Arbitrator’s power to recall its order of termination of arbitral proceeding- A tale of Dubiety - Part II

In Part I of this post, we inter-alia attempted to highlight the law (and perhaps a relevant counter perspective) in relation to the power of the arbitrator to recall its order of termination of arbitral proceedings passed under Section 25(a) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”). In this post, we attempt to answer whether such a remedy would extend to termination of arbitral proceedings under Section 32(2)(c) of the Act, and other issues incidental thereto.
Continue Reading Arbitrator’s power to recall its order of termination of arbitral proceeding- A tale of Dubiety? (Part II)

Introduction:

This article analyses the legal basis and the genesis of the power of an arbitrator to recall its order of termination of proceeding on account of default of the Claimant.

India seated arbitral proceedings, whether ad-hoc or institutional, are governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), which is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, 1985 (UNCITRAL Model Law). Whilst arbitrators are not bound by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872[1], they is usually guided by the broad principles enshrined in the said enactments, while conducting the arbitral proceedings. In this regard, it is pertinent to note that under Order IX Rule 13 of CPC, the Court has power to recall its order. Under the said rule, if the Court is satisfied that summons was not duly served on the defendant, or that there was sufficient cause for defendant’s failure to appear when the suit was called on for hearing, the Court is empowered inter-alia to pass an order setting aside an ex- parte decree that may have been passed against the defendant.


Continue Reading Arbitrator’s power to recall its order of termination of arbitral proceeding- A tale of Dubiety? (Part I)

Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Act) sets out the grounds on which arbitral awards passed in domestic arbitrations and international commercial arbitrations seated in India can be set aside.  As regards foreign awards (i.e. arbitral awards passed in foreign seated arbitrations), whilst the same cannot be challenged in India, the enforcement of the same in India can be validly objected to by the award debtor on grounds that are set out in Section 48 of the Act. The grounds for setting aside arbitral awards passed in domestic arbitrations and international commercial arbitrations seated in India under Section 34 of the Act and the grounds for refusing enforcement of foreign awards in India under Section 48 of the Act are substantially identical. One such ground is if the arbitral award is found to be contrary to the “public policy of India”.


Continue Reading Supreme Court’s judgment in Vijay Karia v. Prysmian Cavi e Sistemi S.r.l.: Impact on challenges to awards passed in International Commercial Arbitrations conducted in India

Section 34 4 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 – A fly in the ointment Part II

In Part I of this post, we examined the contours of Section 34(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (the “Arbitration Act”), pre-conditions for its invocation and the scope of the powers conferred upon the court thereunder. In this post, we analyse some of the questions and ambiguities that may arise in the applicability of Section 34(4) of the Arbitration Act.

Can Section 34(4) of the Arbitration Act be invoked to eliminate any ground under Section 34(2) of the Arbitration Act?

Section 34(2) of the Arbitration Act provides two sets of grounds on which an award may be set aside. Section 34(2)(a) sets out grounds of challenge such as incapacity of a party, invalidity of the arbitration agreement, lack of proper notice of appointment of the arbitrator or of the arbitral proceedings or inability of a party to present his case, an award which deals with disputes not submitted to arbitration, improper composition of the arbitral tribunal or arbitral procedure contrary to the agreement between the parties, etc. These grounds must be established by the party challenging the award, on the basis of the record of the arbitral tribunal.
Continue Reading Section 34(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 – A Fly in the Ointment? (Part II)

Section 34 - 4 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 – A fly in the ointment - Part I

Introduction

The recourse available to a party seeking to challenge an arbitral award is provided for in Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (the “Arbitration Act”). Section 34(2) of the Arbitration Act has undergone a few statutory amendments, and has been the subject of innumerable judgments, which highlight the contours within which a challenge to an arbitral award is available. Given that party autonomy and finality of awards are hallmarks of the arbitral process, both the Parliament as well as the judiciary have strived for minimal judicial interference with arbitral awards and arbitration proceedings. This has been done by tightening and limiting the scope and interpretation of the grounds available under Section 34(2) of the Arbitration Act.
Continue Reading Section 34(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 – A Fly in the Ointment? (Part I)

The Supreme Court reaffirms the scope of patent illegality

Background

The Supreme Court has, in Patel Engineering Limited v. North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited,[1] reaffirmed the scope of patent illegality, post the 2015 amendment of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”), as a ground to challenge a domestic award under Section 34 of the Act.

Disputes between Patel Engineering Limited (“Patel Engineering”) and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (“NEEPCL”), arising out of works contracts for three separate packages, culminated in three arbitral awards dated March 29, 2016. One of the issues in each of the three arbitral proceedings was which clause of the conditions of contract would apply to decide the rate at which Patel Engineering was entitled to extra payment for additional quantities of lead. The arbitrator’s interpretation was in favour of Patel Engineering in all three awards. NEEPCL challenged the awards before the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Judicial), Shillong, who upheld the awards.
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Another One Bites the Dust – domestic award set aside as being perverse

In what one hopes is not a bull run, one more arbitral award has been set aside by the Supreme Court. In SEAMEC v. Oil India Ltd., a domestic award was set aside on the basis that the contractual interpretation by the Arbitral Tribunal was perverse and completely defeated the explicit wordings and purpose of the contract.

In our last blog ‘Enforcement of Foreign Awards in India – Have the brakes been applied?’, we had discussed the Supreme Court judgment in NAFED v. Alimenta S.A.[1] In that case, the Supreme Court refused to enforce a foreign award on the basis that the transaction contemplated (export of HPS groundnuts) would have violated Indian law and was therefore contrary to the public policy of India. We had noted that in the face of a plethora of judicial decisions, the Apex Court had waded into an examination of the merits of the case and the terms of the relevant contract, something which Indian courts have repeatedly held are purely within the purview of the arbitrator’s power.
Continue Reading Another One Bites the Dust – Domestic Award Set Aside as Being Perverse

The Pursuit of Enforcement – Can the Corporate Cloaks be Unravelled

Introduction

It is trite that a company is a separate legal entity, and is distinct from its members.[1] As Lord Sumption observed in Prest v Petrodel Resources Ltd.[2], “The separate personality and property of a company is sometimes described as a fiction, and in a sense it is. But the fiction is the whole foundation of English company and insolvency law.” Equally sacrosanct is the principle that arbitration proceeds on the basis of an agreement between parties. After all, “like consummated romance, arbitration rests on consent”.[3] However, practical considerations have led to the marginal dilution of these otherwise fundamental principles.

There are instances where a company and its members are not treated as separate legal entities (i.e. where the corporate ‘veil’ is pierced). Similarly, there are cases where arbitral proceedings enjoin non-signatories.[4] A unique amalgam of these exceptions is found in cases where an arbitral award is sought to be executed against an entity that was never a party to the arbitral proceedings. For example, in Cheran Properties Limited v. Kasturi and Sons Limited and Ors.[5] (“Cheran Properties”), applying the ‘group of companies’ doctrine expounded in Chloro Controls,[6] and analysing Section 35 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”) to ascertain who “persons claiming under them” would be for the purpose of binding such persons to the arbitral award, the Supreme Court permitted enforcement of an arbitral award against a third party/non-signatory. In this post, however, our focus is on whether Indian courts have pierced the corporate veil to execute an arbitral award against a third party to the arbitral proceedings when such third party’s unique relationship with the award debtor has been exploited to fraudulently circumvent or frustrate execution of the arbitral award.
Continue Reading The Pursuit of Enforcement – Can the Corporate Cloaks be Unravelled?

Domestic Arbitration receives booster shot from Supreme Court

  

Recently, the Supreme Court in Quippo Construction Equipment Limited V. Janardan Nirman Private Limited[1] held that if a party to an arbitration agreement chooses not to participate in arbitral proceedings, that party is deemed to have waived the right to raise objections regarding jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal or the scope of its authority at a later stage. While dealing with objections to a domestic arbitral award, the Supreme Court also had occasion to comment on the perennial seat vs venue debate. In doing so, it inter alia observed that objections with respect to ‘place of arbitration’ may have significance in international commercial arbitrations (where the place of arbitration may determine which curial law would apply), but not so much in domestic arbitrations.
Continue Reading Domestic Arbitration receives booster shot from Supreme Court

SC refuses unilateral appointment of single arbitrator

Arbitration is a method of alternate dispute resolution wherein a third party is appointed for adjudication of disputes between the concerned parties. In such a scenario, preserving the sanctity of the judicial process becomes imperative. As arbitration requires adjudication on rights of the parties involved, principles of natural justice play a critical role in avoiding any potential risk of miscarriage of justice. The first principle of natural justice is ‘nemo judex in causa sua’, which means ‘no man can be a judge in his own cause’. This principle intends to avoid any ‘reasonable apprehension of bias’ that may arise during any judicial process.
Continue Reading SC refuses unilateral appointment of single arbitrator