Where the contract or instrument is voidable at the option of a party (as for example under Section 19 of the Contract Act, 1872), the invalidity that attaches itself to the main agreement may also attach itself to the arbitration agreement, if the reasons which make the main agreement voidable, exist in relation to the making of the arbitration agreement also. For example, if a person is made to sign an agreement to sell his property under threat of physical harm or threat to life, and the said person repudiates the agreement on that ground not only the agreement for sale, but any arbitration agreement therein will not be binding. Garware Wall Ropes Ltd. v. Coastal Marine Constructions and Engineering Ltd., (2019) 9 SCC 209.
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Section 12(5) of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act is a new provision which relates to the de jure inability of an arbitrator to act as such. Under this provision, any prior agreement to the contrary is wiped out by the non obstante clause in Section 12(5) the moment any person whose relationship with the parties or the counsel or the subject-matter of the dispute falls under the Seventh Schedule. The sub-section then declares that such person shall be “ineligible” to be appointed as arbitrator. The only way in which this ineligibility can be removed is by the proviso, which again is a special provision which states that parties may, subsequent to disputes having arisen between them, waive the applicability of Section 12(5) by an express agreement in writing. What is clear, therefore, is that where, under any agreement between the parties, a person falls within any of the categories set out in the Seventh Schedule, he is, as a matter of law, ineligible to be appointed as an arbitrator. The only way in which this ineligibility can be removed, again, in law, is that parties may after disputes have arisen between them, waive the applicability of this sub-section by an “express agreement in writing”. Obviously, the “express agreement in writing” has reference to a person who is interdicted by the Seventh Schedule, but who is stated by parties (after the disputes have arisen between them) to be a person in whom they have faith notwithstanding the fact that such person is interdicted by the eventh Schedule.
Unlike Section 4 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act which deals with deemed waiver of the right to object by conduct, the proviso to Section 12(5) will only apply if subsequent to disputes having arisen between the parties, the parties waive the applicability of sub-section (5) of Section 12 by an express agreement in writing. For this reason, the argument based on the analogy of Section 7 of the Act must also be rejected. Section 7 deals with arbitration agreements that must be in writing, and then explains that such agreements may be contained in documents which provide a record of such agreements. On the other hand, Section 12(5) refers to an “express agreement in writing”. The expression “express agreement in writing” refers to an agreement made in words as opposed to an agreement which is to be inferred by conduct. Here, Section 9 of the Contract Act, 1872 becomes important. It states:
“9. Promises, express and implied.—Insofar as the proposal or acceptance of any promise is made in words, the promise is said to be express. Insofar as such proposal or acceptance is made otherwise than in words, the promise is said to be implied.”
It is thus necessary that there be an “express” agreement in writing. Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. v. United Telecoms Ltd., (2019) 5 SCC 755.
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:
- There is no contrary agreement between the parties to the reference;
- A party to the reference, with notice to the other party to the reference, requests the Arbitral Tribunal to make the additional award;
- Such request is made within thirty days from the receipt of the arbitral award;
- The Arbitral Tribunal considers the request so made, justified; and
- 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.
In Chloro Controls India (P) Ltd. v. Severn Trent Water Purification Inc., (2013) 1 SCC 641, it was observed that ordinarily, an arbitration takes place between persons who have been parties to both the arbitration agreement and the substantive contract underlying it. English Law has evolved the “group of companies doctrine” under which an arbitration agreement entered into by a company within a group of corporate entities can in certain circumstances bind non-signatory affiliates. The test as formulated, is as follows:
“Though the scope of an arbitration agreement is limited to the parties who entered into it and those claiming under or through them, the courts under the English Law have, in certain cases, also applied the “group of companies doctrine”. This doctrine has developed in the international context, whereby an arbitration agreement entered into by a company, being one within a group of companies, can bind its non-signatory affiliates or sister or parent concerns, if the circumstances demonstrate that the mutual intention of all the parties was to bind both the signatories and the non-signatory affiliates. This theory has been applied in a number of arbitrations so as to justify a tribunal taking jurisdiction over a party who is not a signatory to the contract containing the arbitration agreement.
This evolves the principle that a non-signatory party could be subjected to arbitration provided these transactions were with group of companies and there was a clear intention of the parties to bind both, the signatory as well as the non-signatory parties. In other words, “intention of the parties” is a very significant feature which must be established before the scope of arbitration can be said to include the signatory as well as the non-signatory parties.”
The court held that it would examine the facts of the case on the touchstone of the existence of a direct relationship with a party which is a signatory to the arbitration agreement, a ‘direct commonality’ of the subject matter and on whether the agreement between the parties is a part of a composite transaction:
“A non-signatory or third party could be subjected to arbitration without their prior consent, but this would only be in exceptional cases. The court will examine these exceptions from the touchstone of direct relationship to the party signatory to the arbitration agreement, direct commonality of the subject matter and the agreement between the parties being a composite transaction. The transaction should be of a composite nature where performance of the mother agreement may not be feasible without aid, execution and performance of the supplementary or ancillary agreements, for achieving the common object and collectively having bearing on the dispute. Besides all this, the Court would have to examine whether a composite reference of such parties would serve the ends of justice. Once this exercise is completed and the court answers the same in the affirmative, the reference of even non-signatory parties would fall within the exception afore discussed.
Explaining the legal basis that may be applied to bind a non-signatory to an arbitration agreement, it was held thus:
“The first theory is that of implied consent, third party beneficiaries, guarantors, assignment and other transfer mechanisms of contractual rights. This theory relies on the discernible intentions of the parties and, to a large extent, on good faith principle. They apply to private as well as public legal entities.
The second theory includes the legal doctrines of agent-principal relations, apparent authority, piercing of veil (also called “the alter ego”), joint venture relations, succession and estoppels. They do not rely on the parties’ intention but rather on the force of the applicable law.” Cheran Properties Ltd.v. Kasturi and Sons Ltd., (2018) 6 SCC 413.
It is not in dispute that Article 137 of the Limitation Act would apply to applications filed under Section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. In Major (Retd.) Inder Singh Rekhi v. DDA, (1998) 2 SCC 338, the Hon’ble Apex Court held that in application for appointment of arbitrator Article 137 of the Limitation Act will apply.
Article 137 of the Limitation Act, 1963 is applicable to applications both under Civil Procedure Code and under the Special Acts. Article 137 constitutes the residuary Article in regard to applications. The starting point of limitation under Article 137 is the date when “the right to apply arises”. Article 137 being a residuary Article to be adopted to different classes of applications, the expression “the right to apply” is expression of a broad common law principle and it has to be interpreted according to the circumstances of each case. In Ramanna v. Nallaparaju, 1995 (2) SCR 936, the Hon’ble Apex Court has held that “the right to apply” means “the right to apply first arises”.
Under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, right to apply to the Court having jurisdiction would arise from the date such controversy arises between the parties. Central Electronics Limited v. Friends Cable Industries, Noida, 2017 (125) ALR 588.
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.
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.