Tag Archives: Arbitration & Conciliation Act

Appointment of Arbitrator – No Claim Certificate Obtained by Fraud, Coercion, Duress or Undue Influence

In Union of India v. Master Construction Company, (2011) 12 SCC 349, it was held as under:

            “In our opinion, there is no rule of the absolute kind. In a case where the claimant contends that a discharge voucher or no claim certificate has been obtained by fraud, coercion, duress or undue influence and the other side contests the correctness thereof, the Chief Justice/his designate must look into this aspect to find out at least, prima facie, whether or not the dispute is bona fide and genuine. Where the dispute raised by the claimant with regard to validity of the discharge voucher or no – claim certificate or settlement agreement, prima facie, appears to be lacking in credibility, there may not be a necessity to refer the dispute for arbitration at all.”

            From the proposition which has been laid down by the Hon’ble Apex Court, what reveals is that a mere plea of fraud, coercion or undue influence in itself is not enough and the party who alleged is under obligation to prima facie establish the same by placing satisfactory material on record before the Chief Justice or his Designate to exercise power under Section 11(6) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 which has been considered by the Hon’ble Supre Court in New India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Genus Power Infrastructure Ltd., (2015) 2 SCC 424 as below:

            “It is therefore clear that a bald plea of fraud, coercion, duress or undue influence is not enough and the party who sets up a plea, must prima facie establish the same by placing material before the Chief Justice/ his Designate.”

            It is true that there cannot be a rule of its kind that mere allegation of discharge voucher or no claim certificate being obtained by fraud/coercion/undue influence practiced by other party in itself is sufficient for appointment of the arbitrator unless the claimant who alleges that execution of the discharge agreement or no claim certificate was obtained on account of fraud/coercion/undue influence practiced by the other party is able to substantiate the same, the correctness thereof may be open for the Chief Justice/his Designate to look into this aspect to find out at least prima facie whether the dispute is bona fide and genuine in taking a decision to invoke Section 11(6) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. United India Assurance Co. Ltd. v. Antique Art Exports Pvt. Ltd., (2019) 5 SCC 362.

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Arbitral Award – Correction of Errors

In Mcdermott International Inc. v. Burn Standard Company, (2006) 11 SCC 181, it was held as under:

            “Section 33 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act empowers the Arbitral Tribunal to make correction of errors in arbitral award to give interpretation of a specific point or a part of the arbitral award and to make an additional award as to claims, though presented in the arbitral proceedings, but omitted from the arbitral award. Sub-section (4) empowers the Arbitral Tribunal to make additional arbitral award in respect of claims already presented to the Tribunal in the arbitral proceedings but omitted by the Arbitral Tribunal provided:

  1. There is no contrary agreement between the parties to the reference;
  2. A party to the reference, with notice to the other party to the reference, requests the Arbitral Tribunal to make the additional award;
  3. Such request is made within thirty days from the receipt of the arbitral award;
  4. The Arbitral Tribunal considers the request so made, justified; and
  5. Additional arbitral award is made within sixty days from the receipt of such request by the Arbitral Tribunal.”

The powers under Section 33 (4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act cannot be invoked for raising fresh claims or seeking an appeal against the arbitral award. The powers of the Arbitral Tribunal in these proceedings are restricted to making an award for such claims which formed a matter for adjudication and on which the parties had led arguments. Pramod v. Union of India, 2019 (1) AWC 969.

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Applicability of Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996

Sub-section (1) of Section 85 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 repealed three enactments including the Arbitration Act, 1940. Sub-section (2) stipulates, inter alia, that notwithstanding such repeal, the repealed enactment, namely, the 1940 Act would continue to apply in relation to arbitral proceedings which had commenced before the 1996 Act came into force unless the parties were to agree otherwise. The second limb of first clause of said sub-section (2) further stipulates that notwithstanding such repeal, the provisions of the 1996 Act would apply in relation to arbitral proceedings which commenced on or after the 1996 Act came into force.

As is clear from MMTC Ltd. v. Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd., (1996) 6 SCC 716, what is material for the purposes of the applicability of the 1996 Act is the agreement between the parties to refer the disputes to arbitration. If there be such an arbitration agreement which satisfies the requirements of Section 7 of the 1996 Act, and if no arbitral proceeding had commenced before the 1996 Act came into force, the matter would be completely governed by the provisions of the 1996 Act. Any reference to 1940 Act in the arbitration agreement would be of no consequence and the matter would be referred to arbitration only in terms of the 1996 Act consistent with the basic intent of the parties as discernible from the arbitration agreement to refer the disputes to arbitration.

In situations where the relevant clause made reference to the applicability of “the provisions of the Indian Arbitration Act and Rules made thereunder” as was the case in MMTC Ltd. v. Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd., (1996) 6 SCC 716, on the strength of Section 85(2)(a) the governing provisions in respect of arbitral proceedings which had not commenced before 1996 Act had come into force would be those of the 1996 Act alone. On the same reasoning even if an arbitration agreement entered into after the 1996 Act had come into force were to make a reference to the applicable provisions of those under Indian Arbitration Act or the 1940 Act, such stipulation would be of no consequence and the matter must be governed under the provisions of the 1996 Act. An incorrect reference or recital regarding applicability of the 1940 Act would not render the entire arbitration agreement invalid. Such stipulation will have to be read in the light of Section 85 of the 1996 Act and the principles governing such relationship have to be under and in tune with the 1996 Act. Purushottam v. Anil, (2018) 8 SCC 95.

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Arbitration Clause – Incorporation in a Contract by reference

In M.R. Engineers & Contractors (P) Ltd. v. Som Datt Builders Ltd., (2009) 7 SCC 696, the scope and intent of Section 7(5) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 was summarized as follows:

  • An arbitration clause in another document, would get incorporated into a contract by reference, if the following conditions are fulfilled:
  • The contract should contain a clear reference to the documents containing arbitration clause,
  • The reference to the other document should clearly indicate an intention to incorporate the arbitration clause into the contract,
  • The arbitration clause should be appropriate, that is capable of application in respect of disputes under the contract and should not be repugnant to any term of the contract.
  • When the parties enter into a contract, making a general reference to another contract, such general reference would not have the effect of incorporating the arbitration clause from the referred document into the contract between the parties. The arbitration clause from another contract cannot be incorporated into the contract (where such reference is made), only by a specific reference to arbitration clause.
  • Where a contract between the parties provides that the execution or performance of that contract shall be in terms of another contract (which contains the terms and conditions relating to performance and a provision for settlement of disputes by arbitration), then, the terms of the referred contract in regard to execution /performance alone will apply, and not the arbitration agreement in the referred contract, unless there is a special reference to the arbitration clause also.
  • Where the contract provides that the standard form of terms and conditions of an independent trade or professional institution (as for example the standard terms and conditions of a trade association or architects association) will bind them or apply to the contract, such standard form of terms and conditions including any provision for arbitration in such standard terms and conditions, shall be deemed to be incorporated by reference. Sometimes the contract may also say that the parties are familiar with those terms and conditions or that the parties have read and understood the said terms and conditions.
  • Where the contract between the parties stipulates that the conditions of contract of one of the parties to the contract shall form a part of their contract (as for example the general conditions of contract of the Government where the Government is a party), the arbitration clause forming part of such general conditions of contract will apply to the contract between the parties.” Inox Wind Ltd. Thermocables Ltd., (2018) 2 SCC 519.

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Arbitral Award – Includes Interim Award

As can be seen from Section 2 (c) and Section 31 (6), except for stating that an arbitral award includes an interim award, the Act is silent and does not define what an interim award is. Section 31(6) of the Act delineates the scope of interim arbitral awards and states that the arbitral Tribunal may make an interim arbitral award on any matter with respect to which it may make a final arbitral award.

The language of Section 31(6) is advisedly wide in nature. A reading of the said sub-section makes it clear that the jurisdiction to make an interim arbitral award is left to the good sense of the arbitral Tribunal, and that it extends to “any matter” with respect to which it may make a final arbitral award. The expression “matter” is wide in nature and subsumes issues at which the parties are in dispute. It is clear, therefore, that any point of dispute between the parties which has to be answered by the Arbitral Tribunal can be the subject matter of an interim arbitral award. However, by dealing with the matter in a piecemeal fashion, what must be borne in mind is that the resolution of the dispute as a whole will be delayed and parties will be put to additional expense. The Arbitral Tribunal should, therefore, consider whether there is any real advantage in delivering interim awards or in proceeding with the matter as a whole and delivering one final award, bearing in mind the avoidance of delay and additional expense.

To complete the scheme of the Act, Section 32(1) is also material. It goes on to state that the arbitral proceedings would be terminated only by the final arbitral award, as opposed to an interim award, thus making it clear that there can be one or more interim awards, prior to a final award, which conclusively determines some of the issues between the parties, culminating in a final arbitral award which ultimately decides all remaining issues between the parties. M/s IFFCO v. M/s Bhadra Products, 2018 (129) ALR 927.

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Limitation Prescribed Under Section 34 (3) – Of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act

 

In State of Maharashtra v. ARK Builders Pvt. Ltd., (2011) 4 SCC 616 it was held as under:

“The period of limitation prescribed under Section 34(3) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 would start running only from the date a signed copy of the award is delivered to/received by the party making the application for setting it aside under Section 34(1) of the Act. The legal position on the issue may be stated thus. If the law prescribes that a copy of the order/award is to be communicated, delivered, dispatched, forwarded, rendered or sent to the parties concerned in a particular way and in case the law also sets a period of limitation for challenging the order/award in question by the aggrieved party, then the period of limitation can only commence from the date on which the order/award was received by the party concerned in the manner prescribed by the law.”

In Benarsi Krishna Committee v. Karmyogi Shelters Pvt. Ltd., (2012) 9 SCC 496, it was held as under:

“The view taken in Pushpa Devi Bhagat v. Rajinder Singh, (2006) 5 SCC 566, is in relation to the authority given to an advocate to act on behalf of a party to a proceeding in the proceedings itself, which cannot stand satisfied where a provision such as Section 31 (5) of the 1996 Act is concerned. The said provision clearly indicates that a signed copy of the Award has to be delivered to the party. Accordingly, when a copy of the signed Award is not delivered to the party himself, it would not amount to compliance with the provisions of Section 31(5) of the Act. Om Prakash Mittal v. Vinod Kumar Mittal, 2018 (129) ALR 858.

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