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Kedar Nath vs Ambika Prasad And Ors.

High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad|31 January, 1973


1. Ambika Prasad, the plaintiff-respondent in the present appeal filed a suit against the appellant, and certain other respondents claiming a declaration that the arbitration award dated 18-8-1965 was illegal and invalid and for dissolution and rendition of accounts of the firm Kedar Nath Kailash Nath. The defence of the appellant was that the suit was barred by the provisions of Section 3 of the Arbitration Act, read with Rule 7 of the First Schedule as also by Section 32 of the same Act. Certain other pleas in defence were taken, but it is not relevant to mention them for the purposes of the present appeal.
2. The defence that the suit was barred in view of the provisions of the Arbitration Act was based on the fact that before the filing of the suit, a reference of the dispute had been made to arbitrator and an award in favour of the defendant had been given on 18th August 1965, which had been subsequently registered and a COPY thereof had been sent to each of the partners. The plaintiff under the award was to pay a sum of Rs. 5,764/76 paise to the contesting defendant. No proceedings for setting aside this award were taken by the plaintiff and as such it became binding qua the dispute between the parties, and as such the present suit was mis-conceived. Issue No. 2 which ran as follows :--
"2. Is the suit for dissolution of the firm defendant No. 1 and rendition of accounts not maintainable as said in paras 20 and 21 of the written statement filed by the defendant No. 2 ? Is this suit hit by the provisions of Section 3 of the Arbitration Act. 1940, read with Sub-section (7) of the First Schedule thereof and is hit also by the provisions of the same Act ?"
was tried by the Civil Judge as a preliminary issue, and was decided against the plaintiff. The plaintiff thereafter preferred an appeal before the Additional District Judge, Varanasi. In the appeal it was conceded on behalf of the plaintiff-appellant that the first relief for declaration that the award was void and illegal could not be obtained by way of suit, in view of the provisions of the Arbitration Act. It was, however, urged that the award given by the arbitrators not having been filed in Court or made a rule of the Court and the defendants not having obtained a decree on the basis thereof, the Civil Judge erred in dismissing the claim on the basis of such an award. The District Judge following a decision of this Court in Ram Sahai v. Babu Lal, AIR 1965 All 217 held that the defendants could not rely on the award till a decree was passed on that award as till then it has no status in the eye of law. , In view of this, he disagreed with the Civil Judge and held that the suit was maintainable and remanded the case. The appeal came up before Kirty, J.. and inasmuch as he was unable to agree with the view taken by Satish Chandra, J., in AIR 1965 All 217 (supra) referred the case to a larger Bench. This is how the matter has now come up before us. There is considerable support for the view taken in AIR 1965 All 217 (supra) that an award if it is not made a rule of the Court has no efficacy and cannot be used as a defence to a suit. The cases in support of this view are Sait Pamandass Sugnaram v T. S. Manikyam Pillai, AIR 1960 Andh Pra 59 (FB); O. Mohamed Yusuf Levai Saheb v. S. Hajee Mohamed Hussain Rowther (died), AIR 1964 Mad 1 (FB); Kapgal Konda Gireanna v. Kapgal Konda Basappa. AIR 1964 Mys 238; Rambilas Mahto v. Babu Durga Bijai Prasad Singh. AIR 1965 Pat 239 and Chandrabhaga Sadashiv v. Bhikachand Hansaji, AIR 1959 Bom 549. In Amod Kumar Verma v. Hari Prasad Burman, AIR 1958 All 720, it was held that till such time that the award is filed in Court, there is no threat to the rights of any party and, therefore, no one had any cause of action to apply for setting aside the award. Counsel for the respondent has urged that a necessary consequence of this view is that an award is a dead letter until such time that it is filed in Court and a decree obtained thereon. However, it is not necessary now for us to express any opinion on the correctness or otherwise of the views taken in these cases, for we are of the view that the matter stands settled by a decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Satish Kumar v Surendra Kumar, AIR 1970 SC 833. In that case, their Lordships quoted with approval an earlier decision of the Court in Messrs. Uttam Singh Dugal & Co. v. Union of India. Civil Appeal No. 162 of 1962 decided on D/- 11-10-1962 (All), wherein it was observed as follows:--
"The true legal position in regard to the effect of an award is not in dispute. It is well settled that as a general rule, all claims which are the subject-matter of a reference to arbitration merge in the award which is pronounced in the proceedings before the arbitrator and that after an award has been pronounced the rights and liabilities of the parties in respect of the said claims can be determined only on the basis of the said award. After an award is pronounced no action can be started on the original claim which had been the subject-matter of reference. As has been observed by Mookerjee J. in the case of Bhajahari Saha Banikya v. Bahary Lal Basak, (1909) ILR 33 Cal 881 at p. 898, 'the award is, in fact, a final adjudication of a Court of the parties' own choice and until impeached upon sufficient grounds in an appropriate proceeding, an award, which is on the face of it regular, is conclusive upon the merits of the controversy submitted unless possibly the parties have intended that the award shall not be final and conclusive ............ in reality. an award possesses all the elements of vitality even though it has not been formally enforced and it may be relied upon in a litigation between the parties relating to the same subject-matter.' This conclusion, according to the learned Judge, is based upon the elementary principle that, as between the parties and their privies, an award is entitled to that respect which is due to judgment of a Court of last resort. Therefore, if the award which has been pronounced between the parties has in fact or can, in law, be deemed to have dealt with the present dispute, the second reference would be incompetent. This position also has not been and cannot be seriously disputed."
Their Lordships also referred to paragraph 7 of I Schedule which makes an award final and binding on the parties end persons claiming under them in the following words:
"In view of the above decision it is not necessary to refute the other reasons given by both the Full Benches, but out of the respect for the learned Judges we deal with them. We may mention that no comment was made in these cases on the provisions of Para 7 of Schedule I to the Act. This Para provides:--
"7. The award shall be final and binding on the parties and persons claiming under them respectively."
If the award is final and binding on the parties it can hardly be said that it is a waste paper unless it is made a rule of the Court."
We are bound by the pronouncement of their Lordships of the Supreme Court, and this being so, an award even though not made a rule of the court cannot be treated as a mere waste paper and some legal effect has to be given to it. Section 32 of the Arbitration Act bars a suit for a decision upon the existence, effect or validity of an arbitration and prevents an award from being enforced, set aside, amended, modified or in any way affected otherwise than is provided in the Act. Counsel for the respondents has urged that inasmuch as this section bars the enforcement of an award, if the award is allowed to be set up as defence, it would in effect be enforcing the award in a suit. We are unable to agree with this submission. The word 'enforce' was inserted by Section 43 of the Act No. 47 of 1963. In the notes on clauses given with the Bill (published in the Gazette of India Extraordinary dated 1-6-62) it is stated that this amendment was being made as a consequence of the newly enacted provisions of the Specific Relief Act. The law makers were obviously referring to Section 14(2) of the Specific Relief Act, which bars a suit for specific performance of a contract to refer a dispute to arbitration by way of a suit. The word 'enforce' in Section 32 of the Act has, as such, to be interpreted so as to bar a suit by a plaintiff. Any other interpretation would render an award a mere waste paper, for it can then neither form the basis for a suit nor a defence. We must, therefore, as a consequence of the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the case of AIR 1970 SC 833 (supra) hold that an arbitration award even though not made a rule of the court can be set up as a defence to a suit, for to hold otherwise, as has been seen, would be to treat the award as a mere waste paper, which is not the correct view to take.
3. The appeal is accordingly allowed. The order of the 1st Additional District Judge allowing the appeal is modified to the extent that it will be permissible for the appellant in the proceedings taken consequence to remand to rely on the award as defence to the suit. In the circumstances, parties shall bear their own costs.
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Kedar Nath vs Ambika Prasad And Ors.


High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad

31 January, 1973
  • R Gulati
  • C Singh