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Bakhtawar Lal and ors. Vs. Ram Kumar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectArbitration
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberF.A.F.O. No. 412 of 1976
Judge
Reported inAIR1986All160
ActsArbitration Act, 1940 - Sections 30; Registration Act, 1908 - Sections 17
AppellantBakhtawar Lal and ors.
RespondentRam Kumar and ors.
Appellant AdvocateA.K. Sharma and ;S.S. Bhatnagar, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateS.P. Srivastava, Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
.....all 717 a division bench of this court held :it is a well established principle of law that an arbitrator ought not to hear or receive evidence from one side in the absence of the other side without giving the side affected by such evidence the opportunity of meeting and answering..........it is not established from these papers that any joint meeting had taken place. in fact, in the award the arbitrator himself admitted that :'alag alag bhi suna tatha shankayan vyakt ki jhagre ke her pahlu ko mainen vistar se dekha samjha aur suna.'11. this is an admission by the arbitrator himself that he heard one of the parties in the absence of the other. this he was not authorised to do.12. it is settled that before the arbitrator also the principles of natural justice are applied the requirement of the principles of natural justice, as laid down by the courts from time to time, is that one party should not be heard in absence of the other. to do so may affect the mind to the prejudice of the absenting party which may not have any chance to wipe it off. it is for this reason that.....
Judgment:

K.C. Agarwal, J.

1. This is an appeal filed under Section 39(1)(vi) of the Arbitration Act against the judgment of the First Civil Judge, Meerut, dt. 13th April, 1976, setting aside the award dt. 26th July, 1971, given by Kailash Chand Mittal. The appellant was the head of the joint Hindu family, of which respondents 1 to 12 were the members. These respondents can be grouped into two parties. The first party consisted of the appellant and respondents 1 to 5. whereas the second party consisted of respondents 6 to 12. It is in this fashion that the two sides have been defined in the arbitration agreement dt. 13-5-1971, which led to the award dt. 26-7-1971. On behalf of the first party the appellant had signed the agreement, whereas on behalf of respondents 6 to 12 the agreement was signed by Smt. Sumitra Devi, respondent 6. The arbitrator gave notice of the award on July 26, 1971. He gave copies of the award to both sets of parties, the original remained with the arbitrator.

2. An application under Section 14(2) of the Arbitration Act was filed by the appellant for filing the award in Court and for making the same a rule of the Court.

3. The arbitrator filed the original award, which was paper No. 9-Kha along with the agreement paper No. 10 Kha. The respondents filed objections against this award. One objection was filed by respondents 6, 7 and 9, and the other was fifed by respondents 8, 11 and 12. The objection of respondents 8, 11 and 12 was that Smt. Sumittra Devi had since not taken permission of the District Judge, she was not entitled or authorised to appoint an arbitrator on their behalf. Respondents 6, 7 and 9 also took a number of objections, including that the arbitrator had misconducted himself by the hearing the first party behind the back of the second party, and that the award was arbitrary. These objections were contested by the appellant by means of a reply. He supported the award by taking the plea that the same did not suffer from any error which could vitiate the same.

4. On the pleadings of the parties, the learned Civil Judge framed seven issues. Out of these seven issues, the relevant ones are Issues Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 6. These issues are being reproduced below :--

'1. Whether defendant 6 had no right to refer the matter to arbitration on behalf of the minors without obtaining the permission of the District Judge? If so, its effect?

2. Whether the reference was beyond the powers of the natural guardians for the reasons mentioned in para two of the objections of the opposite parties Nos. 8 to 12?

5. Whether no proper opportunity was afforded by the arbitrator to opposite parties for conducting their case? If so, its effect?

6. Whether the award is arbitrary?

5. Learned Civil Judge decided the aforesaid issues in favour of Respondent 6 and other respondents supporting her. He held that the arbitrator had heard the appellant behind the back of the respondents, and that he did not inform those respondents about its hearing. As a result of this, the arbitrator had misconducted himself. On the objection of respondents 8, 11 and 12, with regard to the authority of Smt. Sumitra Devi, respondent 6 to enter into the arbitration agreement without the permission of the District Judge, the finding given was that Section 8 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act required obtaining of permission by the District Judge and since this was not done, the award was vitiated. On these findings, the award was set aside.

6. Aggrieved, the appellant, who applied for making of the award a rule of the Court, has filed this appeal.

7. Sri S. S. Bhatnagar, learned counsel appearing for the appellant, urged that since under the arbitration agreement, the arbitrator had been given the authority to give the award on the basis of his personal knowledge, the Court below committed an error in finding that the award was vitiated on account of hearing by the arbitrator of the appellant in the absence of the respondents.

8. For this purpose, we may extract the relevant portion of the arbitration agreement under which the arbitrator is said to have heard the appellant in the absence of the respondent and did not inform these respondents about the hearing which took place in their absence and behind their back. The relevant portion is given below :

'Ham Dono Fariq Se Hamare Jumla Mamlaat Va Halat Sun Ker Va Samajh Ker Va Neez Hamara Zabavi Va Kagazi Saboot Le Ker Va Apni Jati Wakfiyat Va Jankari Ki Bina Per Aakhir April Yani Tees April San 1971 Isvi Tak Jo bhi Faisala Salasi Sadir Ker Dengen Voh Ham Dono Farik Ko Her Halat Men Qabool Va Manzoor Hoga.'

9. In our opinion, the aforesaid clause did not entitle the arbitrator to hear one of the two parties in the absence of the other. What at the most it could be construed was that the arbitrator could give the award on the basis of his personal knowledge, but did not entitle him to hear one of the two parties in the absence of the other. Hearing of the appellant, therefore, in the absence of the contesting respondents 6, 7 and 9 vitiated the award. The Court below was right in deciding issuesNos. 1 and 2 against the appellant and in finding that the award was vitiated on that account. In fact, in the reply filed to the objection of respondents 6, 7 and 9, the appellant admitted in para 3(1) by saying :

'the arbitrator heard the parties jointly in several meetings and also heard them separately.'

10. It was subsequently that the appellant changed his case by pleading that the arbitrator did not hear the two parties in the absence of each other and wanted to establish that the arbitrator heard both of them together and jointly. Neither before the Court below nor before us any evidence from the record was shown which could establish that the two parties were heard jointly by the arbitrator. The arbitrator had filed along with the award other papers which were maintained by him. None of them is a minute of the proceedings of the arbitration. It is not established from these papers that any joint meeting had taken place. In fact, in the award the arbitrator himself admitted that :

'Alag Alag Bhi Suna Tatha Shankayan Vyakt Ki Jhagre Ke Her Pahlu Ko Mainen Vistar Se Dekha Samjha Aur Suna.'

11. This is an admission by the arbitrator himself that he heard one of the parties in the absence of the other. This he was not authorised to do.

12. It is settled that before the arbitrator also the principles of natural justice are applied The requirement of the principles of natural justice, as laid down by the Courts from time to time, is that one party should not be heard in absence of the other. To do so may affect the mind to the prejudice of the absenting party which may not have any chance to wipe it off. It is for this reason that there is requirement of hearing in a proceeding in the presence of each other. This question has been considered by Jackson in his book on 'Natural Justice' at pages 148 and 155, as below :

'As arbitrator or quasi arbitrator, in the sense those terms seem to have been used in Sutcliffe v. Thackrah and Arenson v. Arenson, must observe the rules of natural justice in reaching a decision.'

'Thus, if there is an oral hearing the parties must be heard together in each other's presence and the witnesses cannot be examined behind the backs of the parties; Drew v. Drew (1855) 2 Macq 1, 3 per Loni Crapworth LC. Nor can evidence be taken from one party, in the absence of the other, after the hearing has ended.'

13. Russell in his book on Arbitration at pages 225 and 226 has emphasised thus :

'The first principle is that the arbitrator must act, fairly to both parties, and in the proceedings throughout the reference he must not favour one party more than another, or do anything for one party which he does not do or offer to do for the other. He must observe in this the ordinary well-understood rules for the administration of justice'. 'An arbitrator must not hear one, party or his witnesses in the absence of the other party or his representative. 'Except in a few cases, where exceptions are unavoidable, both sides must be heard and each in the presence of the other'. The principles of universal justice require that the person who is to be prejudiced by the evidence ought to be present to hear it taken, to suggest cross examination or himself to cross examine, and to be able to find evidence, if he can, that shall meet and answer it; in short, to deal with it as in the ordinary course of legal proceedings.'

14. In Payyavula Vengamma v. Payyavula Kesanna, AIR 1953 SC 21, Paras 8 and 9, the Supreme Court was called upon td consider the effect of hearing defendant 1 of that case in the absence of the plaintiff. The Supreme Court held the arbitrator to be guilty of misconduct by observing that the course of proceeding adopted by the arbitrator was contrary to the principles of natural justice.

15. In Banwari Lal v. Jagannath Prasad, AIR 1958 All 717 a Division Bench of this Court held :

'It is a well established principle of law that an arbitrator ought not to hear or receive evidence from one side in the absence of the other side without giving the side affected by such evidence the opportunity of meeting and answering it.'

16. Learned counsel for the appellant urged that as the arbitrator had the power to hear one of the parties in the absence of the other, the award could not be vitiated on that ground. We are unable to find substance in this submission. The relevant portion of the arbitration agreement has already been extracted above. From the portion quoted above, it would be found that the power was that the arbitrator could decide the case on the basis of his personal knowledge. This personal knowledge, however, did riot include within its ambit the power to hear one of the two parties in the absence of the other. The arbitration agreement did not confer the power which the learned counsel for the appellant tried to read in the agreement. It appears to us, therefore, that by hearing the appellant in the absence of the respondents, the arbitrator committed violation of the principles of natural justice and this violation would amount to misconduct.

17. The next point raised by the respondents' learned counsel was that as Smt. Sumittra Devi, respondent 6, had not obtained previous permission of the District Judge before entering into the arbitration agreement, the agreement entered into by her on behalf of the minors was invalid. For this submission, reliance was placed on Section 8 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act. Interpreting the expression 'or otherwise' used in this section, learned counsel submitted that the said expression used in Section 8 has to be given the interpretation so as to prohibit the natural guardian to deal with the property of the minors in any other manner, which would include submitting to arbitration.

18. This argument was sought to be countered by the appellants' counsel by submitting that Section 8 of the aforesaid Act, empowered the natural guardian to do all acts which were necessary or reasonable and proper for the minor or for realisation, protection or benefit of minor's estate. That being so, counsel urged that Section 8 empowered the natural guardian to enter into an arbitration agreement.

19. Since the award is liable to be set aside on the first ground given above, we do not consider it necessary to decide the second one.

20. So far as the third ground is concerned, that was relating to want of registration. Counsel for the respondents urged that from a perusal of the arbitration agreement of reference, it appears that the subject matter of dispute included immovable properties, and, as such, the award given by the arbitrator was required to be registered. Admittedly, the award given by the arbitrator was required to be registered. The appellants' counsel, however, urged that an award directing a party to pay certain amount to another does not require registration arid since in the present case one party, namely, the appellant had been directed to pay a certain sum of money to the other party, namely, the respondents, the award could not be held to be invalid on that ground. The question of registration of the award becomes immaterial when we have set aside the same on the first ground, stated above.

21. In this appeal, we had given time to the counsel for the parties to settle their difference, which is the subject matter of this appeal, but it is our regret to mention that the two parties have not done the same. One party accused the other of being obstructive in the compromise being arrived at between them. Since we find that the parties could not settle their difference and compromise the same, we had to decide the appeal on merits:

In the result, the appeal fails and is dismissed with costs to respondent No. 6.


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