"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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Irrelevance of Seat in Domestic Arbitration: SC Agrees in Principle

In a previous post in this blog, we had argued: "For domestic arbitrations, it is necessary to abandon the concept of seat as it is understood in international arbitration parlance." Readers are kindly request to read this post before reading the below post or the decision.

The Supreme Court of India seems to agree with this in principle in its decision today (29.04.2020) in the case of Quippo Construction Equipment Ltd. v Janardan Nirman Pvt. Ltd. (CA 2738/2020). Although the Supreme Court has not directly addressed the issue in depth, it has stated:

"The specification of “place of arbitration” may have special significance in an International Commercial Arbitration, where the “place of arbitration” may determine which curial law would apply. However, in the present case, the applicable substantive as well as curial law would be the same."

This is not the first time an Indian court has expressed doubts over BALCO and subsequent decisions importing the concept of seat from international commercial arbitration to domestic arbitration. The Calcutta High Court has held in the case of Debdas Routh and Ors. v. Hinduja Leyland Finance Ltd. and Ors. (2018) 4 CALLT 57 (HC): 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 14093 : AIR 2018 Cal 322 that juridical seat of arbitration was irrelevant in domestic arbitrations since arbitration law did not change based on the designation of place of arbitration (see Para 67 of the decision).

Therefore, it is time that courts revisit this fancy but needless innovation of importing the ICA concept of seat into domestic arbitration.