How Much is Too Much - Supreme Court on Scope of Examination of Arbitration Agreement at Pre-Arbitral Stage

When faced with a suit or proceeding in any court or tribunal when there is an arbitration clause in the agreement, Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Act”), empowers a judicial authority to refer parties to arbitration, thereby honouring the parties’ (pre-dispute) bargain. The Law Commission of India, in its 246th report, recommended amendments to Sections 8 and 11(6A)[1] of the Arbitration Act, with the intent to restrict the scope of judicial intervention at the pre-arbitral stage only to prima facie determine whether an arbitration agreement exists, thereby making it imperative for such judicial authority to refer the parties to arbitration, leaving the final determination of the existence and validity of an arbitration agreement to the arbitral tribunal under Section 16.
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Supreme court reiterates that courts DO not sit in appeal over an award passed by an arbitrator

INTRODUCTION:

Recently, in NTPC v. M/s Deconar Services Pvt. Ltd.[1], a three judge bench of the Supreme Court has, in line with the settled principle of minimum interference in arbitral awards, inter alia reiterated that in order to succeed in a challenge against an arbitral award, the party challenging the award must show that the arbitrator’s award suffered from perversity; or an error of law; or that the arbitrator had otherwise misconducted himself. The Court highlighted that merely showing that there is another reasonable interpretation or possible view on the basis of the material on record is insufficient to allow interference by the Court.
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All Orders terminating proceedings are not Awards - Delhi HC sets the record straight

The issue of whether simplicitor orders terminating an arbitral proceeding is an award under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”), has been a question that has been plaguing various Courts in India for a while now. The issue is crucial in nature, as it determines the remedy of a party aggrieved by such an order. While some Courts have taken the view that such an order is an award appealable under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act, others have not. This ambiguity is a cause of concern for litigants since it delays the entire time bound arbitral process intended under the Arbitration Act and leaves the litigant in a lurch. However, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi (“Delhi HC”) in PCL SUNCON v National Highway Authority of India[1] (“PCL SUNCON Case”) has addressed this issue and cleared the said ambiguity to a great extent.
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 Supreme Court Clarifies Law On Limitation Period For Filing An Appeal Under Section 37 Of The Arbitration Act

INTRODUCTION:

The Supreme Court in the case of Government of Maharashtra (Water Resources Department) Represented by Executive Engineer v. M/s Borse Brothers Engineers & Contractors Pvt. Ltd.[1] has inter alia set right the law regarding the period of limitation for condonation of delay in filing appeals under Section 37[2] of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”). Overruling its earlier decision in N.V. International v. State of Assam[3] (“N.V. International”) and emphasising the central object of speedy disposal of disputes sought to be achieved by the Arbitration Act and the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 (“Commercial Courts Act”), the Court has allowed condonation of only ‘short delays’, setting out strict parameters for permitting the same.
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Supreme Court Revisits the Venue – Seat Issue 

Introduction:

A division bench of the Supreme Court in M/s Inox Renewables Ltd. v. Jayesh Electricals Ltd.[1] has recently reiterated the decision in BSG SGS SOMA JV vs. NHPC Limited[2], equating the juridical concepts of seat and venue. In this regard, the Court has clarified that a shift in venue by mutual agreement between the parties would be tantamount to a shifting of the place/ seat of arbitration.
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Does NCLT has power to refer parties to Arbitration in an in rem insolvency proceeding

The conflict between Insolvency and Arbitration is almost of near polar extremes. The difference in focus of the two was well illustrated in Re United States Lines Inc[1] as a:

“… conflict of near polar extremes: bankruptcy policy exerts an inexorable pull towards centralization while arbitration policy advocates a decentralized approach towards dispute resolution”.

Thus, while insolvency/ bankruptcy aims to centralise all the proceedings against a debtor to one jurisdiction and give rise to a proceeding in rem (against the world at large) thereby creating third party rights for all creditors of the debtor, arbitration on the other hand advocates a decentralised approach and promotes party autonomy in dispute resolution resulting in a proceeding in personam (against a particular person).
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 Dispute mechanism available under a lease

How it started:

It started with the case of Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc v. SBI Home Finance Ltd & Others (“Booz-Allen”), wherein the Supreme Court, after hearing the matter, held that the disputes relating to eviction and tenancy were not arbitrable. Leases are governed under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 (“TOPA”). The court discussed the nature and scope of issues arising for consideration in an application under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (“Act”) wherein “even if there is an arbitration agreement between the parties, and even if the dispute is covered by the arbitration agreement, the court where the civil suit is pending, will refuse an application under Section 8 of the Act, to refer the parties to arbitration, if the subject matter of the suit is capable of adjudication only by a public forum or the relief claimed can only be granted by a special court or Tribunal”.
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LIMITATION PERIOD FOR FILING A SECTION 34 PETITION BEGINS FROM THE DATE OF RECEIPT OF THE SIGNED COPY OF THE ARBITRAL AWARD

Introduction:

Recently, a division bench of the Supreme Court in Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam Ltd. V. M/s Navigant Technologies Pvt. Ltd.[1] has inter alia (i) clarified when the limitation period for challenging an arbitral award under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”) commences; (ii) discussed the legal requirement and significance of an award being signed; and (iii) highlighted the relevance of dissenting opinions in arbitration proceedings. The Court has also made observations on what happens to the underlying disputes between the parties after an award is set aside.
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Invoking Arbitration Agreements in Unstamped Documents – Course Correction from the Garware Wall Ropes’ Judgment 

 

What happened in the Garware Wall Ropes’ Judgment?

In our earlier article,[1] we had discussed the decision of the Supreme Court in Garware Wall Ropes Ltd. v. Coastal Marine Construction & Engineering Ltd. (“Garware Judgment”).[2] We had remarked that much was left to be done to strike a balance between arbitration law, stamping law and the equitable rights of litigants. We had analysed how the Garware Judgment took a narrow view on invoking arbitration agreements in unstamped documents, in holding that an arbitration could not be invoked in case of an arbitration agreement forming a part of an unstamped document, until the defect of non-stamping was rectified. It held that before proceeding under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”), the Court ought to impound the document and send it for collection of stamp duty dues. This also meant that neither the parties, nor the Court could appoint an arbitrator till the requisite stamp duty was paid.
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WRITS AGAINST ORDERS PASSED BY ARBITRAL TRIBUNALS – THE SUPREME COURT REITERATES THE LAW SMM

 Introduction

Recently, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Bhaven Construction v. Executive Engineer Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. and Anr[1] has observed that the High Courts’ power of interference under Articles 226[2] and 227[3] of the Constitution of India (“Constitution”), in the context of arbitral proceedings, may be exercised in ‘exceptional rarity’. Clarifying the term ‘exceptional rarity’, the Court pointed out that such interference would be warranted only in cases wherein a party is left remediless under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”) or clear bad faith is shown by one of the parties.
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