online participation, this party shall be assisted by the AC at the BCCI for such participation. In the event if such party nevertheless refuses to participate at a hearing by videoconference for no good reason, this refusal of the party shall not serve as grounds for not holding of the arbitration hearing in the manner provided for in Art. 24, Paragraph 6.”
In order for the BCCI to provide technological assistance, one of the planned changes is to include in the current "Tariff of rates of the services provided by the BCCI" a price of the service "Connection from the place of interrogation of a witness or expert through a 360° degree camera".
BCCI and the Arbitration Court consider the changes made as steps in the right direction to adapt to the needs of business in an environment that presents many challenges to companies and forces them to work in unusual circumstances.
Despite the obstacles, arbitration has been and will be an attractive and accessible method for resolution of disputes between traders.