R.R. Rastogi, J.
1. This is an application under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure preferred against an order passed by the Additional District Judge, Kanpur on 22-6-1977 dismissing the appeal of the plaintiff-applicant with costs. The brief facts are these :
The plaintiff-applicant, Jupitar Chit Fund Pvt. Ltd. is a private limited company and Yugal Kishore Mansarmani is its Managing Director. The applicant ran a chit fund scheme and defendant-opposite party No. 1 joined that scheme on 11-4-1966 and was allotted Chit No. 30, the value being Rs. 10,000/-. The defendant No. 1 was paid Rupees 6,000/- after deducting Rs. 4,000/- on account of discount and the amount was repayable in monthly instalments of Rs. 200/- each. Defendants 2 to 4 were sureties and on 19-4-1966 parties entered into an agreement, one of the clauses of which provided for arbitration in the event of any difference arising between the parties. Sri Sheo She-khar Dikshit was named as the sole arbitrator. This agreement was in the form of the letters addressed to the applicant, one by defendant No. 1 and the other by defendants 2 to 4 and the case was that the acceptance on behalf of the applicant was made orally and was also implied from the course of conduct of the parties.
2. Defendant No. 1 committed default in payment of instalments, whereupon the applicant referred the dispute to the arbitration of Sri Sheo Shekhar Dikshit, Advocate and that case was registered as Case No. D97 of 1970. The arbitrator started arbitration proceedings and issued a notice to the defendants pursuant to which they put in appearance and filed an objection challenging the arbitration agreement as also the making of a reference. In the meantime on 3-5-1976 the arbitrator died. The plaintiff-applicant then presented a petition under Section 20 of the Arbitration Act (hereinafter the Act) which was registered as Suit No. 2292 of 1976 in the Court of Munsif City Kanpur. It was prayed that the defendants be called upon to file the arbitration agreement, that reference may be made to an arbitrator appointed by the Court, that the arbitrator be directed to file the award in the Court and a decree be passed in terms thereof.
3. The defendants contested the petition on various grounds. It was contended that defendants 2 to 4 had not guaranteed the payment of the amount advanced to defendant No. 1, that they never entered into an arbitration agreement, that the filing of objections by them before the arbitrator could not entitle the plaintiff to file the petition under Section 20 of the Act. It was further pleaded that the suit in the present form was not maintainable and Sri Mansarmani had no authority to sign and file the plaint on behalf of the plaintiff company. Plea of limitation was also taken. It was also pleaded that reliefs 3 and 4 as claimed could not be granted.
4. The trial Court framed as many as 10 issues and barring issues Nos. 6, 8 and 10 the rest were decided in favour of the applicant. Issues Nos. 6, 8 and 10 were as under :
No. 6 : Whether reliefs 3 and 4 of the plaint are beyond the scope of Section 20 of the Indian Arbitration Act?
No. 8 : To what relief, if any, is the plaintiff entitled?
No. 10 : Whether in view of paragraphs 6 and 7 of the plaint (sic)
5. The trial Court held on issue No. 6 that it was beyond the scope of Section 20 of the Act to allow reliefs 3 and 4. In relief No. 3 the prayer was for a direction to the arbitrator to give the award and file it in the Court and in relief. No. 4 the prayer was for the passing of a defence in terms of the award. On issue No. 10 the trial Court held that from perusal of the arbitration agreement it was clear that it was not the intention of the parties that in the event of the death of the arbitrator named in the agreement the vacancy was required to be filled in by an agreement between the parties and in case they did not agree then by theCourt and any how the proceedings would have to be taken under Section 8 and not under Section 20 of the Act and hence the suit was infructuous. On issue No. 8 the trial Court held that since steps had been taken by the plaintiff-applicant under Chapter II of the Act and the arbitrator had entered upon the reference, proceedings could not be taken under Section 20 of the Act. Hence the suit was held as non-maintainabje and further that the plaintiff was not entitled to any relief.
6. Aggrieved, the plaintiff-applicant filed an appeal and challenged the finding given by the trial Court on these three issues. During the hearing of the appeal on behalf of the defendants op-posite parties findings on issues Nos. 3, 4 and 9 were also challenged. Issue No. 3 was whether the parties had entered into an agreement to refer the dispute between them to the sole arbitration of Sheo Shekhar Dikshit. The appellate Court thus first addressed itself to the question as to whether there exists an arbitration agreement between the parties and after discussing the evidence came to the conclusion that there-was no arbitration agreement in law between the parties to the case and thus reversed the finding on issue Nc. 3 given by the trial Court. On issues Nos. 4 and 9. the appellate Court confirmed the findings of the trial Court. Coming to the plaintiff's attack to the findings on issues 6, 8 and 10, the appellate Court held that since there wat : no arbitration agreement, no relief can be granted to the plaintiff in these proceedings and further that the plaintiff having taken proceedings under Chapter II of the Act could not have taken recourse to Section 20 because there was nothing to show that the proceedings taken before the arbitration had come to an end before petition under Section 20 was given. Aggrieved, the plaintiff seeks the revision of these orders by way of present application.
7. It would be seen that two questions fall for consideration : Firstly, whether on the facts of the instant case recourse could be taken to Section 20 of the Act and secondly, whether there was any arbitration agreement arrived at between the parties.
8. I shall first take up the second question. As noted above the arbitration clause is contained in two separateletters of even date signed by defendant No. 1 and defendants 2 to 4 respectively to the plaintiff company. According to the plaintiff there was oral acceptance of that agreement on its behalf. The trial Court accepted this contention and recorded a finding in the affirmative. The appellate Court, on the other hand, has relying on Section 2(a) of the Act taken the view that there could not, have been oral acceptance of the agreement and further that Sri Mansarmani had not been authorised by the plaintiff to enter into an arbitration agreement on its behalf with any one. It was submitted by learned counsel for the defendants-opposite parlies that the later finding is a pure finding of fact which cannot be challenged before this Court. I am not inclined to agree with this contention because no such plea was taken in the written statement filed on behalf of the defendants. This contention was advanced only at the time of arguments without amending the written statement. It being a pure question of fact should not have been entertained in this manner at the appellate stage. In the written statement the defendants only disputed the authority of Sri Mansarmani to sign and verify the plaint on behalf of the plaintiff company. My attention was invited to a decision of this Court in Civil Revn. No. 956 of 1976 Jupitar Chit Fund Pvt. Ltd. v. Rajendra Singh, decided on 28-2-1979, wherein the making of the arbitration agreement in similar circumstances by Sri Mansarmani and ratification of the same by the plaintiff company was upheld. That was also a case of oral acceptance of the proposal contained in the letter of the subscriber to the Chit Fund and that was upheld. A copy of this judgment was made available to me at the time of the hearing of this revision. In my opinion, therefore, the Court below erred in entertaining this question of fact at the appellate stage and recording a finding on it without having afforded an opportunity to the plaintiff to controvert it.
9. Apart from this the view taken by the Court below that oral acceptance of such a proposal is not legally valid is not sound. Section 2(a) defines arbitration agreement to mean 'a written agreement to submit present orfuture difference to arbitration, whether an arbitrator is named therein or not.' It would be seen that no special form of agreement is necessary. All that is required is that there should be an agreement and the agreement is reduced to writing. In other words there should be an agreement the terms of which are expressed in writing and which are accepted by both the parties. Such acceptance may be in writing or oral. The agreement may be in the form of a signed document by both parties consisting of the terms, or a eigned document by one party consisting the terms and plain acceptance either signed or orally accepted by the other party, or in the third case, an unsigned document consisting the terms of submission to arbitration agreed to orally by both parties. See Jugal Ki-shore Rameshwar Dass v. Mrs. Goolbai Hormusji (AIR 1955 SC 812). This finding of the Court below however, is patently erroneous in law and can be interfered with.
10. Therefore, so far as this question, is concerned it has to be decided in favour of the plaintiff-applicant.
11. Coming to the first question, the view taken by the Court below appears to be perfectly correct. Sub-section (1) of Section 20 of the Act as amended by U. P. Civil Laws (Reforms and Amendment) Act (Act 57 of 1976) reads :
'(1) Where any persons have entered into an arbitration agreement before the institution of any suit with respect to the subject matter of the agreement or any part of it, and where a difference has arisen to which the agreement applies, they or any of them, instead of proceeding under Chapter II, may apply to a Court, having jurisdiction in the matter to which the agreement relates, that a reference be made according to the agreement.'
This section falls in Chapter III of the Act. Chapter II is comprised of Sections 3 to 19 and provides for arbitration without intervention of a Court, Chapter III provides for arbitration with intervention of a Court where there is no suit pending. In order that an application may be made under Subsection (1) of Section 20, there must be an agreement to refer and it should have been entered into before a suitrelating to the subject matter of the dispute is filed by either party. A difference should have arisen between the parties and they or any of them should not have taken any proceeding under Chapter II of the Act, It is only when these three conditions are satisfied that a petition can be presented under this Sub-section. The reference to Chapter II indicates that this sub-section contemplates agreements to which the provisions of Chapter II would also apply, but it also provides that proceedings under this sub-section can be taken only if the parties or any one of them have/has not proceeded under Chapter II. Therefore, an application can be moved under this sub-section before a reference is made to the arbitrator/ arbitrators or the latter has entered on the reference. No application can be moved under this section where a reference has already been made to arbitrator/arbitrators and he/they had/have entered upon the reference but for some reasons or the other have not proceeded with the same. This principle of law has been laid down by the Full Bench of this Court in Mangal Prasad v. Lachhman Prasad (AIR 1964 All 108).
12. An attempt was made on behalf of the plaintiff-applicant to avoid the situation by contending that the reference made to the arbitrator under Chapter II of the Act by the plaintiff being unilateral was invalid and the arbitrator had no jurisdiction to proceed in the matter. I do not think that the plaintiff-applicant can be allowed to urge this plea when the reference was made by it itself. No attempt was made by the plaintiff-applicant to withdraw that reference. If the proceedings before the arbitrator taken under Chapter II had come to an end either as a result of some decision given by the arbitrator or as a consequence of the withdrawal of the proceedings the position certainly would have been different, but here it was not so. It was also contended that the defendants opposite-parties by challenging the very existence of the arbitration agreement prevented the arbitrator from proceeding in the matter. I do not find any merit in this contention either because under Section 13(b) of the Act the arbitrator would have stated a special case for the opinion of the Court on the question of law so involved or statedthe award wholly or in part, in the form of a special case of such question in the opinion of the Court. In other words, the defence taken by the defendants-opposite-parties did not make the arbitrator helpless in the matter. Lastly I do not think that it can be said with any justification that the arbitrator did not enter on the reference because he issued a notice to the defendants pursuant to which they appeared before him and filed their objection. Thus, the recourse to Section 20 was not open to the plaintiff-applicant in the present case.
13. My attention was, however, invited by the learned counsel for the plaintiff-applicant to certain decisions of this Court copies of which were furnished before me. I find that thev are all distinguishable on facts. In Civil Revn. No. 1019 of 1970 Lal Chan-dra v. Jupitar Chit Fund decided, on 6-7-1972 reference was made to arbitrator under Chapter II of the Act by Jupitar Chit Fund unilaterally. Lal Chandra on receiving notice from the arbitrator raised an objection that since there was no valid reference the arbitrator did not have jurisdiction or legal right to proceed in the matter. The arbitrator thereafter declined to proceed further and asked the interested party or parties to approach the Court for proper and appropriate orders. The Jupitar Chit Fund then made the application under Section 20 of the Act and it was held to be maintainable. It would be seen that the circumstances in that case were entirely different. In Civil Revn. No. 1797 of 1979, Jaginder Singh v. Jupitar Chit Fund. Civil Revn. No. 2147 of 1977, Radhey Shyam Maheshwari v. Jupitar Chit Fund Pvt. Ltd. both decided on 24-7-1979 similar references were made to the arbitrator under Chapter II, the award was given but the same was set aside by this Court for the reason that the reference was unilateral. Thereafter application under Section 20 was given and it was held maintainable. It would be seen that in that case also the facts were different. Same was the position in Civil Revision No. 1025 of 1978. Jupitar Chit Fund Pvt. Ltd. v. Sri Sheetla Charan Sri-vastava, decided on 24-7-1979.
14. The next is a Division Bench decision in First Appeal From OrderNo. 338 of 1975 (decided on 5-5-1977) Nagar Mahapalika, Kanpur v. Dalip Singh Vaish. Those proceedings had arisen from an application under Section 20(4) of the Act. The following observations made by the Court would go to support the view taken above.
'Sri J. N. Tewari contends that the remedy pursued by the plaintiff respondent prior to moving the application under Section 20(4) of the Arbitration Act was remedy provided under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act. We see absolutely no basis for this argument. The remedy pursued by the plaintiff-respondent was not a remedy under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act, but was a remedy stipulated under the agreement between the parties. If the plaintiff respondent had moved an application under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act, then in that case, he would not be entitled to move the application under Section 20 of the Arbitration Act inasmuch as it was open to him, either to pursue the remedy under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act or to pursue the remedy under Section 20(4) of the said Act'
These decisions, therefore, do not help the applicant.
15. I, therefore, agree with the view taken by the Court below and hold that on the admitted facts of the case recourse to Section 20 was not open in law to the plaintiff-applicant and the petition has been rightly dismissed.
16. The revision hence fails and is dismissed with costs to the defendants-opposite-parties.