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.

Arbitration Clause in Trust Deed is not Enforceable.

Appointment of Arbitrator:

The existence of an arbitration agreement as defined under Section 7 of the Act is a condition precedent for exercise of power to appoint an arbitrator/Arbitral Tribunal, under Section 11 of the Act by the Chief Justice or his designate. It is not permissible to appoint an arbitrator to adjudicate the disputes between the parties, in the absence of an arbitration agreement or mutual consent.

But mere use of the word ‘arbitration’ or ‘arbitrator’ in a clause will not make it an arbitration agreement, if it requires or contemplates a further or fresh consent of the parties for reference to arbitration. For example, use of words such as “parties can, if they so desire, refer their disputes to arbitration” or “in the event of any dispute, the parties may also agree to refer the same to arbitration” or “if any disputes arise between the parties, they should consider settlement by arbitration” in a clause relating to settlement of disputes, indicate that the clause is not intended to be an arbitration agreement. Similarly, a clause which states that “if the parties so decide, the disputes shall be referred to arbitration” or “any disputes between parties, if they so agree, shall be referred to arbitration” is not an arbitration agreement. Continue reading

Understanding the jargon called arbitration.

What is an arbitration?

Arbitration is a mechanism for adjudication of the dispute between two parties by a private person or a panel of person chosen by the parties who are called Arbitrator or Arbitral Tribunal. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution Technique in which the Court or the State have the very limited role to play.

Procedure of Arbitration.

Unlike Court the Arbitrator is free to choose his/her own procedure. However, the parties are free to agree on any particular procedure to be followed by an Arbitrator and in such case such procedure shall be binding upon the Arbitrator and Arbitration shall be conducted accordingly. Continue reading

Arbitration Law in India

History of Arbitration in India:

Resolution of disputes through arbitration was not unknown in India even in ancient times. Simply stated, settlement of disputes through arbitration is the alternate system of resolution of disputes whereby the parties to a dispute get the same settled through the intervention of a third party. The role of the court is limited to the extent of regulating the process. During the ancient era of Hindu Law in India, there were several machineries for settlement of disputes between the parties. These were known as Kulani (village council), Sreni (corporation) and Puga (assembly).  Likewise, commercial matters were decided by Mahajans and Chambers. The resolution of disputes through the panchayat was a different system of arbitration subordinate to the courts of law. The arbitration tribunal in ancient period would have the status of panchayat in modern India.[26] The ancient system of panchayat has been given due statutory recognition through the various Panchayat Acts subsequently followed by Panchayati Raj Act, 1994. It has now been constitutionally recognized in Article 243 of the Constitution of India.

The Early Scenario:

Continue reading

Arbitration clause can not oust tenancy protection law

Arbitration clause in Rent Agreement

Facts of the Tenancy eviction case:

The appellants have inducted the respondents as tenants in respect of a shop room measuring 600 sq. feet at HA-3, Sector-3, Salt Lake City, Kolkata, and paying a monthly rent to the appellants. In respect of the tenancy, the appellants and the respondents have executed an unregistered tenancy agreement which has been notarized on 10.11.2003. On 06.03.2008, the appellants, through their Advocates, served a notice on the respondents terminating the tenancy and asking them to vacate the shop premises and the notice stated that after April, 2008 the relationship of landlord and tenant between the appellants and the respondents shall cease to exist and the respondents will be deemed to be trespassers liable to pay damages at the rate of Rs.500/- per day for wrongful occupation of the shop. The respondents, however, did not vacate the shop premises and the appellants filed Title Suit No.89 of 2008 against the respondents for eviction, arrears of rent, arrears of municipal tax, mesne profit and for permanent injunction in the Court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division), 2nd Court at Barasat, District North 24-Parganas in the State of West Bengal. In the suit, the respondents filed a petition under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (for short ‘the 1996 Act’) stating therein that the tenancy agreement contains an arbitration agreement in clause 15 and praying that all the disputes in the suit be referred to the arbitrator. By order dated 10.06.2009, the learned Civil Judge dismissed the petition under Section 8 of the 1996 Act and posted the matter to 10.07.2009 for filing of written statement by the defendants (respondents herein).

Aggrieved, the respondents filed an application (C.O. No.2440 of 2009) under Article 227 of the Constitution of India before the Calcutta High Court and contended that the tenancy agreement contains an arbitration agreement in Clause 15, which provides that any dispute regarding the contents or construction of the agreement or dispute arising out of the agreement shall be settled by Joint Arbitration of two arbitrators, one to be appointed by the landlords and the other to be appointed by the tenants and the decision of the arbitrators or umpires appointed by them shall be final and that the arbitration will be in accordance with the 1996 Act and, therefore, the learned Civil Judge rejected the petition of the respondents to refer the disputes to arbitration contrary to the mandate in Section 8 of the 1996 Act. The appellants opposed the application under Article 227 of the Constitution of India contending inter alia that the dispute between the appellants and the respondents, who are landlords and tenants respectively, can only be decided by a Civil Judge in accordance with the provisions of the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1997 (for short ‘the Tenancy Act’). By the impugned judgment dated 16.04.2010, the High Court has held that in view of the decisions of this Court in Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. v. Pinkcity Midway Petroleums [(2003) 6 SCC 503], Agri Gold Exims Ltd. v. Sri Lakshmi Knits & Wovens & Ors. [(2007) 3 SCC 686] and Branch Manager, Magma Leasing & Finance Limited & Anr. v. Potluri Madhavilata & Anr. [(2009) 10 SCC 103], the Court has no other alternative but to refer the disputes to the arbitrators to be appointed by the parties as per the arbitration agreement. The High Court, however, has observed in the impugned judgment that if any dispute is raised regarding arbitrability of such dispute before the arbitral tribunal, such dispute will be decided by the arbitral tribunal.

Relevant Rent/Tenancy Law:

The relevant portion of Section 6 of the Tenancy Act 1997 is quoted hereinbelow:

“6. Protection of tenant against eviction.—(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law for the time being in force or in any contract, no order or decree for the recovery of the possession of any premises shall be made by the Civil Judge having jurisdiction in favour of the landlord against the tenant, except on a suit being instituted by such landlord on one or more of the following grounds………..”
[Note the words in red.]

 

Supreme Court decided that arbitration clause is overridden by Tenancy Act:

It will be clear from the language of Section 6 of the Tenancy Act 1997 quoted above that ‘notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any contract’, no order or decree for recovery of possession of any premises shall be made by the Civil Judge having jurisdiction in favour of the landlord against the tenant, ‘except on a suit being instituted by such landlord’ on one or more grounds mentioned therein. It is, thus, clear that Section 6 of the Tenancy Act overrides a contract between the landlord and the tenant and provides that only the Civil Judge having jurisdiction can order or decree for recovery of possession only in a suit to be filed by the landlord.

In this case, there is an arbitration agreement in clause 15 of the tenancy agreement, which provides that any dispute regarding the contents or construction of the tenancy agreement or dispute arising out of the tenancy agreement shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the provisions of the 1996 Act. But the words ‘notwithstanding anything in any contract’ in Section 6 of the Tenancy Act, will override the arbitration agreement in clause 15 of the tenancy agreement where a suit for recovery of possession of any premises has been filed by a landlord against the tenant. Such a suit filed by the landlord against the tenant for recovery of possession, therefore, cannot be referred under Section 8 of the 1996 Act to arbitration. In fact, sub-section (3) of Section 2 of the 1996 Act expressly provides that Part-I which relates to ‘arbitration’ where the place of arbitration is in India shall not affect any other law for the time being in force by virtue of which certain disputes may not be submitted to arbitration. Section 6 of the Tenancy Act is one such law which clearly bars arbitration in a dispute relating to recovery of possession of premises by the landlord from the tenant. Since the suit filed by the appellants was for eviction, it was a suit for recovery of possession and could not be referred to arbitration because of a statutory provision in Section 6 of the Tenancy Act.

The High Court, therefore, was not correct in coming to the conclusion that as per the decisions of this Court in the aforesaid three cases, the Court has no alternative but to refer the parties to arbitration in view of the clear mandate in Section 8 of the 1996 Act. On the contrary, the relief claimed by the appellants being mainly for eviction, it could only be granted by the “Civil Judge having jurisdiction” in a suit filed by the landlord as provided in Section 6 of the Tenancy Act. The expression “Civil Judge having jurisdiction” will obviously mean the Civil Judge who has jurisdiction to grant the other reliefs: decree for arrears of rent, decree for recovery of arrears of proportionate and enhanced municipal taxes, a decree for mesne profits and a decree for permanent injunction claimed in the suit.

[Source: Ranjit Kumar Bose v. Anannya Chowdhury]

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)]