The facts giving rise to the disputes resulted from the division of family properties, which were sent to a Sole Arbitrator. The Sole Arbitrator was absent on one of the specified occasions, making it impossible for him to conduct the proceedings.
This prompted Dinesh Kumar Agarwal (“Respondent”) to rescind the Ld. Sole Arbitrator’s appointment. In order to terminate the Ld. Sole Arbitrator’s mandate due to the delay in ending the proceedings, the Respondent filed applications under Section 14(1)(a) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“the Act”) before the relevant Ld. District Court.
In order to have the Respondent’s action under Section 14 of the Act dismissed, Swadesh Kumar Agarwal (“Appellant”) filed an application pursuant to Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (“CPC”).
The Ld. District Court denied the appellant’s application in a ruling dated July 15, 2010. Angered by this, the Appellant filed a Writ Petition with the Honourable Madhya Pradesh High Court (“High Court”), and the Respondent filed a petition with the Act’s Section 11(6), pleading for the appointment of an arbitrator and asking for the termination of the Ld. Sole Arbitrator’s authority.
The petition was granted by the High Court in accordance with Section 11(6) of the Act, and it was determined that the Ld. Sole Arbitrator’s delay was excessive and unjustified. As a result, the Ld. Sole Arbitrator’s appointment was revoked in accordance with Section 14(1)(a) of the Act. In light of this, the appellant’s Writ Petition was likewise denied.
Disgusted by the High Court’s ruling, the Appellant appealed to the Honourable Supreme Court of India (“Supreme Court”) on an application made according to Section 11(6) of the Act, contesting the termination of the Ld. Sole Arbitrator’s mandate under Section 14(1)(a) of the Act.
- Does the High Court have the authority to revoke the appointment of the sole arbitrator under Section 11(6) of the Act?
- Will an application under Section 11(6) of the Act be maintainable in the absence of any written contract incorporating an arbitration clause?
- What differences and distinctions exist between Sections 11(5) and (6) of the Act?
- Whether a Section 11(6) application can be filed in a case where the parties have agreed to designate the same arbitrator as the only arbitrator?
- Is It reasonable for the High Court to dismiss the application under Section 11(6) of the Act that sought to appoint a single arbitrator?
- Is the Ld. District Court’s decision to deny the application under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC justified?
CONTENTS REPRESENTING THE APPELLANT:
The Appellant contended that no application under Section 11(6) of the Act would be viable where an arbitrator had already been chosen by the parties themselves, in his appeal of the High Court’s ruling. In addition, the appellant argued that Section 11(6) of the Act would not be relevant in the absence of any formal agreement incorporating an arbitration clause. The appellant sup
ported his arguments with the rulings in Antrix Corporation Ltd. and S.P. Singla Constructions Pvt. Ltd.
It was contended that the arbitrator’s mandate may only be terminated in accordance with the Act’s requirements and not in any other way. Additionally, the aggrieved person is compelled to approach the “court” as defined by Section 2(1)€ of the Act if the eventualities under Section 14 of the Act were to be attracted.
CONTENTS REPRESENTING THE RESPONDENT
The Respondent opposed the Appellant on the grounds that, in accordance with Section 14(1) of the Act, the terminology used indicates that the arbitrator’s mandate “shall” be terminated if he, due in part or in whole, is rendered incapable of performing his duties or fails to act without unreasonable delay.
In conclusion, the Respondent’s argument proposed an immediate termination of the arbitrator’s mandate whenever the arbitrator became unable to carry out his duties due to circumstances covered by Section 14(1) of the Act. The Respondent relied on the rulings in ACC Ltd. and Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation Ltd. In this regard.
The Respondent further stated that, in accordance with the established legal precedent, only the averments in the application or complaint should be taken into account when deciding the application under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC.
The Supreme Court initially defined the purpose and boundaries of Sections 11(5) and (6) of the Act. Notably, it was noted that where the process for appointing an arbitrator is absent, Section 11(5) of the Act will apply. Contrarily, when a contract contains an arbitration clause and the appointment process is also agreed upon, Section 11(6) of the Act will apply. Accordingly, it was decided that an application under Section 11(6) of the Act shall “only” be maintainable in cases where the parties have a written contract that contains an arbitration clause and a set appointment process.
The Supreme Court then turned its attention to the Act’s Sections 13, 14, and 15 in an effort to understand the legislative purpose underlying the suspension of an arbitrator’s mandate. According to the decision, a challenge to the arbitrator under Section 12 of the Act will be brought before the arbitrator directly. The aggrieved party must approach the appropriate “court” as defined by Section 2(1)€ of the Act if a party files a challenge under Section 14(1)(a) of the Act and seeks to have the mandate terminated.
The main justification for this was discovered to be firmly anchored in the fact that the eventualities under Section 14(1)(a) of the Act result in the disqualification of the lone arbitrator and call for a judicial decision.
The Supreme Court determined that an application under Section 11(6) to terminate the arbitrator’s mandate in light of Section 14(1)(a) of the Act was not maintainable in light of the facts and circumstances and specifically referred to the distinction between Sections 11(5) and (6) of the Act. Further, it was decided that the party who feels violated need just go to the appropriate court to request that the mandate be terminated.
The Supreme Court noted the following in its ruling: (i) there is a distinction between Sections 11(5) and (6) of the Act; (ii) in the absence of a written agreement, the parties are free to agree on a procedure by mutual consent, and in the event of any failure thereto, only Section 11(5) will be attracted; and (iii) when there is a written contract in place that contains an arbitration agreement, any failure between a mutual agreement would only attract Section 11(6) of the Act.
Finally, the Supreme Court noted that the Ld. District Court had correctly denied the application under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC because the Act only allowed the competent court to decide on any dispute or controversy involving the reasons for ending the sole arbitrator’s mandate.
As a result, the Supreme Court annulled and reversed the High Court’s judgement. The Supreme Court also ordered the concerned court to reconsider the petitions made according to Section 14(1)(a) of the Act and further adopt the binding reasoning of the current judgement in order to provide full justice between the Appellant and Respondent.
The Supreme Court issued a historic decision that clearly defined the differences between Sections 11(5) and (6) of the Act after being presented with unusual legal concerns. The Apex Court has made it clear that the doors of arbitration are not closed for the parties who are unable to carry out their own procedure that they may have agreed upon under Section 11(2) of the Act after determining the legislative intent underlying the two sections.
This increases the parties’ confidence in their ability to nominate an arbitrator in accordance with Section 11(5) of the Act and clears up any ambiguity regarding the incorrect and inconsistent invocation of the various sections.
The argument that Section 11 of the Act does not allow for the termination of an arbitrator’s appointment means that it is no longer res integra. Instead, parties must use the Act’s intended system to raise such challenges by going before the “jurisdictional court.”
The Act’s Sections 14 and 15 outline a precise process that any party wishing to end the arbitrator’s appointment must follow. This particularly bars parties from favouring pointless petitions with the goal to stir up trouble both before and after the pre-arbitral stage.