Tag Archives: contract

Appointment of an Impartial Arbitrator

It is settled that in exercise of jurisdiction under Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the Court is to enforce terms of agreement for securing appointment of arbitrator. However, it is not denuded of jurisdiction to follow a different course, for justifiable cause, by giving reasons. Different contingencies requiring such departure have clearly been noticed. The ultimate object is to secure appointment of an impartial arbitrator and secure speedy resolution of dispute by way of arbitration. The scheme underlying the Arbitration and Conciliation Act has to be construed by harmoniously interpreting its provisions. It is imperative for the court to examine qualification and impartiality of arbitrator as well as to secure speedy resolution of dispute. The terms of arbitration agreement providing for arbitrator to be named by designation cannot be read in isolation. It also cannot be construed in a manner inconsistent with the scheme of the Act. The question is answered holding that an application under Section 11(6) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act would lie also in a case where arbitrator is named, by designation, where (i) arbitrator named is not impartial, or (ii) he lacks required qualification, or (iii) for any other justifiable cause to secure speedy resolution of dispute, by way of a reasoned order. M/s AARGEE Engineering and Company v. ERA Infra Engineering Ltd., 2017 (122) ALR 179.

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Arbitration Agreement – Need Not be Signed by All the Parties

Section 7(3) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act provides that the arbitration agreement shall be in writing, which is a mandatory requirement. Section 7(4) states that the arbitration agreement shall be in writing, if it is a document signed by all the parties. But a perusal of clauses (b) and (c) of Section 7(4) would show that a written document which may not be signed by the parties even then it can be arbitration agreement. Section 7(4)(b) provides that an arbitration agreement can be culled out from an exchange of letters, telex, telegrams or other means of telecommunication which provide a record of the agreement. Govind Rubber Limited v. Louis Dreyfus Commodities Asia Private Limited, (2015) 13 SCC 477.

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Arbitral Tribunal – Award of Interest

Section 31(7) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, by using the words “unless otherwise agreed by the parties”, categorically specifies that the arbitrator is bound by the terms of the contract so far as award of interest from the date of cause of action to date of the award is concerned. Therefore, where the parties had agreed that no interest shall be payable, the Arbitral Tribunal cannot award interest.
In Union of India v. Saraswat Trading Agency, (2009) 16 SCC 504, the Hon’ble Apex Court has observed in the said case that if there is a bar against payment of interest in the contract, the arbitrator cannot award any interest for such period. Union of India v. Bright Power Projects (I) Pvt. Ltd., 2015 (4) AWC 3862.

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Arbitration Agreement – Signature is Not a Formal Requirement

Section 7(3) of the Arbitration and Concilitaion Act states that the arbitration agreement shall be in writing, which is a mandatory requirement. Section 7(4) states that the arbitration agreement shall be in writing, if it is a document signed by all the parties. But a perusal of Clauses (b) and (c) of Section 7(4) would show that a written document which may not be signed by the parties, even then it can be arbitration agreement. Section 7(4)(b) provides that an agreement can be culled out from an exchange of letters, telex, telegrams or other means of telecommunication which provide a record of the agreement.
Reading the provision it can safely be concluded that an arbitration agreement is provided by exchange of letters, telex, telegrams or other means of telecommunication. Section 7(c) provides that there can be an arbitration agreement in the exchange of statements of claims and defence in which the existence of the agreement is alleged by one party and not denied by the other. If it can be prima facie shown that the parties are at ad idem, then mere fact of one party not signing the agreement cannot absolve himself from the liability under the agreement. In the present day of E-commerce, in cases of internet purchases, tele purchases, ticket booking on the internet and in standard forms of contract, terms and conditions are agreed upon. In such agreements, if the identity of the parties is established, and there is a record of agreement it becomes and arbitration agreement if there is an arbitration clause showing ad idem between the parties. Therefore, signature is not a formal requirement under Section 7(4)(b) or 7(4)(c) or under 7(5) of the Act. M/s Govind Rubber Ltd. v. M/s Loids Dreyfus Commodities Asia P. Ltd., 2015 (108) ALR 735.

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Jurisdiction of Arbitrators – Construction of Contract

In McDermott International v. Burn Standard Co., (2006) 11 SCC 181, it was held as under:
“It is trite that the terms of the contract can be express or implied. The conduct of the parties would also be a relevant factor in the matter of construction of a contract. The construction of the contract agreement is within the jurisdiction of the arbitrators having regard to the wide nature, scope and ambit of the arbitration agreement and they cannot be said to have misdirected themselves in passing the award by taking into consideration the conduct of the parties. It is also trite that correspondences exchanged by the parties are required to be taken into consideration for the purpose of construction of a contract. Interpretation of a contract is a matter for the arbitrator to determine, even if it gives rise to determination of a question of law.
Once, thus, it is held that the arbitrator had the jurisdiction, no further question shall be raised and the court will not exercise its jurisdiction unless it is found that there exists any bar on the face of the award.”
In M.S.K. Projects (I)(JV) Ltd. v. State of Rajasthan, (2011) 10 SCC 573, the court held:
“If the arbitrator commits an error in the construction of the contract, that is an error within his jurisdiction. But of he wanders outside the contract and deals with matters not allotted to him, he commits a jurisdictional error. Extrinsic evidence is admissible in such cases because the dispute is not something whjich arises under or in relation to the contract or dependant on the construction of the contract or to be determined within the award. The ambiguity of the award can, in such cases, be resolved by admitting extrinsic evidence. The rationale of this rule is that nature of the dispute is something which has to be determined outside and independent of what appears in the award. Such a jurisdictional error needs to be proved by evidence extrinsic to the award. Associate Builders v. Delhi Development Authority, (2015) 3 SCC 49.

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Arbitration Agreement —Inoperative or Incapable of Being Performed

Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration (5th Edition) published by the Oxford University Press has explained the meaning of these words “inoperative or incapable of being performed” used in the New York Convention, thus:
“At first sight it is difficult to see a distinction between the terms ‘inoperative’ and ‘incapable of being performed’. However, an arbitration clause is inoperative where it has ceased to have effect as a result, for example, of a failure by the parties to comply with a time-limit, or where the parties have by their conduct impliedly revoked the arbitration agreement. By contrast, the expression ‘incapable of being performed’ appears to refer to more practical aspects of the prospective arbitration proceedings. It applies, for example, if for some reason it is impossible to establish the arbitral tribunal.”
Albert Jan Van Den Berg, in an article titled “The New York Convention, 1958—An Overview” published in the website of ICCA (www.arbitration-icca.org/media/0/12125884227980/newyorkconventionof1958overview.pdf) referring to Artcile II(3) of the New York Convention, states:
“The words ‘null and void’ may be interpreted as referring to those cases where the arbitration agreement is affected by some invalidity right from the beginning, such as lack of consent due to misrepresentation, duress, fraud or undue influence.
The word ‘inoperative’ can be said to cover those cases where the arbitration agreement has ceased to have effect, such as revocation by the parties.
The words ‘incapable of being performed’ would seem to apply to those cases where the arbitration cannot be effectively set into motion. This may happen where the arbitration clause is too vaguely worded, or other terms of the contract contradict the parties intention to arbitrate, as in the case of the so-called co-equal forum selection clauses. Even in these cases, the courts interpret the contract provisions in favour of arbitration.”
The book Recognition and Conferment of Foreign Arbitral Awards: A Global Commentary on the New York Convention by Kronke, Nacimiento, et al (ed.) (2010) says:
“Most authorities hold that the same schools of thought and approaches regarding the term null and void also apply to terms inoperative and incapable of being performed. Consequently, the majority of authorities do not interpret these terms uniformly, resulting in an unfortunate lack of uniformity.
The term inoperative refers to cases where the arbitration agreement has ceased to have effect by the time the court is asked to refer the parties to arbitration. For example, the arbitration agreement ceases to have effect if there has already been an arbitral award or a court decision with res judicata effect concerning the same subject-matter and parties. However, the mere existence of multiple proceedings is not sufficient to render the arbitration agreement inoperative. Additionally, the arbitration agreement can cease to have effect if the time-limit for initiating the arbitration or rendering the award has expired, provided that it was the parties’ intent no longer to be bound by the arbitration agreement due to the expiration of this time-limit.
Finally, several authorities have held that the arbitration agreement ceases to have effect if the parties waive arbitration. There are many possible ways of waiving a right to arbitrate. Most commonly, a party will waive the right to arbitrate if, in a court proceeding, it fails to properly invoke the arbitration agreement or if it actively pursues claims covered by the arbitration agreement.”
Thus the arbitration agreement does not become “inoperative or incapable of being performed” where allegations of fraud have to be inquired into and the court cannot refuse to refer the parties to arbitration as provided in Section 45 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 on the ground that allegations of fraud have been made by the party which can only be inquired into by the court and not by the arbitrator. N. Radhakrishnan v. Maestro Engineers, (2010) 1 SCC 72 and Abdul Kadir Shamsuddin Bubere v. Madhav Prabhakar Oak, AIR 1962 SC 406 were decisions rendered in the context of domestic arbitration and not in the context of arbitrations under the New York Convention to which Section 45 of the Act applies. In the case of such arbitrations covered by the New York Convention, the court can decline to make a reference of a dispute covered by the arbitration agreement only if it comes to the conclusion that the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed and not on the ground that allegations of fraud or misrepresentation have to be inquired into while deciding the disputes between the parties. World Sport Group (Mauritius) Ltd. V. MSM Satellite (Singapore) PTE Ltd., (2014) 11 SCC 639.

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Lease and License-Distinction

The definition of “Lease” under the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 is a bit wider than what is provided under Transfer of Property Act, 1882. In the sum and substance, it can be said that a license is a right or permission granted by a competent authority or the owner of premises to carry on business or to do an act which, without such license/permission would be illegal. In other words, it is a formal or official permit or permission to carry on some business or to do some act which, without the license, would be unlawful and the word ‘License’ and ‘Permit’ are often used synonymously. The word “Lease” is frequently used to designate the contract by which relationship of landlord and tenant is created. A “Lease” is a species of contract for possession and profits of land and tenements, either for life or for a short period of time or during the pleasure of parties or a contract for the possession and profit of the land for a determinate period with the recompense of rent. A lease may be regarded as a conveyance or grant of an estate or interest in the real property, for limited period with conditions attached. A “License” is distinguishable from a “Lease” in more than one ways. “License” generally provides to the Licensee, less rights in real estate than a “Lease”. If a contract gives exclusive possession of premises against all the world, including the owner, it is a “Lease”, but if it merely confers a privilege to occupy the premises under the owner, it is a “License”. Accordingly, a license in a property is the permission or authority to engage in a particular act or series of acts upon the land of another without possessing an interest therein, and is thus subject to management and control retained by owner. A lease generally conveys an interest in the land, requires a writing to comply with the Statute of frauds and transfers possession, while the license merely excuses acts done by one, on the land in possession of another, that without license, would be trespass and conveys no interest in land. M/s Godwin Construction Pvt. Ltd. V. State of U.P., 2014 (124) RD 298.

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