23 July 2020

Arbitrator can pass an award directing specific performance of an agreement of sale

Point 3: This point becomes relevant because if the arbitrators cannot grant specific performance, a point can be raised under Section 34(2)(b)(i) that the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of arbitration. [Para No.35]

   One of the points raised in the grounds in this Court is that the grant of specific performance is discretionary and the discretion to grant or not to grant specific performance has been conferred by the Specific Relief Act, 1963 on the Civil Court and hence the arbitrator cannot be deemed to have been empowered to grant such a relief. [Para No.36]

    We may point out that the Punjab High Court in Laxmi Narayan vs. Raghubir Singh [AIR 1956 Punjab 249] the Bombay High Court in Fertiliser Corporation of India vs. Chemical Construction Corporation [ILR 1974 Bombay 856/858 (DB)] and the Calcutta High Court in Keventer Agro Ltd. vs. Seegram Comp. Ltd. [Apo 498 of 1997 & Apo 449 of (401)] (dated 27.1.98) have taken the view that an arbitrator can grant specific performance of a contract relating to immovable property under an award. No doubt, the Delhi High Court in M/s PNB Finance Limited vs. Shital Prasad Jain & Others [AIR 1991 Del. 13] has however held that the arbitrator cannot grant specific performance. The question arises as to which view is correct. [Para No.37]

Arbitrator can pass an award directing specific performance of an agreement of sale
   In our opinion, the view taken by the Punjab, Bombay and Calcutta High Courts is the correct one and the view taken by the Delhi High Court is not correct. We are of the view that the right to specific performance of an agreement of sale deals with contractual rights and it is certainly open to the parties to agree - with a view to shorten litigation in regular courts - to refer the issues relating to specific performance to arbitration. There is no prohibition in the Specific Relief Act, 1963 that issues relating to specific performance of contract relating to immovable property cannot be referred to arbitration. Nor is there such a prohibition contained in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 as contrasted with Section 15 of the English Arbitration Act, 1950 or section 48(5)(b) of the English Arbitration Act, 1996 which contained a prohibition relating to specific performance of contracts concerning immoveable property. [Para No.38]

   It is stated in Halsburys' Laws of England 4th Ed., (Arbitration Vol.2 para 503) as follows:
"Nature of the dispute or difference: The dispute or difference which the parties to an arbitration agreement agree to refer must consist of a justiciable issue triable civilly. A fair test of this is whether the differences can be compromised lawfully by way of accord and satisfaction (Cf. Bacon's Abidgement and Award A)." [Para No.39]

   Reference is made there to certain disputes like criminal offences of a public nature, disputes arising out of illegal agreements and disputes relating to status, such as divorce, which cannot be referred to arbitration. It has, however, been held that if in respect of facts relating to a criminal matter, (say) physical injury, if there is a right to damages for personal injury, then such a dispute can be referred to arbitration (Keir vs. Leeman) (1846) 9 Q.B. 371. Similarly, it has been held that a husband and wife may, refer to arbitration the terms on which they shall separate, because they can make a valid agreement between themselves on that matter (Soilleux vs. Herbst) (1801) 2 Bos & p. 444; Wilson vs. Wilson (1848) 1 HL Cas 538; (Cahill vs. Cahill) (1883) 8 App Cas 420(HL). [Para No.40]

   Further, as pointed in the Calcutta case, merely because there is need for exercise of discretion in case of specific performance, it cannot be said that only the civil court can exercise such a discretion. In the above case, Ms.Ruma Pal,J. observed:
".....merely because the sections of the Specific Relief Act confer discretion on courts to grant specific performance of a contract does nto means that parties cannot agree that the discretion will be exercised by a forum of their choice. If the converse were true, then whenever a relief is dependent upon the exercise of discretion of a court by statute e.g. the grant of interest or costs, parties could be precluded from referring the dispute to arbitration." [Para No.41]

   We agree with this reasoning. We hold on Point 3 that disputes relating to specific performance of a contract can be referred to arbitration and Section 34(2)(b)(i) is not attracted. We overrule the view of the Delhi High Court. Point 3 is decided in favour of respondents. [Para No.42]

Supreme Court of India

Olympus Superstructures Pvt. Ltd.
Vs.
Meena Vijay Khetan

(1999) 5 SCC (651)





Thanks to the Stay Home constrain occurred due to Corona Virus (COVID-19) that provided the Author an opportunity to conceptualize this blog!     ❁     This blog is designed & maintained by Adv. Jainodin Shaikh, Jalgaon
Adv. Jainodin's Legal Blog