Tag Archives: Arbitration Proceedings

Arbitral Award – Interference With

An arbitral award can be set aside if it is contrary to (a) fundamental policy of Indian law, or (b) the interest of India, or (c) justice or morality. (Renusagar Power Co. Ltd. v. General Electric Co. [Renusagar Power Co. Ltd. v. General Electric Co., 1994 Supp (1) SCC 644] ) Patent illegality was added to the above three grounds in ONGC Ltd. v. Saw Pipes Ltd., (2003) 5 SCC 705. Illegality must go to the root of the matter and in case the illegality is of trivial nature it cannot be held that the award is against the public policy. It was further observed in ONGC Ltd. v. Saw Pipes Ltd., (2003) 5 SCC 705 that an award could also be set aside if it is so unfair and unreasonable that it shocks the conscience of the Court.

In  DDA v. R.S. Sharma and Co., (2008) 13 SCC 80 it was held that an award can be interfered with by the Court under Section 34 of the Act when it is contrary to:

(a) substantive provisions of law; or

(b) provisions of the 1996 Act; or

(c) against the terms of the respective contract; or

(d) patently illegal; or

(e) prejudicial to the rights of the parties.

The fundamental policy of India was explained in  ONGC Ltd. v. Western Geco International Ltd., (2014) 9 SCC 263 as including all such fundamental principles as providing a basis for administration of justice and enforcement of law in this country. It was held inter alia, that a duty is cast on every tribunal or authority exercising powers that affect the rights or obligations of the parties to show a “judicial approach”. It was further held that judicial approach ensures that an authority acts bona fide and deals with the subject in a fair, reasonable and objective manner and its decision is not actuated by any extraneous considerations. It was also held that the requirement of application of mind on the part of the adjudicatory authority is so deeply embedded in our jurisprudence that it can be described as a fundamental policy of Indian law. The Court further observed that the award of the Arbitral Tribunal is open to challenge when the arbitrators fail to draw an inference which ought to be drawn or if they had drawn an inference which on the face of it is untenable resulting in miscarriage of justice. The Court has the power to modify the offending part of the award in case it is severable from the rest, according to the said judgment ONGC Ltd. v. Western Geco International Ltd., (2014) 9 SCC 263.

The limit of exercise of power by courts under Section 34 of the Act has been comprehensively dealt in  Associate Builders v. DDA, (2015) 3 SCC 49. Lack of judicial approach, violation of principles of natural justice, perversity and patent illegality have been identified as grounds for interference with an award of the arbitrator. The restrictions placed on the exercise of power of a court under Section 34 of the Act have been analysed and enumerated in  Associate Builders v. DDA, (2015) 3 SCC 49 which are as follows:

(a) The court under Section 34(2) of the Act, does not act as a court of appeal while applying the ground of “public policy” to an arbitral award and consequently errors of fact cannot be corrected.

(b) A possible view by the arbitrator on facts has necessarily to pass muster as the arbitrator is the sole judge of the quantity and quality of the evidence.

(c) Insufficiency of evidence cannot be a ground for interference by the court. Re-examination of the facts to find out whether a different decision can be arrived at is impermissible under Section 34(2) of the Act.

(d) An award can be set aside only if it shocks the conscience of the court.

(e) Illegality must go to the root of the matter and cannot be of a trivial nature for interference by a court. A reasonable construction of the terms of the contract by the arbitrator cannot be interfered with by the court. Error of construction is within the jurisdiction of the arbitrator. Hence, no interference is warranted.

(f) If there are two possible interpretations of the terms of the contract, the arbitrator’s interpretation has to be accepted and the court under Section 34 cannot substitute its opinion over the arbitrator’s view. M.P. Power Generation Co. Ltd. v. ANSALDO Energia SPA, (2018) 16 SCC 661.

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Termination of – Arbitration Proceedings

Section 32 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 contains a heading “Termination of Proceedings”. Sub-section (1) provides that the arbitral proceedings shall be terminated by the final arbitral award or by an order of the Arbitral Tribunal under sub-section (2). Sub-section (2) enumerates the circumstances when the Arbitral Tribunal shall issue an order for the termination of arbitral proceedings. Clause (c) of Section 32(2) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 contemplates two grounds for termination, i.e. (i) the Arbitral Tribunal finds that the continuation of the proceedings has for any other reason become unnecessary, or (ii) impossible. The eventuality as contemplated under Section 32 shall arise only when the claim is not terminated under Section 25(a) and proceeds further. The words “unnecessary” or “impossible” as used in clause (c) of Section 32(2), cannot be said to be covering a situation where proceedings are terminated in default of the claimant. The words “unnecessary” or “impossible” has been used in different contexts than to one of default as contemplated under Section 25(a). Sub-section (3) of Section 32 further provides that the mandate of the Arbitral Tribunal shall terminate with the termination of the arbitral proceedings subject to Section 33 and sub-section (4) of Section 34. Section 33 is the power of the Arbitral Tribunal to correct any computation errors, any clerical or typographical errors or any other errors of a similar nature or to give an interpretation of a specific point or part of the award. Section 34(4) reserves the power of the court to adjourn the proceedings in order to give the Arbitral Tribunal an opportunity to resume the arbitral proceedings or to take such other action as in the opinion of the Arbitral Tribunal will eliminate the grounds for setting aside the arbitral award. On the termination of proceedings under Sections 32(2) and 33(1), Section 33(3) further contemplates termination of the mandate of the Arbitral Tribunal, whereas the aforesaid words are missing in Section 25. When the legislature has used the phrase “the mandate of the Arbitral Tribunal shall terminate” in Section 32(3), non-use of such phrase in Section 25 (a) has to be treated with a purpose and object. The purpose and object can only be that if the claimant shows sufficient cause, the proceedings can be recommenced. Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd. v. Tuff Drilling Pvt. Ltd., (2018) 11 SCC 470.

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Arbitral Tribunal – Powers Under Section 17 of the Act

 

Under Section 17, the Arbitral Tribunal has the power to order interim measures of protection, unless the parties have excluded such power by agreement. Section 17 is an important provision, which is crucial to the working of the arbitration system, since it ensures that even for the purposes of interim measures, the parties can approach the Arbitral Tribunal rather than await orders from a court. The efficacy of Section 17 is however, seriously compromised given the lack of any suitable statutory mechanism for the enforcement of such interim orders of the Arbitral Tribunal.

In Sundaram Finance Ltd. v. NEPC India Ltd. [Sundaram Finance Ltd.v. NEPC India Ltd., (1999) 2 SCC 479], the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that though Section 17 gives the Arbitral Tribunal the power to pass orders, the same cannot be enforced as orders of a court and it is for this reason only that Section 9 gives the court power to pass interim orders during the arbitration proceedings. Subsequently, in Army Welfare Housing Organisationv. Sumangal Services (P) Ltd. [Army Welfare Housing Organisation v. Sumangal Services (P) Ltd., (2004) 9 SCC 619] , the Court had held that under Section 17 of the Act no power is conferred on the Arbitral Tribunal to enforce its order nor does it provide for judicial enforcement thereof.

In the face of such categorical judicial opinion, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court attempted to find a suitable legislative basis for enforcing the orders of the Arbitral Tribunal under Section 17 in Sri Krishan v. Anand [Sri Krishan v. Anand, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 2472 : (2009) 112 DRJ 657 : (2009) 3 Arb LR 447] [followed in Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd. v. Jubilee Plots & Housing (P) Ltd. [Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd. v. Jubilee Plots & Housing (P) Ltd., 2009 SCC OnLine Del 2458] ]. The Delhi High Court held that any person failing to comply with the order of the Arbitral Tribunal under Section 17 would be deemed to be “making any other default” or “guilty of any contempt to the Arbitral Tribunal during the conduct of the proceedings” under Section 27(5) of Act. The remedy of the aggrieved party would then be to apply to the Arbitral Tribunal for making a representation to the court to mete out appropriate punishment. Once such a representation is received by the court from the Arbitral Tribunal, the court would be competent to deal with such party in default as if it is in contempt of an order of the court i.e. either under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act or under the provisions of Order 39 Rule 2-A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Alka Chandewar v. Shamshul Ishrar Khan, (2017) 16 SCC 119 

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