Understanding the Role and Power of Judicial Authority in Arbitration under Section 45 & 54 of The Arbitration and Conciliation Act
Arbitration represents a critical alternative dispute resolution mechanism in India, supported by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. The judicial authority’s role in arbitration is a unique blend of intervention and non-intervention, as defined by the Act. Two pivotal sections of this Act – Section 45 and Section 54 – contribute significantly towards defining their responsibilities. In this article, the legal experts from SimranLaw simplify these complex legal provisions.
The Judicial Authority under Section 45
Section 45 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act deals with the power to refer parties to arbitration. Upon receiving an arbitration agreement that is not null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed, the judicial authority must refer parties to arbitration. Therefore, the court plays a crucial role in upholding arbitration agreements.
A case that highlights this responsibility is World Sport Group (Mauritius) Ltd. VS MSM Satellite (Singapore) Pte Ltd. In this case, the Supreme Court applied Section 45 to uphold an international commercial arbitration clause despite allegations of fraud, subsequently referring parties to arbitration.
The Judicial Authority under Section 54
The New York Convention primarily governs Section 54, which outlines the enforcement of foreign awards. The judicial authority has an obligation to enforce a foreign award unless it violates public policy or does not conform to the Convention’s terms.
The landmark case of Renusagar Power Co. Limited vs General Electric Company is particularly enlightening on this subject. The Supreme Court stated that enforcement could be refused only if it was contrary to (1) fundamental policy of Indian law; (2) the interests of India; or (3) justice or morality. The judicial authority must, therefore, strike a balance between upholding foreign awards and safeguarding the nation’s interests.
The Power of Judicial Authority
The power of judicial authority in arbitration is one of discretion rather than compulsion. The court must exercise its powers judiciously, always favoring arbitration over litigation. The aim is to empower the parties to resolve disputes themselves and ensure swift justice.
A case that amplifies this is P Anand Gajapathi Raju & Ors vs P.V.G. Raju (Died) & Ors, where the Supreme Court held that courts should adopt a non-obstructive approach and interfere minimally when referring parties to arbitration.
Thus, the role and power of the judicial authority in arbitration are marked by deference to parties’ autonomy and recognition of arbitration’s efficiency as a dispute resolution mechanism. Sections 45 and 54 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, coupled with relevant rulings, embody this balance between intervention and non-intervention.
However, the courts must maintain discretion while exercising their powers to uphold the Act’s spirit and ensure the dispute resolution process’s smooth functioning.
At SimranLaw, our team of experts is committed to helping you navigate these complexities with professionalism and accuracy. Whether you’re grappling with an arbitration issue or just want to better understand the law, we’re here to help.