Does the arbitration clause in a commercial contract becomes unenforceable due to non-payment of stamp duty, or it is preserved by the separability doctrine? This question has riddled the Supreme Court of India (“SC”) repeatedly and has resulted in contrary views being adopted by various three-judge benches. The issue has been finally laid to rest by a constitution bench of the SC through its judgment dated April 25, 2023 in M/s N. N. Global Mercantile Private Limited v. M/s. Indo Unique Flame Ltd. & Ors.[i] , wherein it held that an unstamped instrument in need of stamping is not a contract and not enforceable in law. Therefore, the arbitration clause contained therein is also unenforceable. Similarly, an arbitration agreement, which attracts stamp duty but is not stamped or insufficiently stamped, cannot be acted upon. Interestingly, the decision has not been unanimous since two Hon’ble Judges have dissented.
Continue Reading Does Non-Stamping of a Contract Render an Arbitration Clause Contained in it Unenforceable? The Supreme Court Says Yes