北京仲裁委员会

审理范围书在我国仲裁中的借鉴与探索/Terms of reference: Theory and practice

发布时间: 2020-2-16   供稿人:安迪

审理范围书(Terms of Reference,TOR)是国际商会仲裁院(ICC Court)首创的一项审理措施。TOR至少在1927年ICC仲裁规则第14条中已被提及并保留至今,其初衷是满足当时法国等国家仅认可争议实际发生后达成的仲裁合意的要求。

ICC仲裁规则下的TOR的起草主体从早期的仲裁院到现在的仲裁庭,现主要内容包括各方当事人及代理人的联系信息、地址、当事人各自的请求和所请求的救济摘要、待决事项清单、仲裁员的联系信息、仲裁地、可适用的程序规则等内容。

一、审理范围书的利弊把握

(一)仲裁请求较早固定的利弊把握

TOR固定仲裁请求和反请求,优点在于提高后续仲裁程序效率,减少因请求变更产生程序上的反复,并增强仲裁请求的明确性,也便于相对方有针对性地准备抗辩。同时TOR也能使当事人尽早提出乃至解决对程序事项的异议。裁决作出后,裁决书主文部分如与经对方签署的TOR待决事项一致,当事人可以将其作为针对对方以超裁为理由申请撤裁或不予执行的抗辩之一。

经签署后的TOR,至少会在仲裁庭考虑是否接受一项新请求时作为一种阻力因素,一定程度上限制了当事人的意思自治。特别是在法律关系较为复杂的案件中,前期就要使仲裁请求及争议焦点十分明确且固定,对于当事人和仲裁庭而言或是一种考验。

(二)各方共同制作签署的利弊

通过各方共同完成TOR这一过程,除了满足一些法域关于事后仲裁合意的要求,还能促使仲裁庭在早期更加了解案件并充分准备,同时能在各方之间营造合作氛围,可能促进双方的早期和解。TOR也是仲裁庭制作裁决书的重要参考文件。

需注意的是,TOR在各方之间填写、转递和签署的过程可能导致案件进程的拖延,同时当事人也存在后续对管辖权或程序事项等提出异议权利受限的风险。

二、审理范围书在我国仲裁实践中的探索

TOR对我国仲裁实践有一定借鉴意义,以北京仲裁委员会/北京国际仲裁中心(北仲)为例,北仲2015版仲裁规则将TOR作为仲裁庭的可选审理措施之一,已在某些复杂疑难案件中实际应用,为仲裁庭提高案件审理效率提供了一种探索思路。

(一)尊重个案需要:仲裁庭可以根据个案复杂程度决定是否适用

ICC仲裁规则下的TOR是一项必经程序,即使当事人最终未能签署,该TOR亦需提交仲裁院批准。实践中,为使当事人在使用TOR时获得更高的性价比,笔者理解北仲2019版仲裁规则并未要求以TOR作为推进程序的必要前提。仲裁庭在考虑是否在个案中使用TOR时,可以对案情复杂程度、仲裁请求/反请求在前期固定的可行性、当事人使用TOR的意愿、TOR对现阶段程序进展的影响等各方面综合考虑。

(二)减轻制作负担:精简内容与优化格式

在北仲2019版仲裁规则下,如果仲裁庭决定适用TOR,仲裁庭可以采用不同于ICC仲裁规则下TOR的形式。例如,在某些案件中,仲裁庭将其中“请求摘要”“待决事项清单”等部分参照Scott明细表(Scott schedule)的方式,以表格形式细分为“仲裁请求”以及针对该项请求的“答辩意见”“事实依据/证据出处”“法律依据”“合同依据”等,同时略去其他已经包含在各阶段仲裁通知和当事人主体材料等的内容,减少了当事人的重复工作。

(三)提高审理效率:更加灵活的制作时点和方式

北仲2019版仲裁规则未限制TOR的制作或签署起止点,便于仲裁庭根据个案的实际需要在首次或再次开庭前及开庭后等时间节点进行灵活安排,也可以与其他环节同时进行。

在制作方式上也力求简便,减少材料转递次数。例如,在某些案件中,仲裁庭先根据当事人的申请书填写仲裁请求/反请求,并将填好表头和请求的TOR表格发当事人进一步填写答辩意见和各类依据及出处,要求当事人在下次开庭时提交,开庭时当事人再就双方填写完毕的TOR进行核对确认。这些案件在开庭时,因双方已将各自的主张和依据在TOR中详细写明,可以更有针对性地进行庭审辩论和回答仲裁庭的提问,观点表达和交换更加充分和高效,达到了较好的开庭效果。

三、总结

TOR在国际仲裁中已有近百年的实践,是我国仲裁实践中值得借鉴的一环。如何充分理解TOR对仲裁程序产生的影响,扬长避短,对TOR的形式、内容、制作流程等多方面进一步优化,需要仲裁实践的进一步探索与完善,以力求真正便利当事人和案件审理。

作者:北京仲裁委员会/北京国际仲裁中心秘书安迪。北仲仲裁秘书付翔宇对文章亦有贡献




Terms of reference: Theory and practice


The Terms of Reference (TOR) is a documentary framework initially formulated by the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC Court). The TOR was at least explicitly enshrined in the 1927 ICC Rules of Arbitration, and remains in practice today. The original intention of the TOR was to fulfil the demands of countries such as France, which only recognize arbitration agreements reached after the actual occurrence of a dispute. 

Under the ICC rules, the drafting of the TOR used to lie with the institution, and has now become a task for arbitral tribunals. The content of the TOR includes the address and contact information of the parties and their representatives, a summary of claims and the relief sought, a list of issues to be determined, the contact information of arbitrators, the place of arbitration, and applicable procedural rules. 

PROS AND CONS OF TOR

Defining claims and issues at an early stage of arbitral proceedings. Defining claims and counterclaims through TOR promotes the efficient conduct of procedural matters. The TOR reduces procedural repetition by clarifying claims and enabling the respondent to prepare a more focused defence. The TOR also allows parties to clarify procedural issues by raising concerns and resolving challenges in a timely manner. Unsurprisingly, TOR could become a defence of one party when the other party challenges an award on grounds beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement, as an arbitral award can be cross-referenced with the issues identified in a signed TOR.

However, a signed TOR may also prevent tribunals from accepting new claims, and limit the capacity of parties to freely consent to the other way of conducting the arbitration. This is especially problematic in cases concerning multi-layered legal relationships, where it is particularly challenging for the parties and the tribunal to accurately capture the essence of disputes and thus clarify claims and issues.

Joint drafting and consent. Drafting the TOR is the result of joint efforts by both parties and the tribunal. This does not only fulfil the requirement of ex post arbitration agreements in some jurisdictions, but also encourages the tribunal to be fully prepared at an earlier stage of proceedings. In addition, it could be argued that such joint efforts may encourage amicable dispute resolution, or even facilitate early settlement. The TOR also serves as a reference for the drafting of awards.

Nonetheless, joint drafting can pose problems once the process of writing, transferring and signing the TOR becomes a cause for delay. Additionally, there is a risk of the TOR eroding parties’ rights to raise jurisdictional and procedural objections later in the proceedings.

PRACTICE OF TOR IN CHINA

The practice of the TOR in the ICC Court illustrates its strengths and weaknesses. These strengths have been incorporated into the practice of arbitration in China. The 2015 Rules of the Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BAC/BIAC), for example, includes the TOR as an optional procedural order. This has worked well in certain cases as a guarantee of efficiency. 

Optional: Arbitral tribunal determines the application of the TOR based on individual cases. The TOR is a required proceeding under the ICC rules. Even if parties cannot sign the TOR, the TOR still needs to be submitted to the ICC Court for approval. 

In contrast, the author understands that the 2019 BAC/BIAC rules designate the TOR as a tribunal’s order, which is not a procedural prerequisite. The tribunal can therefore comprehensively consider the applicability of the TOR in each case by assessing complexity, the feasibility of defining claims and/or counterclaims at an early stage, parties’ acceptance or non-acceptance of the TOR, and the impact of the TOR on the conduct of proceedings.

Simplified: Content of the TOR is relatively simple and has less format requirements than the ICC Court. According to BAC/BIAC rules, the tribunal is free to develop its own format, rather than follow the ICC Court’s model terms when the TOR is applied. In BAC/BIAC cases, the tribunal has referred to the Scott schedule to subdivide the summary of claims and outline of issues into “claimant’s claims”, “respondent’s arguments”, “facts and sources of evidence”, “legal basis”, “contractual basis” and so on. Having done so, the TOR saves parties’ time and energy from repeating the content of arbitral notices and other exchanged documents.

Efficient: The TOR practice in China is much more flexible in timing and manner. The BAC/BIAC rules allow introduction of the TOR at any stage of proceedings. Tribunals are able to engage the TOR before hearings, between hearings, or after hearings, whenever they decide it is necessary. Generally, the TOR can be flexibly incorporated at any stage of arbitration.Moreover, both the drafting and service processes are simplified. In certain cases at the BAC/BIAC, the tribunal first filled out claims and counterclaims in the TOR, according to the parties’ application for arbitration, and then sent the pre-filled-in TOR to both parties for supplementary arguments, evidence and legal basis. Parties were required to submit the TOR before the next hearing, where parties verified and confirmed the contents of the completed TOR. As both parties already clearly expressed their positions in the TOR, they were able to make more focused arguments and give more targeted answers to questions raised by the tribunal. As such, parties expressed and exchanged their views more fully and precisely, achieving more positive hearing outcomes.

CONCLUSION

The TOR has been put into the practice of international arbitration for nearly 100 years. Its benefits and detriments merit further study in Chinese arbitration circles. Maximizing the value of the TOR requires a comprehensive understanding of how the TOR affects arbitral proceedings. Current practice should be further streamlined in its format, content and drafting processes to better serve as a cost-effective method of dispute resolution.

An Di is a case manager at Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Center (BAC/BIAC). BAC/BIAC case manager Fu Xiangyu also contributed to the article



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