Transfer of matrimonial proceedings: Use video conferencing instead.

Forum Non Conveniens.

The doctrine of forum non conveniens can be applied in matrimonial proceedings for advancing interest of justice. Under the said doctrine, the court exercises its inherent jurisdiction to stay proceedings at a forum which is considered not to be convenient and there is any other forum which is considered to be more convenient for the interest of all the parties at the ends of justice.

In Spiliada Maritime (1986)3 All ER 843 case the House of Lords laid down the following principle:

“The fundamental principle applicable to both the stay of English proceedings on the ground that some other forum was the appropriate forum and also the grant of leave to serve proceedings out of the jurisdiction was that the court would choose that forum in which the case could be tried more suitably for the interest of all the parties and for the ends of justice.”

The criteria to determine which was a more appropriate forum, for the purpose of ordering stay of the suit, the court would look for that forum with which the action had the most real and substantial connection in terms of convenience or expense, availability of witnesses, the law governing the relevant transaction and the places where the parties resided or carried on business. If the court concluded that there was no other available forum which was more appropriate than the English court, it would normally refuse a stay. If, however, the court concluded that there was another forum which was prima facie more appropriate, the court would normally grant a stay unless there were circumstances militating against a stay. It was noted that as the dispute concerning the contract in which the proper law was English law, it meant that England was the appropriate forum in which the case could be more suitably tried. Continue reading

Limitation for counter claim in Arbitration proceedings

Date of commencement of arbitration:

Section 3 of Limitation Act, 1963 specifies the date of institution for suit, but does not specify the date of `institution’ for arbitration proceedings. Section 21 of the Act supplies the omission. But for section 21, there would be considerable confusion as to what would be the date of `institution’ in regard to the arbitration proceedings. ….. In view of section 21 of the Act providing that the arbitration proceedings shall be deemed to commence on the date on which “the request for that dispute to be referred to arbitration is received by the respondent” the said confusion is cleared. Therefore the purpose of section 21 of the Act is to determine the date of commencement of the arbitration proceedings, relevant mainly for deciding whether the claims of the claimant are barred by limitation or not.

Counter-claim:

As far as counter claims are concerned, there is no room for ambiguity in regard to the relevant date for determining the limitation. Section 3(2)(b) of Limitation Act, 1963 provides that in regard to a counter claim in suits, the date on which the counter claim is made in court shall be deemed to be the date of institution of the counter claim. As Limitation Act, 1963 is made applicable to arbitrations, in the case of a counter claim by a respondent in an arbitral proceedings, the date on which the counter claim is made before the arbitrator will be the date of “institution” in so far as counter claim is concerned. There is, therefore, no need to provide a date of `commencement’ as in the case of claims of a claimant. Section 21 of the Act is therefore not relevant for counter claims. There is however one exception. Where the respondent against whom a claim is made, had also made a claim against the claimant and sought arbitration by serving a notice to the claimant but subsequently raises that claim as a counter claim in the arbitration proceedings initiated by the claimant, instead of filing a separate application under section 11 of the Act, the limitation for such counter claim should be computed, as on the date of service of notice of such claim on the claimant and not on the date of filing of the counter claim.

Appointment of arbitrator if reference of dispute?

Section 11 of the Act requires the Chief Justice or his designate only to appoint the arbitrator/s. It does not require the Chief Justice or his designate to identify the disputes or refer them to the Arbitral Tribunal for adjudication. Where the appointment procedure in an arbitration agreement requires disputes to be formulated and specifically referred to the arbitrator and confers jurisdiction upon the arbitrator to decide only such referred disputes, when an application is filed under section 11(6) of the Act, alleging that such procedure is not followed, the Chief Justice or his designate will take necessary measures under section 11(6) of the Act to ensure compliance by the parties with such procedure. Where the arbitration agreement requires the disputes to be formulated and referred to arbitration by an appointing authority, and the appointing authority fails to do so, the Chief Justice or his designate will direct the appointing authority to formulate the disputes for reference as required by the arbitration agreement. The assumption by the courts below that a reference of specific disputes to the Arbitrator by the Chief Justice or his designate is necessary while making appointment of arbitrator under section 11 of the Act, is without any basis. Equally baseless is the assumption that where one party filed an application under section 11 and gets an arbitrator appointed the arbitrator can decide only the disputes raised by the applicant under section 11 of the Act and not the counter claims of the respondent.

Section 23 of the Act enables the claimant to file a statement of claim stating the facts supporting his claim, the points at issue and the relief or remedy sought by him and enables the respondent to state his defence in respect of those claims. Section 2(9) provides that if any provision [other than section 25 (a) or section 32(2)(a)], refers to a “claim”, it shall apply to a “counter claim” and where it refers to a “defence”, it shall also apply to a defence to that counter claim. This would mean that a respondent can file a counter claim giving the facts supporting the counter claim, the points at issue and the relief or remedy sought in that behalf and the claimant (who is the respondent in the counter claim) will be entitled to file his defence to such counter claim. Once the claims and counter claims are before the arbitrator, the arbitrator will decide whether they fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement and whether he has jurisdiction to adjudicate on those disputes (whether they are claims or the counter claims) and if the answer is in the affirmative, proceed to adjudicate upon the same.

[Source: State of Goa vs. Pravin Enterprises, 2012 (12) SCC 581 followed in Voltas India Ltd. vs. Rolta India Ltd. (SC on 14 Feb. 2014)]

Click here to read more about Law of Limitation in India.

Difference between dead claim and time barred claims

Time barred claims are claimed barred by statute of limitation.

The Chief Justice or his Designate may however choose to decide whether the claim is a dead (long-barred) claim or whether the parties have, by recording satisfaction, exhausted all rights, obligations and remedies under the contract, so that neither the contract nor the arbitration agreement survived. When it is said that the Chief Justice or his Designate may choose to decide whether the claim is a dead claim, it is implied that he will do so only when the claim is evidently and patently a long time barred claim and there is no need for any detailed consideration of evidence.

An illustration of dead claim

If the contractor makes a claim a decade or so after completion of the work without referring to any acknowledgement of a liability or other factors that kept the claim alive in law, and the claim is patently long time barred, the Chief Justice or his Designate will examine whether the claim is a dead claim (that is, a long time barred claim).

On the other hand, if the contractor makes a claim for payment, beyond three years of completing of the work but say within five years of completion of work, and alleges that the final bill was drawn up and payments were made within three years before the claim, the court will not enter into a disputed question whether the claim was barred by limitation or not. The court will leave the matter to the decision of the Tribunal.

If the distinction between apparent and obvious dead claims, and claims involving disputed issues of limitation is not kept in view, the Chief Justice or his designate will end up deciding the question of limitation in all applications under section 11 of the (Arbitration and Conciliation) Act.

[Source: Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. v. M/s SPS Engineering Ltd.,2011 (2) SCALE 291 ]

Thus the claims which are  apparently barred by limitation and  are not in the realm of dispute which needs to be proved or disproved by evidence are dead claims.

Right of speedy trial

No person shall be deprived of his life or his personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Life and liberty, the words employed in shaping Article 21, by the Founding Fathers of the Constitution, are not to be read narrowly in the sense drearily dictated by dictionaries; they are organic terms to be construed meaningfully. Embarking upon the interpretation thereof, feeling the heart-throb of the Preamble, deriving strength from the Directive Principles of State Policy and alive to their constitutional obligation, the Courts have allowed Article 21 to stretch its arms as wide as it legitimately can. The mental agony, expense and strain which a person proceeded against in criminal law has to undergo and which, coupled with delay, may result in impairing the capability or ability of the accused to defend himself have persuaded the constitutional courts of the country in holding the right to speedy trial a manifestation of fair, just and reasonable procedure enshrined in Article 21. Speedy trial, again, would encompass within its sweep all its stages including investigation, inquiry, trial, appeal, revision and re-trial in short everything commencing with an accusation and expiring with the final verdict the two being respectively the terminus a quo and terminus ad quem of the journey which an accused must necessarily undertake once faced with an implication.

Is it at all necessary to have limitation bars terminating trials and proceedings?

Is there no effective mechanisms available for achieving the same end? The Criminal Procedure Code, as it stands, incorporates a few provisions to which resort can be had for protecting the interest of the accused and saving him from unreasonable prolixity or laxity at the trial amounting to oppression. Continue reading