Agreement to enter into arbitration agreement.

Agreement to enter into agreement is not unequivocal and therefore not enforceable.

Relevant clause of the Partnership deed provided that if there is any dispute touching the partnership arising between the partners, the same shall be mutually decided by the parties or shall be referred to arbitration if the parties so determine.

If the clause had merely said that in the event of disputes arising between the parties, they “shall be referred to arbitration”, it would have been an arbitration agreement. But the use of the words “shall be referred for arbitration if the parties so determine” completely changes the complexion of the provision.

The expression “determine” indicates that the parties are required to reach a decision by application of mind. Therefore, when clause 16 uses the words “the dispute shall be referred for arbitration if the parties so determine”, it means that it is not an arbitration agreement but a provision which enables arbitration only if the parties mutually decide after due consideration as to whether the disputes should be referred to arbitration or not.

In effect, the clause requires the consent of parties before the disputes can be referred to arbitration. The main attribute of an arbitration agreement, namely, consensus ad idem to refer the disputes to arbitration is missing in clause 16 relating to settlement of disputes. Therefore it is not an arbitration agreement, as defined under section 7 of the Act. In the absence of an arbitration agreement, the question of exercising power under section 11 of the Act to appoint an Arbitrator does not arise.

[Source: Jagdish Chander v. Ramesh Chander (Supreme Court of India)]

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