D.P. Uniyal, J.
1, This is a revision against an order of the Civil Judge, Kanpur, dated 25-8-55 setting aside the order of the Munsif dated 23-10-53 by which he passed a decree in terms of the award.
2. The facts of the case are these. The parties to the dispute are alleged to have entered into an arbitration agreement to refer their disputes to certain named arbitrators. The arbitrators gave an award which was signed by both the parties. Thereafter; an application under Section 14 of the Arbitration Act was filed in the court of the Munsif by one of the arbitrators with a prayer that the award be made the rule of the court. Notices were issued to the parties concerned and the opposite parties thereupon tiled objections to the award. One of the objections raised was that the arbitration agreement had been obtained by fraud and further that the same was bad on account of vagueness.
3. The learned Munsif found that the opposite parties had signed the arbitration agreement and the allegation of fraud by them had not been substantiated. He further held that the reference to arbitration was not vague and that the award and the reference should be read together in order to ascertain the disputes between the parties. In his opinion the evidence in thecase disclosed that the disputes between the parties had been fully made clear to the arbitrators who after examining the evidence had made the award which was also signed by the parties. He was also of the opinion that it was not open to the opposite parties to challenge the agreement of reference as that was a matter which the court could not properly adjudicate upon while considering the objection as to the validity of the award.
4. The learned Civil Judge in appeal set aside the order of the Munsif on the ground that the agreement of reference was bad for indefiniteness, and that the disputes between the parties had not been clearly mentioned in the said agreement.
5. A preliminary objection was raised by the learned counsel for the apposite parties about the maintainability of the revision. He contended that the finding recorded by the lower appellate court was a finding of fact and that the lower appellate court had not committed any illegality in the exercise of jurisdiction in making the order. On behalf of the applicant it was contended, on the other hand, that the jurisdictional fact on which the appellate court assumed jurisdiction was that the agreement of reference was vitiated by vagueness. The appellate court had no jurisdiction to enter into the question of the validity of the agreement of reference and, as such, had wrongly assumed jurisdiction in deciding a question which could not be the subject of challenge in an application to set aside the award. He relied on Chaube Jagdish Prasad v. Ganga Prasad : AIR1959SC492 where it was held that if an erroneous decision of a subordinate court resulted in its exercising jurisdiction not vested in it by law, a case for the exercise of power of Jurisdiction by the High Court is made out.
6. The first question, therefore, that falls to be determined is whether the learned Civil Judge had decided the jurisdictional fact erroneously and thereby assumed jurisdiction not vested in him. The argument was that the opposite parties had applied to have the award set aside on the ground that the arbitration agreement was invalid on the ground of vagueness. It was urged that in an application to set aside an award the validity of the arbitration agreement could not be challenged because it was a matter anterior to the award.
7. Section 30 of the Arbitration Act sets out the grounds upon which as award may be set aside. It reads thus:--
'An award shall not be set aside except on one or more of the following grounds:
(a) That an arbitrator Or umpire has misconducted himself or the proceedings;
(b) that an award has been made after issue of order by the court superseding the arbitration or after the arbitration proceedings have become invalid under Section 35;
(c) that an award has been improperly procured or is otherwise invalid.'
8. It is to be observed that the grounds upon which an award can be set aside do notembrace the invalidity of an arbitration agreement. On behalf of the opposite parties it was contended that the expression in Clause (c) of Section 30 'or is otherwise invalid'' would include the invalidity of an arbitration agreement as being one of the grounds on which an award may be set aside. This brings me to the consideration of the question as to whether the expression 'or is otherwise invalid'' in Clause (c) of Section 30 is to be taken as ejusdem generis with the words preceding, or whether it is comprehensive enough to include all kinds of objections. A similar question came up for consideration before their Lordships of the privy Council in Chhabba Lal v. Kallu Lal . In that case their Lordships were considering the provisions of Para 15 of Schedule II C.P.C. Clause (c) of Para 15 C. P. C. was in the same terms as Clause (c) of Section 30, Arbitration Act. One of the questions before their Lordships of the Privy Council was whether an objection to the validity of reference to arbitration comes within the provisions of Para 15 of Schedule II C.P.C. It was held by the Privy Council that the context in which those words occur leave no room for doubt that those words have be used ejusdem generis with the preceding sentences in Clause (c) and that
'all the powers conferred upon a court in relation to an award on ,a reference made in a suit pre-suppose a valid reference on which award has been made which may be open to question. If there is no valid reference the purported award is 'a nullity and can be challenged in any appropriate proceeding'.
9. It would thus appear that the true meaning and effect of the words 'or being otherwise invalid'' in Clause (c) of Section 30 of the Arbitration Act is that the party challenging the award muse be presumed to accept the validity of the reference on which the award is based. In other words, the award cannot be challenged on the ground of invalidity of reference but only on the grounds which are to be found in Section 30 of the Act. The reason for this view is that if the reference to arbitration itself is invalid the award would be void and, therefore a nullity. It is well recognised that a void award or decree need not be challenged because it is in law non-existent and, therefore, unenforceable. On the other hand, when an application to set aside an award is made under Section 30 it is supposed that the award is voidable and not void. Therefore, unless an award which is invalid is removed or set aside by an order of the court, it will continue to be a good award and binding on the parties. Hence the necessity to set aside an award which is invalid and is voidable.
10. The same result is reached when we refer to Section 33 of the Arbitration Act. Section 33 is in these terms:--
'Any party to an arbitration agreement, or any person claiming under him, desiring to challenge the existence or validity of an arbitration agreement or award or to have the effect of either determined, shall apply to the court and the court shall decide the question on affidavits : Provided that where the court deems it just and expedient it may set down the applicationfor hearing on other evidence also and it may pass such orders for discovery of particulars as it may do in a suit.'
11. Section 33 is the only section under which an application can be made challenging the existence, or validity of the arbitration agreement or the award. Even if the award is sought to be challenged an application has to be made under Section 33. Section 30 does not deal with applications to set aside an award at all. It deals with, what the powers of the court are when an application is made to set aside an award and the grounds upon which the award can be set aside. If the aggrieved party does not want to have the award set aside and seeks to challenge the arbitration agreement itself, then the court has power under Section 33 to determine the existence 'or invalidity of the arbitration agreement and to declare, if satisfied, that it is non-existent or invalid. On such decision the purported award becomes a nullity and void ab initio. Such an award does not require to be set aside. The court is, however, empowered under Section 33 to declare an arbitration agreement to be non-existent or invalid. Such a declaration would not touch the question of the validity of the award at all because it would be assumed that the award is a nullity. The procedure which has to be followed in a case where a challenge is made to the validity of an arbitration agreement is that laid down in Section 33 itself. The matter has to be decided on the basis of affidavits, unless the court deems it just and expedient to record evidence on the matter. A declaration made under Section 33 is final and is not subject to an appeal or revision.
12. The above discussion would -lead to the conclusion that the objection of the opposite parties in the present case in so far as it related to the validity of the arbitration agreement could not be gone into by the learned Civil Judge in an application made to set aside an award. I am fortified in my view by the decision of Basant Lal v. Surendra Prasad : AIR1957Pat417 which adopted the view of the Privy Council in the case of . In view of the above discussion I am of opinion that the learned Civil Judge bad committed an error in deciding a furisdictional fact, namely, that the arbitration agreement was invalid. He had wrongly assumed jurisdiction in deciding that question. In this view of the matter the revision is maintainable.
13. The learned counsel for the opposite parties has strongly relied on the cases of Saha and Co. v. Ishwar Singh Kripal Singh and Co. : AIR1956Cal321 and A. R. Savkur v. Amritiai Kalidas : AIR1954Bom293 for the proposition that in Clause (c) of Section 30 the expression ''or is otherwise invalid' is not ejusdem generis and extends the jurisdiction of the court to set aside an award on grounds other than those mentioned in Clauses. (a), (b) and (c) of Sec, 30. With great respect, I find it difficult to accede to this view.
14. The opening words of Section 30 that 'An awardshall not be set aside' postulate the existence of anaward based on a valid arbitration agreement orreference. On the other hand when a challenge ismade under Section 33 to the existence or validity of onarbitration agreement Or award it is assumed that there is really no arbitration agreement or award in existence as contemplated by the Act and, therefore, a declaration is sought to that effect in order to remove all doubts in the matter.
15. Turning now to the present case it would appear that the objection of the opposite parties was to have the award set aside and not to obtain a declaration that the effect of the arbitration agreement be determined. According to the case of the opposite parties there was no inherent or patent vice in the award itself. The challenge was confined to the arbitration agreement which was alleged to be defective on the ground of vagueness or indefiniteness. Clearly it was not open to them to get round the award without' impeaching its validity. If there was any illegality in the arbitration agreement that could not be determined by making an application to set aside the award. If the award was validly made then it could not be set aside on the footing that the arbitration agreement was defeceive because that would be travelling beyond the ambit of Section 30 of the Act. I am therefore of opinion that the order of the Civil Judge was illegal and without jurisdiction.
16. I, therefore, allow this revision, set asidethe order of the Civil Judge and restore that of theMunsif. The applicant is entitled to his costs inthis Court.