Reference to Arbitration

Reference to Arbitration can be in respect of all disputes between the parties or all disputes regarding a contract or in respect of specific enumerated disputes. Where “all disputes” are referred, the arbitrator has the jurisdiction to decide all disputes raised in the pleadings (both claims and counter claims) subject to any limitations placed by the arbitration agreement. Where the arbitration agreement provides that all disputes shall be settled by arbitration but excludes certain matters from arbitration, then, the arbitrator will exclude the excepted matter and decide only those disputes which are arbitrable. But where the reference to the arbitrator is to decide specific disputes enumerated by the parties/court/appointing authority, the arbitrator’s jurisdiction is circumscribed by the specific reference and the arbitrator can decide only those specific disputes.
Though an arbitration agreement generally provides for settlement of future disputes by reference to arbitration, there can be “ad hoc” arbitrations relating to existing disputes. In such cases, there is no prior arbitration agreement to refer future disputes to arbitration. After a dispute arises between the parties, they enter into an arbitration agreement to refer that specific dispute to arbitration. In such an arbitration, the arbitrator cannot enlarge the scope of arbitration by permitting either the claimant to modify or add to the claim or the respondent to make a counter claim. The arbitrator can only decide the dispute refereed to him, unless the parties again agree to refer the additional disputes/counterclaims to arbitration and authorize the arbitrator to decide them.
“Reference to arbitration” can be in respect of reference of disputes between the parties to arbitration, or may simply mean referring the parties to arbitration. State of Goa v. Praveen Enterprises, (2012) 12 SCC 581.


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