"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

International Arbitration: In the Age of the Technological Revolution - Volume 1 (2020)


One, the book deals with a unique subject-matter. It deals with the interface between international dispute resolution and technology, and covers topics such as cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.  According to the Book Description:

"The first volume of the International Arbitration Collection in the Age of the Technological Revolution addresses the future (and the present) of arbitration, relating it to topics such as compliance, cryptocurrencies, startups, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Most interestingly, this vision of technological revolution and arbitration is presented by authors from almost every continent, as there are opinions from professionals from Australia, Brazil, Spain, France, India, Portugal, Singapore and Switzerland. Several questions are formulated and answered by the authors in order to allow the reader a better understanding of how technology and arbitration already connected and they will increase their connection.
This is an extremely interesting book for anyone who wants to know more about arbitration, technology, or their interaction."

Two, the book contains a paper titled "Start-Ups & International Dispute Resolution: Challenges & Possible Solutions" penned by this blawgger, which deals with the challenges faced by Start-Ups in engaging with international arbitration. The paper also provides explores various solutions  to the common problems that start-ups face while fighting an international arbitration. Summary of the paper is as below:

"Globalisation as a phenomenon has encaptivated the world in the last part of the 20th century leading to the rise of a global service sector, where services could be offered across national borders. These factors have acted as catalysts in bringing forth a start-up revolution world over. Several start-ups have become great success stories.

The legal services industry world over has changed its approach to cater to start-ups and has adapted itself to the demands of a start-up. Even so, dispute resolution especially in the international sphere, has not been so forthcoming to provide legal services appropriate for start-ups. Start-ups face unique challenges in the context of international commercial dispute resolution. Already strained of funds, a cross-border dispute is a nightmare and might even result in shutting shop for the start-up.

This short paper identifies challenges faced by start-ups in resolving their international commercial disputes and offers possible solutions to these issues. To this end, the paper is structured in the following manner: Part II discusses the concept of a start-up. Different jurisdictions define start-ups differently. Since the scope of the paper is not constricted to a definite jurisdiction or region, start-up is defined in a general manner. Part II addresses the issues faced by start-ups in international dispute resolution, which is the primary focus of this paper. Part III offers possible solutions to these problems. Part IV concludes."

The paper concludes by putting forth the following points:

"Arbitral institutions are the centrepiece of international arbitration and significant reforms in the area have emanated from them. Hence, they should take the lead and formulate rules tailor-made for start-ups. Such rules could define start-ups and provide that in case disputes involved start-ups, certain special provisions such as appointment of sole arbitrator instead of a three member tribunal, documents-only arbitration, etc. would apply, with opt-out mechanisms. 

Internally, start-ups should put in place robust governance mechanisms and internal policies. This will aid them in not only putting forth their case well in a dispute but also ensure better governance. Start-ups should also negotiate with their clients for favourable dispute resolution and confidentiality clauses. Disputes between warring founder partners of a start-up also derail its case in legal proceedings, especially international arbitrations. Suitable systems / agreements should be put in place in consultation with lawyers to address possible future disputes between co-founders. 

All said and done, it is critical for start-ups to realize the importance of getting legal advice. There are umpteen legal issues that could crop up unexpectedly and have disastrous consequences. Therefore, it is crucial to have legal advice, preferably in-house legal counsel, who could also play multiple roles in the organization."

Friday, July 3, 2020

Call for Research Internships (Online)

Any UG or PG student studying law and is interested in Commercial law and Dispute Resolution can apply at lawbadri@gmail.com for a month's research internship (online). During the internship, an intern would be writing about four blog posts and a research paper, hopefully, of publication quality. The internship is unpaid. 

More information about the internship can be found here

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Dispute Resolution in India in a Post-Covid19 World: Drastic Times call for Drastic Measures

Image from here
These are scary times. Drastic measures are called for in drastic times. If anything short of such measures are taken, economies will collapse. India is no exception. Legal services should not stand as a hurdle but should facilitate and innovate. 

This post, based on a presentation given a few days back, puts forth a vision for dispute resolution in the Indian economy hit by the Covid19 crisis. The presentation can be accessed from here. The presentation was for a specific industry but is applicable to all other commercial activities, be it construction, infrastructure, services, sale or other commercial activities. 

How to deal with Contracts Post-Covid19?
  • Amicably sort out issues with the objective of completing projects ASAP
  • Provide for Amicable Dispute Resolution Solutions to make contracts viable
  • To bring to an end contracts made unviable post-Covid19
Accelerated Dispute Resolution Processes in a Covid19 World
  • Speedy, Inexpensive and Effective dispute resolution
  • Fixed time ~ 3 months & Fixed costs ~5- 6 lakhs
  • Completely Virtual
  • Construction Dispute Specific
  • Neutral
  • Interim Measures: Extension of BGs & Preservation- Completion of Project should be the objective
  • Three modes: Accelerated Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration
  • Checklists/ Formats for use in Dispute resolution to be fixed
Accelerated Conciliation
  • A finance, technical and a legal expert in each Panel
  • Fixed fee of Rs 5- 6 lakhs for the entire panel
  • Virtual & Time limit of three months
  • No external counsels
  • Specific disputes to be agreed between the parties and referred
  • Common statement of facts and points of disagreement
  • Proceedings to be confidential except as to costs
  • In case of rejection of Settlement Proposal, costs of conciliation & subsequent legal proceedings to be on Indemnity basis, if unsuccessful.
Accelerated Mediation
  • Professional Mediator well-versed in Construction Disputes
  • Virtual & Time limit of three months
  • No external counsels
  • Specific disputes to be agreed between the parties and referred
  • Common statement of facts and points of disagreement
  • Proceedings to be confidential except as to costs
  • For party rejecting the last settlement offer, costs of mediation & subsequent legal proceedings to be on Indemnity basis, if unsuccessful.
Accelerated Arbitration
  • Fixed Costs: Not more than Rs. 5- 6 lakhs net for each dispute
  • A finance, technical and a legal expert in each Tribunal
  • Time limit of three months
  • Documents only/ Expedited (S. 29B ACA 1996)
  • Specific disputes to be agreed between the parties and referred
  • Common statement of facts and points of disagreement reg. facts/ law
  • Power to decide on the basis of commercial sense, equity, etc.
  • Strict implementation of Loser Pays principle for Costs
Movement Away from Fee based on Claims to Fee based on Workload
  • Fee based on quantum of claims is not a scientific way of compensating the tribunal
  • Fee based on work load is more scientific
  • Many measures could be worked out but the number of pages criterion seems to be the best starting point.
  • Need to fix a base fee: 
  • Rs. 1 lakh per 5,000 pages to be read; Rs. 2 lakhs for 10,000 pages and so on.
[In putting forth these ideas, this blawgger makes no claim of originality. The suggestions here are based on developments around the world, including the CIArb-CEDR pandemic dispute resolution services and the BIICL's "breathing space" concept notes.]

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Stereotyping & Setting Aside Arbitral Awards: Why East Asia was Correctly Decided

Why are cliches a problem? They are an issue because they amount to stereotyping. What is a stereotype? It is regarded as an over-generalised belief about something. In India, there is an over-generalised beliefs that arbitral awards should not be set aside at all. That is not correct. 

"Nonsense" A decision with scant regard for contract or law cannot pass off as an arbitral award. [Note that the word "nonsense" is being used here to signify how rude and bad it looks. A pleading drafted by a foreign law firm used the term "nonsense" on a contention by the other side. What happened to courtesy? But then, for some, whatever foreign law firms, especially of the first world, do is gospel truth and good to emulate!- another stereotype. Litigation or arbitration is not a fish market with disputing parties hurling choicest of abuses against each other. One has to show grace and courtesy in submissions.]

Almost a decade back, while discussing the case of Sumitomo Heavy Industries v ONGC, we had argued in this blog as follows:

"Though the SC's decision seems to be reasonable, it is sad that the court did not consider the law on the liability of a contractual party to bear increase in costs due to change of law during the currency of the contract. This is the problem with arbitration. The courts are forced to rule on whether the award was perverse or not rather than consider what should actually be the law on the issue. The main issue is taken outside the realm of the court. Essentially what the court has stated here is that Article 17.3 could either be narrowly construed like the Division Bench wanted it to be or broadly constructed as was done by the arbitrator. But what is the true law?" (emphasised)

In the same year, we did another post titled "Norm Creation (ADR) and Arbitration" (2010). A summary of the post is important to understand the context of this post and is as under:
  • The judiciary performs the important function of amplificiation of law. Amplification of law refers to the judiciary’s functions of filling the gaps that the statute leaves, making law in the absence of a statute, resolving contradictions in statutes and updating the law after taking into consideration the latest developments (such as those of technology, etc).
  • This function of amplification of law does not take place in private arbitration for a few reasons. One reason is that there are no incentives for the arbitral tribunal to produce precedents as there exists difficulty in establishing property rights over them.
  • The second problem with private arbitration is that the absence of review on merits of the award may lead to the production of inconsistent decisions on the same question of law leading to uncertainty of law. This would mean that parties would never predict outcomes of disputes and this would discourage settlement of disputes. The law in such a situation will be indeterminate and inaccurate.
Interestingly, many reputed commentators on arbitration law have highlighted the above aspects. In a lecture titled "Developing commercial law through the courts: rebalancing the relationship between the courts and arbitration", Right Hon. The Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2016)  highlighted how arbitration had the potential in bring about uncertainty in commercial law by taking away cases from national courts. The lecture merits reading.

In short, arbitration law's limited error correction function creates a potentially uncertain position in law. An award would not be set aside if two plausible views in the case as to contract interpretation are possible. But what is the correct interpretation? In a jurisdiction like India where law as applied to facts is nascent, especially in the context of contract law, courts perform an important function of amplification of law and making the law more certain. This is the reason why a sort of balance is maintained in purely domestic arbitrations by retaining the ground of patent illegality in Section 34(2A). This function is important. In the past, the Supreme Court has donned the role of error corrector and decided on the correctness of arbitral awards. See, for instance, National Highways Authority of India v. Progressive-MVT (JV) 2018(2) Arb LR 111 (SC). (see this post)

Image from here
The decision in SEAMEC v OIL (2020) has to be seen in the same light. A contention similar to the one made in the arbitral award and upheld: that increase in diesel prices is a change in law is most common in construction arbitrations. Those practising on that side of commercial law would vouch that a Contractor- Claimant is sure to bring a claim on this count if there is an escalation or a change of law or a force majeure clause. Although not a construction arbitration, in this case, the Claimant brought about a similar contention. There seems to be no Supreme Court decision directly on whether such increases in diesel prices amount to force majeure or change of law or entitle the Contractor for escalation. See, for instance, Lift and Shift India Pvt. Ltd. vs. Central Warehousing Corporation (06.03.2017 - DELHC) : MANU/DE/0543/2017. [See also, The State of Bihar vs. Hardeo Singh (11.02.2019 - PATNAHC) : MANU/BH/0174/2019, Atlanta Limited and Ors. vs. Executive Engineer, Road Development and Ors. (04.05.2018 - BOMHC) : MANU/MH/1148/2018.]

Given the importance of the issue, the Supreme Court took the correct approach in settling the law once and for all. [Note that the law applied by the Supreme Court was the one prior to the 2015 amendments]. Although the court did not expressly state so, the effect of the court's judgment settles this vexatious issue. That the SC decided on an area which was uncertain is clear from the outcomes of the proceedings before the tribunal (which held that increase in price of diesel amounted to change of law for which the Contractor could claim compensation) and the High Court (where it was held otherwise). The High Court had also committed the error of conflating the basis of change of law clause with the force majeure clause, which the Supreme Court corrected.

The SC held that fluctuations in price of certain items which a prudent contractor would have to take into consideration while bidding cannot be brought within the scope of the change of law clause unless specific language pointed out to such an inclusion (Para 30) and that the "liberal" construction afforded by the Tribunal to Clause 23 to hold that change in the price of diesel was a change in law was incorrect.

The law is now certain. No more can unscrupulous persons bring about a claim for increase in diesel prices under the change of law clause. Had this clarity not been there, what would have happened? In almost every dispute under works contracts with a change of law or a general escalation clause (which does not encompass increase in diesel prices), Contractors would have brought about a claim on account of increase in diesel prices. The marginal cost of defending an additional claim and of deciding an additional claim would be incurred by the parties. Imagine if such costs are incurred in several arbitrations arising out of works contracts all over India. It could potentially run to crores of rupees. Now, because to the clarity afforded by the Supreme Court, an unscrupulous Contractor or an advocate would think twice before making a claim on account of change in diesel prices. Even if made, the Tribunal would (and is obligated to) award costs on the other side for such bogus claims.

Thus, it is submitted that the SC had rightly set aside the arbitral award. We found many write-ups on the decision, especially from law firms, simply parroting that the SC was not correct in setting aside the arbitral award or similar cliches. There should be deference to the arbitral process but that deference is only for the purpose of facilitating commercial dispute resolution. Such deference cannot be at the cost of certainty in law. Legal certainty affords clear direction to future course of conduct. 

Parties should expend their money on value creation rather than bickering on such issues merely because one party wants to "take a chance" to see if the tribunal can award the claim and because the (uncertain) law allows her to do so. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Role of Academics and Law Practice in Law Reform: A few Thoughts

Whenever the law is not entirely clear on a subject, the judge is called upon to clarify the law. When the law is clear, the judge has to apply the law to facts straightaway. But when the law is not clear, it is an entirely different ball-game:

The judge faces a lot of constraints when faced with law that is not entirely clear: the judge is burdened and constricted by the facts before her. Another constraint is the submissions made by the advocates, in aiding the court in clarifying the law. Another important constraint is the temporal constraint that the judges faces considering the sheer volume of work that the judge is called upon to do in quick time. Another constraint is the precedents. The judge is bound by the doctrine of precedents to comply with the precedent. These constraints may have the effect of the judge in not dealing with a particular facet of law. 

But how should the legal system address this problem? Precedential system is costly. It cannot be expected that a larger bench would immediately deal with that facet of law. To give an example, Bhatia International was decided in 2002. It was only a decade thereafter, in 2012, that BALCO overruled Bhatia. In that decade, Bhatia created havoc and resulted in an unclear law with lawyers making tons of money owing to the lack of clarity and parties, unfortunately, suffering. The SC in BALCO had to rely on the prospective overruling doctrine to ensure that no further confusion is created.

It is at this juncture that the academic machinery's role comes into the picture. The academician's dharma is to critically evaluate the judgement not only on the law that the judge has discussed but also on the points that that judge has not discussed. By "academician", it is not only the law university that is meant but also the law practitioner who dons the academician's role in critically evaluating the decision. 

As compared to the judge, the academician is relatively in a better position. She can sit in the comforts of a University with time on her side and a library at her beck and call. Consequently, it is the sacred duty of an academician to engage in critically evaluating the law and the judgment.  

In critiquing the law, the words of HM Seervai, quoted at the top of the Practical Academic blog, are pertinent: "If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes mus lead to the discovery of right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

The law practitioner's duty then begins. She is duty-bound to critically evaluate the criticism by the academician, take it and present it before the court in another case, or rarely, in the very case the court decided. It is then left to the court to examine whether the judgment was correctly decided.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

India & the Drafting of the New York Convention

Western scholars and courts have looked at India with  criticism when it comes to the implementation of the New York Convention. Many Indian courts, including Bhatia International, have given reasons to those critics. Contrary to the popular perception, India had been in while the New York Convention was being conceived. India was represented by its Solicitor General, Mr. CK Daphtary. Mr. Daphtary held office as the Solicitor General of India from 1950 to 1963 and thereafter as the Attorney General of India from 1963 to 1968.

Mr Daphtary was not merely a participant in the discussions for drafting the New York Convention, he was the President of the United Nations Conference on International Commercial Arbitration held at New York in May & June of 1958. In this conference, the text of the Convention was discussed and finalised.

There was limited amount of time for the members of the Conference to finalise the Convention. They sat from 20 May 1958 to 10 June 1958 and the text of the Convention was finalised. The Conference was declared open on 20 May 1958 (about 1530 hours) at New York, the HQ of UN and the Economic & Social Council of the UN.

Mr. CWA Schurmann, the Netherlands was elected the President of the Conference. Interestingly, when the nomination for Vice-President was sought, Australia nominated Mr. CK Daphtary. Czechoslovakia and Guatemala supported the nomination. Mr. CK Daphtary was elected the First Vice-President of the Conference. There were two other Vide-Presidents elected, one from Argentina and another from Czechoslovakia. 

Mr. CK Daphtary made many interventions in the conference that were fruitful. We will discuss about this in another post. Importantly, he was also the Chairman of the Working Party No. 1, which was responsible for preparation of the drafts of Articles I and II of the Convention. Articles I and II are important provisions and form the basis of many important aspects such as arbitration agreements , recognition of arbitration agreements, and reference of disputes by judicial authorities to arbitration. See, here, for more information on these aspects.

India was one of the forty five countries that participated in the Conference, which led to the finalisation of one of the most important legal instruments in the world. Given India's humongous participation in the Conference and the consequent enactment of the Foreign Awards (Recognition and Enforcement) Act, 1961, the path that Indian courts have taken to invite criticisms is an area of research that should be looked into with greater detail.

Contrary to the popularly held belief, the New York Convention is an instrument that protects and accommodates state interests, especially in the form of arbitrability and public policy grounds, and leaves it to the states to define arbitrability and public policy the way they want. In the fervour to do justice, Indian courts have, perhaps, not decided in line with the Convention and the Foreign Awards Act/ the Arbitration and Conciliation Act to the extent they give effect to the New York Convention. This is not to say that there are no gaps in the Convention. The Convention does not address many aspects, which could potentially undermine state interests. But these are subjects of another future post.

For now, it would do well for followers of international arbitration to note India's participation and contribution to the enactment of the principal instrument of international arbitration: the New York Convention.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

What Qualifies as an Interim Award? Guest Post

[In this interesting guest post, Mr. Sameer Sharma and Mr. Rajat Sharma criticise the decision of a Supreme Court rendered more than two decades back relating to Interim awards. Both Mr. Sameer Sharma and Mr. Rajat Sharma are final year students at NLU Jodhpur. Happy reading!]

REVISITING SATWANT SINGH SODHI v. STATE OF PUNJAB & ORS.: AN INHERENT CONTRADICTION IN THE UNDERSTADING ACCORDED TO AN “INTERIM AWARD”.
-          Sameer Sharma and Rajat Sharma[1] 
In Satwant Singh Sodhi v. State of Punjab and Ors. (“Satwant Singh Sodhi”),[2] the Supreme Court (“SC”) addressed as to what would be the effect, purport and validity of an interim arbitral award after a final arbitral award is rendered in an arbitral proceeding. As a matter of context, it would be sufficient to note that the arbitrator in the facts of the said case had rendered an interim award dated 26.11.1992 relating to a particular issue (addressed as Item No. 1 in the said proceeding) in favour of the Appellant (rank of parties as before the SC). In relation to such issue, the arbitrator had awarded a sum of Rs. 7.45 lacs with interest at 18% compounded yearly from 01.02.1981 to 15.03.1992. Subsequent to the rendering of this interim award, the arbitrator rendered a second award dated 28.01.1994, by which Rs. 3.75 lacs with an interest of 12% per annuum with effect from 01.02.1981 to 15.03.1992 was awarded. It is important to bear in mind that this second award was regarding the subject-matter which was inclusive of the first award.
With this being the factual composition, the issue before the SC was as to what would govern the field – whether it would be the first of the two awards or would it be the second award. The SC’s observations on this issue are required to be noted, which are as follows: -[3]
6. The question whether interim award is final to the extent it goes or has effect till the final award is delivered will depend upon the form of the award. If the interim award is intended to have effect only so long as the final award is not delivered it will have the force of the interim award and it will cease to have effect after the final award is made. If, on the other hand, the interim award is intended to finally determine the rights of the parties it will have the force of a complete award and will have affect even after the final award is delivered. The terms of the award dated November 26, 1992 do not indicate that the same is of interim nature.”

Therefore, the SC ruled that the real effect and purport of an interim award would depend on the contents and wording of the interim award itself. Whether an interim award would be an independent award, being absolute and completely final in its determination of the rights and liabilities of parties, would be a question to be answered by perusing the award itself. As a corollary, it could also be the case that an interim award would be operative and effective only until the final award is rendered. Both the said eventualities would be the result of the wording of the interim award in question. On the facts of the case, the SC ruled that the interim award was absolute and final in nature regarding the issue it dealt with, owing to which it continued to have effect despite the passage of the final award.
A look at the prevailing jurisprudence and case-law reveals that the dictum in Satwant Singh Sodhi has become a qualitative main-stay in assessing as to what decisions qualify as interim awards.[4]. This is notwithstanding the fact that the said judgement was rendered under the Arbitration Act, 1940. The latest instance of validation of and deference to the dictum in Satwant Singh Sodhi appears in the Bombay High Court decision in Aero Club v. Solar Creations Pvt. Ltd.[5]. However, despite such continued judicial deference to and reliance upon Satwant Singh Sodhi, the authors opine that the dictum contained in the said decision is fundamentally contradictory to the notion of an interim award. Hence, the purpose of this write-up is to demonstrate as to how a judgement rendered in 1999, which has become the locus classicus on the temporal effectiveness of an interim award, is intrinsically antithetical to the concept of such award. This inherent contradiction stems from three reasons, which are explained hereinbelow.
 A.    The nature of and consequences ensuing from an “interim award”.
Section 2(1)(c) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“A&C Act”), defines an “arbitral award” to “include an interim award”. Unlike the Arbitration Act, 1940, the A&C Act in its definitional provision equates an interim award to an arbitral award. Further, if reference is made to Section 31(6) of the A&C Act, it may be seen that an arbitral tribunal may make an interim award on any matter with respect to which it may make a final arbitral award”. Thus, the nature of issues and matters upon which an interim award may be made is the same as those on which a final award may be made. Textually, the scope and purport of an interim award is sought to be brought on par with that of a final award. In fact, this parity between an interim award and a final award may be discerned by referring to the SC’s decision in McDermott International Inc. v. Burn Standard Co. Ltd. & Ors.[6] The SC in the said decision states as follows: An interim award in terms of the said provision is not one in respect of which a final award can be made, but it may be a final award on the matters covered thereby, but made at an interim stage.[7] Therefore, it would not be incorrect to state that an interim award has the same effects and consequences that a final award would have.[8] In relation to such effects, the SC in Satish Kumar & Ors. v. Surinder Kumar & Ors.[9] relied on an unreported decision of the same Court in Uttam Singh Dugal & Co. v. Union of India,[10] to state that an award inherently possesses certain legal value and identity.[11] The Court stated that all claims between parties which are the subject-matter of a reference to arbitration, merge in the award which is rendered.[12] The effect of this is such that rights and liabilities of parties in respect of such claims can be determined only on the basis of such award.[13] No action may be started on the original claims which were the subject-matter of such arbitration.[14] Such award may be relied upon in a subsequent litigation between the parties relating to the same subject-matter.[15] Thus, an arbitral award possesses certain preclusive effects. If an “arbitral award” were to possess these effects, it stands to reason that an “interim award” would also possess the said effects. However, the notion of an interim award and the idea of transient finality attached to such award, as propounded in Satwant Singh Sodhi, appear to denude the legal identity and significance of such award. The preclusive and res judicata effects of an interim award are rendered illusory and toothless, depending solely on the whim of the arbitrator and the wording of the interim award. By stating that an interim award may be superseded by a later (final) award, due importance and recognition has not been accorded to the notion of an interim award. Such proposition of law is emblematic of a “form-over-substance” approach. This legal position relating to interim awards is such that it breeds uncertainty and lacks predictability. An illustration may be provided in this regard – suppose an interim award were to be rendered, the wording of which is such that the said award would be effective till the rendering of the final award. The party aggrieved of such award would be in two minds whether to have such award set-aside or to wait till the final award to discover the fate of the interim award. If the aggrieved party were to bite the bullet and prefer an application to set-aside the interim award, the very efficacy and validity of such setting-aside proceeding could come into question later on when the final award were to materially alter the interim award. Additionally, because of the aforesaid exposition in Satwant Singh Sodhi, there has been unnecessary litigation regarding the scope and validity of an interim award when a final award purporting to affect such interim award is rendered.[16] This fosters uncertainty.
In fact, by characterising an interim award in the way the SC has done in Satwant Singh Sodhi, the parity between such award and a final award as sought to be established under the A&C Act, is rendered futile.
While the foregoing analysis pertains to the critique of Satwant Singh Sodhi in relation to the A&C Act, the authors contend that the said dictum is violative of the notion of an interim award even under the Arbitration Act, 1940. As has been noted earlier, the definitional provision in the Arbitration Act, 1940 [Section 2(b)], merely defines an “award” to “mean an arbitral award”. This is unlike Section 2(1)(c) of the A&C Act, which defines an “arbitral award” to “include an interim award”. Furthermore, the Arbitration Act, 1940, lacks a provision akin to Section 31(6) of the A&C Act, which states that an arbitral tribunal may make an interim award on any matter with respect to which it may make a final arbitral award”. Therefore, considering the absence of relevant provisions in the Arbitration Act, 1940, to adequately recognise and equate an interim award with a final award, it could be argued that the rationale in Satwant Singh Sodhi is tenable and warranted. To put it differently, it could be argued that there was enough legislative legroom for the SC in the said case to conceptualise the effects of an interim award in the way that it did; that because there was a lack of concrete legislative recognition of an interim award under the 1940 Act, the SC could bestow the element of transient finality to an interim award. However, that would be a legally incorrect assessment of the legislative framework under the Arbitration Act, 1940. Even though the Arbitration Act, 1940, might be devoid of provisions such as Sections 31(6) and 2(1)(c) of the A&C Act, Section 27 of the 1940 Act adequately makes up for such absence.[17] Section 27 of the 1940 Act is entitled, Power of arbitrators to make an interim award”. Section 27(1) provides arbitrators with the power to make an interim award. More crucially, however, Section 27(2) states that, All references in this Act to an award shall include references to an interim award made under sub-section (1)”. Thus, there was sufficient legislative recognition given to an interim award under the 1940 Act.[18] The said Act, in fact, went a step further and established parity between an interim award and a final award as well. Therefore, due to reasons as are applicable under the A&C Act, the dictum in Satwant Singh Sodhi cannot co-exist even under the 1940 Act.
 B.     The elements of “Finality” and “Conclusiveness” attached to an “Interim Award”.
It is now settled law that an interim award is a decision or a determination which conclusively and finally settles an issue or a matter with respect to which the parties were at dispute.[19] While different judgements characterise an interim award differently,[20] in essence, such award may be described to be as follows: -
(i)                 It is a decision or a determination by an arbitral tribunal;
(ii)               rendered in accordance with the form and content requirements under Section 31 of the A&C Act;
(iii)             which “conclusively” and “finally” decides or disposes of;
(iv)             any issue(s) or matter(s) at which parties to the arbitration are at dispute, or which is/are the subject-matter of adjudication between the parties (for example, claims and counterclaims).
Thus, decisions dealing, inter alia, with claims and counterclaims raised by parties forming the fulcrum of the subject-matter of an arbitration, with the issue of whether a claim is time-barred,[21] with questions of liability and damages, typically qualify as interim awards. Decisions on questions relating to the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal do not qualify as interim awards as they are covered under Section 16 of the Act. Further, orders having a bearing on the procedure of an arbitration, or even procedural orders purporting to determine certain valuable rights of parties, albeit final, do not qualify as interim awards.[22] For example, an order either accepting or rejecting a party’s request to place on record additional documents does not amount to an interim award.[23]
From the above delineated characteristics, it can be seen that the “finality” and the “conclusiveness” of a decision form two important elements of an interim award. Given the significance attached to these two components, it is difficult to reconcile the same with the transient notion of an interim award, as contained in Satwant Singh Sodhi. If a decision is such that it finally and conclusively determines certain issues forming the subject-matter of an arbitration, how is it that by mere playful wording of the arbitrators such decision would lose its essence of finality and conclusiveness? The issue as to whether a decision amounts to an interim award is, though by its nature fact-based,[24] a binary enquiry – either it is, or it is not an interim award. It would be of grave contradiction and bewilderment to state that a decision is an interim award, but would be final, conclusive and possess preclusive effects only until a final award is passed. If such were to be the case, then such decision should never qualify to be an “award” in the first place – its ephemeral nature is such that it must rather qualify to be an order.
However, despite such inherent contradictions, the dictum in Satwant Singh Sodhi continues to form part of the jurisprudence relating to the qualitative constituents of an interim award. The authors opine that such contradiction is in no way reconcilable with the ethos and nature of what truly constitutes an interim award. Therefore, in their respectful submission, the authors opine that the decision of the SC in Satwant Singh Sodhi requires a thorough relook and a serious reconsideration.
 C.    The Arbitral Tribunal becomes functus officio in relation to the “Interim Award”.
As stated in the previous part of this write-up, a decision to qualify as an interim award must necessarily comprise certain requisite characteristics. One such characteristic feature which is closely related to the “finality” and “conclusiveness” of interim awards is the fact that upon the rendering of such award, the arbitral tribunal becomes functus officio in relation to such award.[25] In fact, the SC in Satwant Singh Sodhi also states that, “once an award has been given by the arbitrator he becomes functus officio”.[26] The effect of the application of this doctrine is such that once an “award” has been rendered, the arbitrator cannot revisit and reconsider his/her findings and determinations under such award.[27] The utility of this doctrine can be seen in the fact that it ensures that the determination of rights and liabilities between parties is given finality and is respected. If such determinations were to remain inherently temporary, then parties’ interests would be jeopardised owing to uncertainty and lack of clarity. Furthermore, the aforesaid doctrine ensures that rules and laws relating to limitation are applied and followed in a certain and systematic manner.
However, despite the recognition of the doctrine of functus officio within the conception of an interim award, the dictum enunciated in Satwant Singh Sodhi still persists. It is perplexing to comprehend as to how the doctrine of functus officio can co-exist with the transient nature of an interim award as laid down in Satwant Singh Sodhi. The ramifications ensuing from the said doctrine are by no means trivial. They are substantive in nature as they pertain to rights and liabilities of parties,[28] and they fundamentally affect the remit of an arbitrator’s functions and responsibilities. That being the case, the dictum in Satwant Singh Sodhi is such that it renders the effects flowing out of an interim award completely malleable. Therefore, the authors are of the view that once an arbitrator renders an interim award, he/she must be precluded from revisiting the determinations and decisions which are the subject-matter of such award. Unless this were to be the understanding accorded to an interim award, the very existence of the notion of such award under the A&C Act would be defeated.
In light of the foregoing, the authors argue that the law laid down in Satwant Singh Sodhi is fundamentally antithetical to the concept of an “interim award”, both under the 1940 and 1996 arbitration legislations. Owing to this, the said judgement must be either judicially or legislatively overruled. 



[1] Fifth-year students at National Law University, Jodhpur, India.
[2] Satwant Singh Sodhi v. State of Punjab and Ors, MANU/SC/0212/1999.  
[3] Id., para 6.
[4] Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited v. Bhadra Products, (2018) 2 SCC 534; Aero Club v. Solar Creations Pvt. Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 472; NTPC v. Siemens Atiengesellschaft, MANU/DE/0765/2005; RK Industries v. Maximus International General Trading LLC, Dubai, MANU/RH/1064/2018; Surjit Singh & Ors. v. Tarlok Singh & Ors., MANU/PH/0674/2013; Damani Construction Company v. State of Arunachal Pradesh and Ors., MANU/GH/0670/2005; he Union of India v. Best Cast Construction Pvt. Ltd., MANU/KA/2940/2014; Harinarayan G. Bajaj v. Sharedeal Financial Consultants Pvt. Ltd. & Ors., MANU/MH/0864/2002; Gammon India Ltd. v. Sankaranarayana Construction (Bangalore) Pvt. Ltd., MANU/TN/3737/2009
[5] Aero Club v. Solar Creations Pvt. Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 472.
[6] McDermott International Inc. v. Burn Standard Co. Ltd. & Ors., (2006) 11 SCC 181.
[7] Id., para 68.
[8] The Delhi High Court in NTPC v. Siemens Atiengesellschaft [MANU/DE/0765/2005], stated that, “there is no comprehensive definition of ‘award’ in the Act, except that contained in Section 2 despite consequences of great importance resulting from an arbitral award”.
[9] Satish Kumar & Ors. v. Surinder Kumar & Ors., (1969) 2 SCR 244.
[10] Uttam Singh Dugal & Co. v. Union of India, Civil Appeal No. 162 of 1962, judgement delivered on 11.10.1962.
[11] Satish Kumar & Ors. v. Surinder Kumar & Ors., (1969) 2 SCR 244, para 9. The Court stated that – “…an award has some legal force and is not a mere wastepaper”.
[12] Id.
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] See for instance Damani Construction Company v. State of Arunachal Pradesh and Ors., MANU/GH/0670/2005; The Union of India v. Best Cast Construction Pvt. Ltd., MANU/KA/2940/2014, para 19 – “Though point No. 1 has been answered in the affirmative i.e. in favour of revision petitioner, point No. 2 becoming academic, same is also answered since it is found that said issue is coming up before trial courts quite often”.
[17] Gammon India Ltd. v. Sankaranarayana Construction (Bangalore) Pvt. Ltd., MANU/TN/3737/2009, para 15.
[18] Id.
[19] Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited v. Bhadra Products, (2018) 2 SCC 534; ONGC Petro Additions Limited v. Tecnimont S.P.A. & Anr., O.M.P. (Comm) 196/2019, judgement on 01.07.2019; McDermott International Inc. v. Burn Standard Co. Ltd. & Ors., (2006) 11 SCC 181; Aero Club v. Solar Creations Pvt. Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 472; NTPC v. Siemens Atiengesellschaft, MANU/DE/0765/2005; J.P. Glass Industries v. Pramode Kumar Nathani, MANU/WB/0856/2014; Karam Chand Thapar and Bros (CS) Ltd. v. National Hydroelectric Power Corp. and Ors., MANU/DE/2685/2009; The Union of India v. Best Cast Construction Pvt. Ltd., MANU/KA/2940/2014; Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board v. Aban Constructions & Ors., MANU/TN/0914/2001; Liberty Shoes Limited v. Harish Kumar Gupta & Ors., MANU/PH/1043/2006; Harinarayan G. Bajaj v. Sharedeal Financial Consultants Pvt. Ltd. & Ors., MANU/MH/0864/2002.
[20] Id.
[21] Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited v. Bhadra Products, (2018) 2 SCC 534.
[22] ONGC Petro Additions Limited v. Tecnimont S.P.A. & Anr., O.M.P. (Comm) 196/2019, judgement on 01.07.2019.
[23] Id.
[24] Aero Club v. Solar Creations Pvt. Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 472.
[25] NTPC v. Siemens Atiengesellschaft, MANU/DE/0765/2005; Harinarayan G. Bajaj v. Sharedeal Financial Consultants Pvt. Ltd. & Ors., MANU/MH/0864/2002; Aero Club v. Solar Creations Pvt. Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 472.
[26] Satwant Singh Sodhi, para 7.
[27] U.P. Power Corporation Ltd., Lucknow v. Universal Insulators of Ceramics Ltd., Rae Bareli, (2006) 3 All LJ 10 (DB).
[28] Thirumalai Chemicals Ltd. v. Union of India, (2011) 6 SCC 739.