Tag Archives: arbitration clause

Arbitral Award – Interference With

An arbitral award can be set aside if it is contrary to (a) fundamental policy of Indian law, or (b) the interest of India, or (c) justice or morality. (Renusagar Power Co. Ltd. v. General Electric Co. [Renusagar Power Co. Ltd. v. General Electric Co., 1994 Supp (1) SCC 644] ) Patent illegality was added to the above three grounds in ONGC Ltd. v. Saw Pipes Ltd., (2003) 5 SCC 705. Illegality must go to the root of the matter and in case the illegality is of trivial nature it cannot be held that the award is against the public policy. It was further observed in ONGC Ltd. v. Saw Pipes Ltd., (2003) 5 SCC 705 that an award could also be set aside if it is so unfair and unreasonable that it shocks the conscience of the Court.

In  DDA v. R.S. Sharma and Co., (2008) 13 SCC 80 it was held that an award can be interfered with by the Court under Section 34 of the Act when it is contrary to:

(a) substantive provisions of law; or

(b) provisions of the 1996 Act; or

(c) against the terms of the respective contract; or

(d) patently illegal; or

(e) prejudicial to the rights of the parties.

The fundamental policy of India was explained in  ONGC Ltd. v. Western Geco International Ltd., (2014) 9 SCC 263 as including all such fundamental principles as providing a basis for administration of justice and enforcement of law in this country. It was held inter alia, that a duty is cast on every tribunal or authority exercising powers that affect the rights or obligations of the parties to show a “judicial approach”. It was further held that judicial approach ensures that an authority acts bona fide and deals with the subject in a fair, reasonable and objective manner and its decision is not actuated by any extraneous considerations. It was also held that the requirement of application of mind on the part of the adjudicatory authority is so deeply embedded in our jurisprudence that it can be described as a fundamental policy of Indian law. The Court further observed that the award of the Arbitral Tribunal is open to challenge when the arbitrators fail to draw an inference which ought to be drawn or if they had drawn an inference which on the face of it is untenable resulting in miscarriage of justice. The Court has the power to modify the offending part of the award in case it is severable from the rest, according to the said judgment ONGC Ltd. v. Western Geco International Ltd., (2014) 9 SCC 263.

The limit of exercise of power by courts under Section 34 of the Act has been comprehensively dealt in  Associate Builders v. DDA, (2015) 3 SCC 49. Lack of judicial approach, violation of principles of natural justice, perversity and patent illegality have been identified as grounds for interference with an award of the arbitrator. The restrictions placed on the exercise of power of a court under Section 34 of the Act have been analysed and enumerated in  Associate Builders v. DDA, (2015) 3 SCC 49 which are as follows:

(a) The court under Section 34(2) of the Act, does not act as a court of appeal while applying the ground of “public policy” to an arbitral award and consequently errors of fact cannot be corrected.

(b) A possible view by the arbitrator on facts has necessarily to pass muster as the arbitrator is the sole judge of the quantity and quality of the evidence.

(c) Insufficiency of evidence cannot be a ground for interference by the court. Re-examination of the facts to find out whether a different decision can be arrived at is impermissible under Section 34(2) of the Act.

(d) An award can be set aside only if it shocks the conscience of the court.

(e) Illegality must go to the root of the matter and cannot be of a trivial nature for interference by a court. A reasonable construction of the terms of the contract by the arbitrator cannot be interfered with by the court. Error of construction is within the jurisdiction of the arbitrator. Hence, no interference is warranted.

(f) If there are two possible interpretations of the terms of the contract, the arbitrator’s interpretation has to be accepted and the court under Section 34 cannot substitute its opinion over the arbitrator’s view. M.P. Power Generation Co. Ltd. v. ANSALDO Energia SPA, (2018) 16 SCC 661.

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Arbitration – Non-signatory Affiliates

In Chloro Controls India (P) Ltd. v. Severn Trent Water Purification Inc., (2013) 1 SCC 641, it was observed that ordinarily, an arbitration takes place between persons who have been parties to both the arbitration agreement and the substantive contract underlying it. English Law has evolved the “group of companies doctrine” under which an arbitration agreement entered into by a company within a group of corporate entities can in certain circumstances bind non-signatory affiliates. The test as formulated, is as follows:

       “Though the scope of an arbitration agreement is limited to the parties who entered into it and those claiming under or through them, the courts under the English Law have, in certain cases, also applied the “group of companies doctrine”. This doctrine has developed in the international context, whereby an arbitration agreement entered into by a company, being one within a group of companies, can bind its non-signatory affiliates or sister or parent concerns, if the circumstances demonstrate that the mutual intention of all the parties was to bind both the signatories and the non-signatory affiliates. This theory has been applied in a number of arbitrations so as to justify a tribunal taking jurisdiction over a party who is not a signatory to the contract containing the arbitration agreement.

       This evolves the principle that a non-signatory party could be subjected to arbitration provided these transactions were with group of companies and there was a clear intention of the parties to bind both, the signatory as well as the non-signatory parties. In other words, “intention of the parties” is a very significant feature which must be established before the scope of arbitration can be said to include the signatory as well as the non-signatory parties.”

       The court held that it would examine the facts of the case on the touchstone of the existence of a direct relationship with a party which is a signatory to the arbitration agreement, a ‘direct commonality’ of the subject matter and on whether the agreement between the parties is a part of a composite transaction:

       “A non-signatory or third party could be subjected to arbitration without their prior consent, but this would only be in exceptional cases. The court will examine these exceptions from the touchstone of direct relationship to the party signatory to the arbitration agreement, direct commonality of the subject matter and the agreement between the parties being a composite transaction. The transaction should be of a composite nature where performance of the mother agreement may not be feasible without aid, execution and performance of the supplementary or ancillary agreements, for achieving the common object and collectively having bearing on the dispute. Besides all this, the Court would have to examine whether a composite reference of such parties would serve the ends of justice. Once this exercise is completed and the court answers the same in the affirmative, the reference of even non-signatory parties would fall within the exception afore discussed.

       Explaining the legal basis that may be applied to bind a non-signatory to an arbitration agreement, it was held thus:

       “The first theory is that of implied consent, third party beneficiaries, guarantors, assignment and other transfer mechanisms of contractual rights. This theory relies on the discernible intentions of the parties and, to a large extent, on good faith principle. They apply to private as well as public legal entities.

       The second theory includes the legal doctrines of agent-principal relations, apparent authority, piercing of veil (also called “the alter ego”), joint venture relations, succession and estoppels. They do not rely on the parties’ intention but rather on the force of the applicable law.” Cheran Properties Ltd.v. Kasturi and Sons Ltd., (2018) 6 SCC 413.

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Arbitral Award – Delivery of

       In Union of India v. Tecco Trichy Engineers & Contractors, (2005) 4 SCC 239, a three Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in respect to the issue of limitation for filing application under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 for setting aside the arbitral award, held that the period of limitation would commence only after a valid delivery of an arbitral award takes place under Section 31(5) of the Act. It was held as under:

       “The delivery of an arbitral award under sub-section (5) of Section 31 is not a matter of mere formality. It is a matter of substance. It is only after the stage under Section 31has passed that the stage of termination of arbitral proceedings within the meaning of Section 32 of the act arises. The delivery of arbitral award to the party, to be effective, has to be “received” by the party. The delivery by the Arbitral Tribunal and receipt by the party of the award sets in motion several periods of limitation such as an application for correction and interpretation of an award within 30 days under Section 33(1), an application for making an additional award under Section 33(4) and an application for setting aside an award under Section 34(3) and so on. As this delivery of the copy of award has the effect of conferring certain rights on the party as also bringing to an end the right to exercise those rights on expiry of the prescribed period of limitation which would be calculated from that date, the delivery of the copy of award by the Tribunal and the receipt thereof by each party constitutes an important stage in the arbitral proceedings.”

       In State of Maharashtra v. ARK Builders (P) Ltd., (2011) 4 SCC 616, while following the Judgment in  Union of India v. Tecco Trichy Engineers & Contractors, (2005) 4 SCC 239 held that the expression “….party making that application had received the arbitral award….” cannot be read in isolation and it must be understood that Section 31(5) of the Act requires a signed copy of the award to be delivered to each party. By cumulative reading of Section 34(3) and 31(5) of the Act, it is clear that the limitation period prescribed under Section 34(3) of the Act would commence only from the date of signed copy of the award delivered to the party making the application for setting it aside. Anil Kumar Jinabhai Patel v. Pravinchandra Jinabhai Patel, (2018) 15 SCC 178.

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Appointment of Arbitrator – Applicability of Article 137 of Limitation Act

It is not in dispute that Article 137 of the Limitation Act would apply to applications filed under Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. In Major (Retd.) Inder Singh Rekhi v. DDA, (1998) 2 SCC 338, the Hon’ble Apex Court held that in application for appointment of arbitrator Article 137 of the Limitation Act will apply.

       Article 137 of the Limitation Act, 1963 is applicable to applications both under Civil Procedure Code and under the Special Acts. Article 137 constitutes the residuary Article in regard to applications. The starting point of limitation under Article 137 is the date when “the right to apply arises”. Article 137 being a residuary Article to be adopted to different classes of applications, the expression “the right to apply” is expression of a broad common law principle and it has to be interpreted according to the circumstances of each case. In Ramanna v. Nallaparaju, 1995 (2) SCR 936, the Hon’ble Apex Court has held that “the right to apply” means “the right to apply first arises”.

       Under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, right to apply to the Court having jurisdiction would arise from the date such controversy arises between the parties. Central Electronics Limited v. Friends Cable Industries, Noida, 2017 (125) ALR 588.

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Termination of – Arbitration Proceedings

Section 32 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 contains a heading “Termination of Proceedings”. Sub-section (1) provides that the arbitral proceedings shall be terminated by the final arbitral award or by an order of the Arbitral Tribunal under sub-section (2). Sub-section (2) enumerates the circumstances when the Arbitral Tribunal shall issue an order for the termination of arbitral proceedings. Clause (c) of Section 32(2) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 contemplates two grounds for termination, i.e. (i) the Arbitral Tribunal finds that the continuation of the proceedings has for any other reason become unnecessary, or (ii) impossible. The eventuality as contemplated under Section 32 shall arise only when the claim is not terminated under Section 25(a) and proceeds further. The words “unnecessary” or “impossible” as used in clause (c) of Section 32(2), cannot be said to be covering a situation where proceedings are terminated in default of the claimant. The words “unnecessary” or “impossible” has been used in different contexts than to one of default as contemplated under Section 25(a). Sub-section (3) of Section 32 further provides that the mandate of the Arbitral Tribunal shall terminate with the termination of the arbitral proceedings subject to Section 33 and sub-section (4) of Section 34. Section 33 is the power of the Arbitral Tribunal to correct any computation errors, any clerical or typographical errors or any other errors of a similar nature or to give an interpretation of a specific point or part of the award. Section 34(4) reserves the power of the court to adjourn the proceedings in order to give the Arbitral Tribunal an opportunity to resume the arbitral proceedings or to take such other action as in the opinion of the Arbitral Tribunal will eliminate the grounds for setting aside the arbitral award. On the termination of proceedings under Sections 32(2) and 33(1), Section 33(3) further contemplates termination of the mandate of the Arbitral Tribunal, whereas the aforesaid words are missing in Section 25. When the legislature has used the phrase “the mandate of the Arbitral Tribunal shall terminate” in Section 32(3), non-use of such phrase in Section 25 (a) has to be treated with a purpose and object. The purpose and object can only be that if the claimant shows sufficient cause, the proceedings can be recommenced. Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd. v. Tuff Drilling Pvt. Ltd., (2018) 11 SCC 470.

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Appointment of Arbitrator – Arbitrability of Dispute

In Booz Allen and Hamnilton Inc. v. S.B.I. Home Finance Ltd., (2011) 5 SCC 532, Hon’ble Supreme Court considered the arbitrability of dispute and scope of Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and held as under:

       “The nature and scope of issues arising for consideration in an application under Section 11 of the act for appointment of arbitrators, are far narrower than those arising in an application under Section 8 of the Act, seeking reference of the parties to a suit to arbitration. While considering an application under Section 11 of the Act, the Chief Justice or his designate would not embark upon an examination of the issue of “arbitrability” or appropriateness of adjudication by a private forum, once he finds that there was an arbitration agreement between or among the parties, and would leave the issue of arbitrability for the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal. If the arbitrator wrongly holds that the dispute is arbitrabe, the aggrieved party will have to challenge the award by filing an application, under Section 34 of the Act, relying upon sub-section 2(b)(i) of that Section.”
       In Dura Felguera, S.A. v. Gangavaram Port Ltd., (2017) 9 SCC 729, Hon’ble Supreme Court considered the provisions of sub-section (6) and sub-section (6A) of Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and held as under:

       “From a reading of Section 11(6A), the intention of the legislature is quite clear, i.e. the court should and need only look into one aspect – the existence of an arbitration agreement. What are the factors for deciding as to whether there is an arbitration agreement is the next question. The resolution to that is simple – it needs to be seen if the agreement contains a clause which provides for arbitration pertaining to the disputes which have arisen between the parties to the agreement.” Swatantra Properties (P) Ltd. v. Airplaza Retail Holdings Pvt. Ltd., 2018 (5) AWC 5168.

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Arbitral Tribunal – Powers Under Section 17 of the Act

 

Under Section 17, the Arbitral Tribunal has the power to order interim measures of protection, unless the parties have excluded such power by agreement. Section 17 is an important provision, which is crucial to the working of the arbitration system, since it ensures that even for the purposes of interim measures, the parties can approach the Arbitral Tribunal rather than await orders from a court. The efficacy of Section 17 is however, seriously compromised given the lack of any suitable statutory mechanism for the enforcement of such interim orders of the Arbitral Tribunal.

In Sundaram Finance Ltd. v. NEPC India Ltd. [Sundaram Finance Ltd.v. NEPC India Ltd., (1999) 2 SCC 479], the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that though Section 17 gives the Arbitral Tribunal the power to pass orders, the same cannot be enforced as orders of a court and it is for this reason only that Section 9 gives the court power to pass interim orders during the arbitration proceedings. Subsequently, in Army Welfare Housing Organisationv. Sumangal Services (P) Ltd. [Army Welfare Housing Organisation v. Sumangal Services (P) Ltd., (2004) 9 SCC 619] , the Court had held that under Section 17 of the Act no power is conferred on the Arbitral Tribunal to enforce its order nor does it provide for judicial enforcement thereof.

In the face of such categorical judicial opinion, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court attempted to find a suitable legislative basis for enforcing the orders of the Arbitral Tribunal under Section 17 in Sri Krishan v. Anand [Sri Krishan v. Anand, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 2472 : (2009) 112 DRJ 657 : (2009) 3 Arb LR 447] [followed in Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd. v. Jubilee Plots & Housing (P) Ltd. [Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd. v. Jubilee Plots & Housing (P) Ltd., 2009 SCC OnLine Del 2458] ]. The Delhi High Court held that any person failing to comply with the order of the Arbitral Tribunal under Section 17 would be deemed to be “making any other default” or “guilty of any contempt to the Arbitral Tribunal during the conduct of the proceedings” under Section 27(5) of Act. The remedy of the aggrieved party would then be to apply to the Arbitral Tribunal for making a representation to the court to mete out appropriate punishment. Once such a representation is received by the court from the Arbitral Tribunal, the court would be competent to deal with such party in default as if it is in contempt of an order of the court i.e. either under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act or under the provisions of Order 39 Rule 2-A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Alka Chandewar v. Shamshul Ishrar Khan, (2017) 16 SCC 119 

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