top of page
  • Writer's picturebrillopedia

A COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF JUDICIAL INTERVENTION IN ARBITRATION IN INDIAN JURISPRUDENCE

Author: Shaurya Rana, II Year of B.A.,LL.B from UPES School of Law.


Abstract

This article explores the legal framework for arbitration in India, with a focus on recent court rulings and the scope of judicial intervention in arbitration. The Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996 aims to minimize the role of courts in arbitration proceedings, with limited supervisory powers. Section 34 of the Act outlines the limited grounds on which an arbitral award can be challenged before the courts, and the article notes that recent court judgments have emphasized the principle of minimal curial intervention in arbitration matters.


In the case of BALCO, the Supreme Court held that the court's jurisdiction to intervene in arbitration matters is limited, and that an arbitral award can only be set aside if it is contrary to fundamental policy or against basic notions of justice and morality. In the Associate Builders case, the court addressed whether an arbitral award can be set aside on the ground of patent illegality, and held that such an award can be set aside only if the illegality goes to the root of the matter and is apparent on the face of the award.


The article concludes that the Indian courts have consistently emphasized the importance of minimal curial intervention in arbitration matters and have provided guidance on the limited grounds on which an arbitral award can be challenged. Recent judgments provide further clarity on the issue of judicial intervention in arbitration and underscore the importance of upholding the integrity of the arbitral process.



Introduction

Arbitration is a widely preferred alternative dispute resolution mechanism in India, given the inefficiency and delay in the Indian judicial system. However, the effectiveness of arbitration is often questioned by parties who may seek judicial intervention to set aside an arbitral award or challenge it on various grounds. In India, the legal framework for arbitration is governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“the Act”).

In the past, there have been conflicting judgments of the Indian courts regarding the scope and extent of judicial intervention in arbitration matters. However, over the years, the Indian courts have provided clarity on the issue of judicial intervention in arbitration.

This article aims to discuss the development of the law regarding the scope and extent of judicial intervention in arbitration in India, particularly focusing on the recent judgments of the Indian courts.



Background

The Act was enacted with the objective of streamlining the law relating to domestic and international arbitration in India. The Act provides a legal framework for arbitration proceedings and enforcement of arbitral awards in India.

One of the primary objectives of the Act is to minimize the role of courts in arbitration proceedings. The Act envisages a limited supervisory role for courts in arbitration matters to ensure that the arbitral process remains effective, efficient and expeditious.



Scope of Judicial Intervention

The Act provides for limited grounds on which an arbitral award can be challenged before the courts. Section 34 of the Act provides that an award can be set aside by a court on limited grounds, including:

(a) incapacity of a party to the arbitration agreement;

(b) the arbitration agreement being invalid under the law to which the parties have subjected it, or failing any indication, under Indian law;

(c) lack of proper notice of the appointment of the arbitrator or of the arbitral proceedings, or inability to present one's case;

(d) the award dealing with a dispute not contemplated by or not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or containing decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration;


(e) the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure not being in accordance with the agreement of the parties, unless such agreement is in conflict with a provision of the Act from which the parties cannot derogate, or failing such agreement, not being in accordance with the Act; and

(f) the subject matter of the dispute not being capable of settlement by arbitration under Indian law.

The courts have further clarified that a party challenging an arbitral award under Section 34 of the Act has a heavy burden of proof. The courts have held that the grounds for challenge must be made out clearly and specifically, and mere allegations or bald statements are not sufficient to set aside an award.

In addition to the above, the courts have also recognized the principle of minimal curial intervention in arbitration matters. The courts have held that an arbitral award should not be interfered with lightly or easily, and the parties must be allowed to resolve their disputes through arbitration without undue interference from the courts.



Recent Developments

In recent years, the Indian courts have further clarified the scope and extent of judicial intervention in arbitration matters. Some of the notable judgments of the Indian courts are discussed below:


1.Bharat Aluminium Co. v. Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services Inc. (“BALCO”)

The Supreme Court in the case of BALCO held that the jurisdiction of courts to intervene in arbitration matters is very limited. The court held that the role of the court in arbitration is secondary and supportive in nature, and the court should not interfere with the arbitral process unless it is absolutely necessary.

The court further held that an arbitral award can be set aside only if it is contrary to the fundamental policy of Indian law or against the basic notions of justice and morality. The court clarified that a mere error in the decision-making.


2. Associate Builders v. Delhi Development Authority (“Associate Builders”)

In the case of Associate Builders, the Supreme Court of India addressed the issue of whether a court can set aside an arbitral award on the ground of patent illegality.

The court held that an arbitral award can be set aside on the ground of patent illegality if the illegality goes to the root of the matter and is apparent on the face of the award. The court clarified that an error of law cannot be a ground for challenging an arbitral award unless the error is such that it goes to the root of the matter.

The court further held that a court cannot re-appreciate the evidence or substitute its own interpretation for that of the arbitrator. The court clarified that the arbitrator is the final judge of the facts and the court should not interfere with the findings of fact unless they are perverse or based on no evidence.

The court also emphasized the principle of minimal curial intervention in arbitration matters. The court held that the scope of interference by a court in arbitral proceedings is extremely limited and the court should not interfere with an arbitral award unless it is absolutely necessary.

The decision in Associate Builders is significant as it provides clarity on the issue of patent illegality as a ground for challenging an arbitral award. The court has laid down a strict standard for the application of this ground, emphasizing that it should only be invoked in cases where the illegality goes to the root of the matter and is apparent on the face of the award.



Conclusion

In conclusion, the Indian courts have consistently emphasized the importance of minimal curial intervention in arbitration matters. The courts have held that the role of courts in arbitration is limited to ensure that the arbitral process remains effective, efficient and expeditious.

The recent judgments of the Indian courts have further clarified the scope and extent of judicial intervention in arbitration matters. The courts have provided guidance on the limited grounds on which an arbitral award can be challenged and the heavy burden of proof on the party challenging the award.

The decisions in BALCO and Associate Builders are significant as they provide clarity on the issue of judicial intervention in arbitration matters and emphasize the principle of minimal curial intervention. The Indian courts' approach towards arbitration has become increasingly pro-arbitration, and parties can have confidence in the effectiveness of arbitration as a means of resolving disputes in India.



Comentários


bottom of page