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Louis Dreyfus and Co. Ltd. Vs. V.S. Balasubbaraya Chettiar and Son - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectArbitration
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.S.A. No. 60 of 1956
Judge
Reported inAIR1961Mad186; (1960)2MLJ372
ActsArbitration Act, 1940 - Sections 30
AppellantLouis Dreyfus and Co. Ltd.
RespondentV.S. Balasubbaraya Chettiar and Son
Appellant AdvocateKing and Partridge
Respondent AdvocateV.C. Gopalaratnam and ;V. Devarajan, Advs.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Cases ReferredAboobaker v. Reception Committee of
Excerpt:
arbitration - award - section 30 of arbitration act, 1940 - appeal against judgment setting aside award - arbitrators had not misconducted themselves or proceedings - respondents have not established any of grounds on which alone award may be set aside under section 30 - arbitrators were entitled to come to their own conclusion on evidence adduced before them - not open to court to examine correctness of conclusion arrived at by arbitrators - appeal allowed. - - double cross reel in bundles of 5 lbs (20 knots of xo hanks of 1680 yards each)..two bales have been opened and examined and precisely these bearing serial numbers 7-10 and from them samples have been drawn for test of condition, count lea strength and. 7. the learned judge considered that the evidence that the goods shipped..........the unproved assumption which went into the roof of the matter the award should be set aside. the learned judge accordingly set aside the award and also superseded the reference and directed that the arbitrators' agreement shall cease to have effect.6. the test certificate issued by the institute cotoniere italiano contained the following statement: (the extract is from one of them).'the following survey operations have been performed by the surveyor of this institute, mr. riccerdo orlandini on the following lot of yam declared to constitute 5 bales.....brand...... quality upper egyptian combed english count 1/80's twist wary,make up: double cross reel in bundles of 5 lbs (20 knots of xo hanks of 1680 yards each)....... two bales have been opened and examined and precisely these bearing.....
Judgment:

Rajamannar, C.J.

1. This is an appeal against the judgment of Balakrishna Aiyar, J. setting aside an award made on the 25th November 1952 in the following circumstances. On 30th January, 1952, the respondents, a registered firm of yam merchants carrying on business at Madras, agreed to buy from the appellant, Messrs. Louis Dreyfus and Co. Ltd., a company carrying on business at Madras ten bales of cotton yarn in hanks (2 crores) (XX) reels 1/80s combed Egyptian Warp Twist manufactured in Italy 5lb. bundles, 50 bundles per bale at 187 per lb. C. I. F, Madras in two lots of five bales each. By another contract, the respondents agreed to buy seven more bales of the same kind of yarn at 180 d. per lb. C. I. F.

On intimation received by the respondents that the said seventeen bales were due to arrive they paid for the drafts and obtained the respective bills of lading, took delivery on the 14th April, 1952 of the five bales on the 8th May, 1952, another five bales and on the 12th May 1952 the remaining seven bales. The respondents' case is that when they opened the bales delivered on the 14th April, 1952 and examined the yarn contained in the bales they found that the yarn delivered was not according to the contract but was inferior and not fit for warp for handloom weaving. The respondents therefore claimed from the appellant company damages for breach of warranty which they assessed in a sum of Rs. 10224.

The appellant company denied their liability. In accordance with a clause in the contracts which provided for settlement of disputes and differences by arbitration, the respondents appointed one Mr. D. C. Lyth of Messrs. Gordon Woodroffe and Co., as arbitrator and the appellant company appointed Mr. L. K. Pinto of Messrs. Rallis (India) Ltd., as arbitrator on their side. The arbitrators enquired into the claim. Oral and documentary evidence was adduced before the arbitrators who also heard arguments of the counsel on both sides. The arbitrators found that the yarn supplied by the appellant company was of a type and quality consistent with the contracts and that the respondents were not entitled to recover any sum of money from the appellant company as damages. They assessed the costs of the arbitration and award at Rs. 1000 and directed the costs to be borne by the respondents.

2. The standard indent form of the appellant company under which the respondents agreed to purchase yarn contained the following among other clauses :

'Certificate of I. C. I. ( Institute Cotoniere Italiano) will be final and binding on both buyers and sellers for the quality of the goods.'

3. The appellant company relied on test certificates issued by the said institute certifying that the contract goods bore the characteristics of upper Egyptian cotton yarn warp twist. The respondents relied on a certificate issued by the Government Textile Institute that the average lea-breaking strength of the yarn was 20 lbs. and also on the evidence of two handloom weavers who were the customers of the respondents to the effect that some of the yarn supplied to them through the respondents was found unsuitable for warp during the process of weaving.

4. The respondents' case was that the yam delivered by the appellant company under a previous contract had a lea-breaking strength of 26.3 lbs. The arbitrators found that there was no enforceable term in the contracts that yarn agreed to be delivered under the contracts would be of the same quality of yam as previously delivered by the appellant to the respondents, that the respondents' contention that the yarn delivered was inferior to the stipulated quality in the contracts was not tenable, that the test certificates issued by the Institute Cotoniere Italiano showed that the yam supplied was as per description in the contracts and that yam with lea-breaking strength of 20 lbs. was being regularly used in India and in other markets for warp. The arbitrators were, therefore, of the unanimous opinion that the yarn supplied by the appellant company was of a type and quality consistent with the contracts and that the claim made by the respondents was not sustainable.

5. The respondents filed a petition under Sections 30, 31 and 33 of the Indian Arbitration Act praying that the said award may be set aside. Balakrishna Aiyar, J. who finally heard and disposed of the petition held that the arbitrators assumed without proof that the certificates issued by the Institute Cotoniere Italiano related to the yam actually shipped to Madras and that as the case went on the unproved assumption which went into the roof of the matter the award should be set aside. The learned Judge accordingly set aside the award and also superseded the reference and directed that the arbitrators' agreement shall cease to have effect.

6. The test certificate issued by the Institute Cotoniere Italiano contained the following statement: (the extract is from one of them).

'The following Survey operations have been performed by the surveyor of this Institute, Mr. Riccerdo Orlandini on the following lot of yam declared to constitute 5 bales.....Brand...... quality Upper Egyptian combed English count 1/80's twist wary,

Make up: Double cross reel in bundles of 5 lbs (20 knots of XO hanks of 1680 yards each)....... Two bales have been opened and examined and precisely these bearing serial numbers 7-10 and from them samples have been drawn for test of condition, count lea strength and......tickets have been stuck on one side of all the five bales forming the lot; these tickets have been applied with wet seal of I.C.I. Drawing of samples and also the survey tests have been carried out according to the rules laid down in the tables U.N.I.'

The results of the several tests carried out were set out and finally the opinion is thus given;

'Following all these tests the Institute expresses the following opinion: The lot possesses the characteristics of warp yam Upper Egyptian combed.'

There is. note that out of hanks drawn as samples and put into a cover which was sealed and signed both by the representative of the firm as also by the surveyor and that the sealed samples were left in the custody of the firm. The certificate refers to the inscription on the bales: Louis Dreyfus and Co., Ltd., 1/80 Combed Egyptian Warp 5 lbs. nett. Made in Italy and also the marks on each bale:

S MadrasV B 1/80 SC Made in Italy Gross Weight Nett Weight;

7. The learned Judge considered that the evidence that the goods shipped to Madras were identical with the goods which had been tested by the surveyor of the Italian Institute was so little that it would be permissible to conclude that if the arbitrators had really applied their minds to the question they might well have come to a different conclusion. In the opinion of the learned Judge the lact that the bales examined by the Italian Institute bore the mark of the respondents' firm did not lead to the inference that the bales which were submitted for examination to the Institute were those actually shipped to Madras. Tickets had been stuck on one side of all the bales forming the lot with the seal of the Italian Institute and the bales arrived with these tickets. As regards this the learned Judge says:

'Now we do not know who stuck these tickets. This however, is not very important. What is more important is that we do not know whether they were so stuck as to make it difficult or impossible for other yarn to be substituted in the bales. From the remark that the tickets had been stuck on one side of the bales the reasonable inference would be that they had not been so stuck as to make substitution difficult or impossible. A ticket stuck on a wrapper has not the same protective value as a seal so affixed as to make tampering difficult.''

The conclusion of the learned Judge is thus expressed:

'The arbitrators in the present case proceeded on an unproved assumption which goes to the roof of the matter and substantially affects the justice of the case. The petition must, therefore, be allowed. The award is set aside.'

Hence the above appeal.

8. The learned Advocate General for the appellant company contended that the learned Judge had no jurisdiction to set aside the award because there was no ground specified in Section 30 of the Indian Arbitration Act established in this case. Section 30 is in these terms :

'An award shall not be set aside except on one or more of the following grounds, namely,

(a) that the arbitrator or umpire has misconducted himself or the proceedings;

(b) that an award has been made after the issue of an order by the court superseding the arbitration or after arbitration proceedings have become invalid under Section 35;

(c) that an award has been improperly procured or is otherwise invalid.'

Admittedly grounds (b) and (c) would not avail the respondents. The only question is 'Have the arbitrators misconducted themselves or the proceedings?' The learned Judge posed the question thus: 'Does the assumption of the arbitrators that the goods surveyed by the Italian Institute and the goods received in Madras were one and the same, constitute misconduct under Section 30 of the Act?' He then referred to a decision of the Bombay High Court and answered the question in the affirmative. The learned Judge evidently relied on the observations in the decision that an arbitrator though not bound by the technical and strict rules of evidence must not disregard the rules of evidence which are founded on fundamental principles of justice and public policy.

It was pointed out in that decision that an award should not be readily set aside unless the court saw that there had been something radically wrong and vicious in the proceedings. There can be no quarrel with this statement of the law but the learned Advocate General contended that there was no legal misconduct committed by the arbitrators, that the question which arose for their decision was a pure question of fact on which they were entitled to come to a conclusion on the evidence adduced before them and even assuming that their finding was erroneous, that would not amount to misconduct in law. There is considerable force in this contention. The only question before the arbitrator was whether the yarn supplied by the sellers, that is, the appellants, was of a type and quality stipulated in the contract. There is no doubt that the arbitrators dealt with this question.

The appellant company relied on the certificates issued by the Institute Cotoniere Italiano and there was an express term in the contract that the certificate of the institute will be final and binding on both the buyers and sellers for the quality of the goods. If the certificates related to the goods actually despatched to the respondents it would not be open to the buyers in the absence of proof of fraud to produce other evidence as regards the quality of the goods. What the learned Judge has held is that the arbitrators assumed, as though it were a matter which did not require proof, that the certificates related to the yarn actually shipped to Madras. We fail to see anything in the reasons given for the award to justify this finding.

With respect to the learned Judge we think that this itself is an unproved assumption. Presumably it was contended before the arbitrators -- and the parties were represented by counsel -- that there was no proof that the yarn supplied was the yarn in respect of which the certificates were issued. It must not be overlooked that there was evidence before the arbitrators that the samples tested by the Institute were samples of the yarn relating to the contract with the respondents. It is mentioned in the certificate that each bale was found to beat the mark

SV B. These letters, it is commonC ground, stood for the nameof the respondents V.S. Balasubbaraya Chettiar,

Each bundle bore the inscription of the appellant company, Louis Dreyfus and Co. Ltd. The bales which arrived in Madras had tickets stuck on one side of the bales applied with the wet seal of the Italian Institute. These facts, in our opinion, would certainly constitute evidence on which the arbitrators could have been satisfied that the certificates related to the yam actually supplied. The learned Judge says 'All that I am concerned to say is that the mere fact that tickets have been stuck on one side of the wrappings of the bales does not ensure that they have not been tampered with.' In the first place there was no evidence even prima facie of any tampering. Apart from this we think that it was not open to the learned Judge to canvass the findings of the arbitrators as if he was sitting as a court of appeal against their award.

9. There is also another aspect which may be mentioned. The evidence on which the respondents strongly relied in support of their case that the yarn supplied was not according to the contract stipulation was a certificate issued by the Government Textile Institute. That is only to the effect that the lea-breaking strength of the specimens of yarn sent to the institute was about 20 lbs. There is nothing in the contract between the parties specifying the lea-breaking strength of the yarn to be supplied. According to the respondents yarn of lea-breaking strength of 20 lbs. will not be suitable for warp. The arbitrators, however, say that the yarn with a lea-breaking strength of 20 lbs is regularly used in India and in other markets for warp.

That apart, the certificate of the Italian Institute is that the samples tested by them possessed the characteristics of warp yarn upper Egyptian Combed, and that is the quality specified in the contract, which also provides that the certificate of the Italian Institute will be final and binding on the parties for the quality of the goods. We have discussed all these facts and circumstances not in the way of an appellate court which is entitled to examine the correctness of the findings of fact of a trial court but only to see it the finding of the arbitrators can be said to be so perverse and unsupported by the evidence adduced before them that we can say that the arbitrators have misconducted themselves or the proceedings before them.

10. The arbitrators are the final Judges of matters of fact. It is not open to the court on application under Section 30 of the Indian Arbitration Act to say that in the opinion of the court evidence was not sufficient to establish the conclusion at which the arbitrators arrived. It is not open to the court to consider whether the conclusion of the arbitrators was right or wrong. It must be assumed that they considered all the evidence adduced before them. In the words of Day J. in Dartington Wagon Co. v. Harding and Trouville Pier and Steamboat Co., 1891 1 QB 245 ,

'We are not at liberty to investigate the evidence given in this case for the purpose of ascertaining whether the arbitrator came to a mistaken conclusion as regards either law or fact.'

Section 1 of the Indian Evidence Act expressly says that the provision of the Evidence Act do not apply to arbitration. It is true, however, that the arbitrators cannot act contrary to natural justice. In the Bombay case, Aboobaker v. Reception Committee of 48th Indian National Congress, AIR 1957 Bom 410, referred to by the learned Judge all that was pointed out was that though an arbitrator is not bound by the technical and strict rules of evidence he must not disregard the rules of evidence which are founded on fundamental principles of justice and public policy. The following observation of Cockburn C. J. in In re Hopper, 1867 2 QB 367 was cited :

'I would observe that we must not be ever ready to set aside awards where the parties have agreed to abide by the decision of a Tribunal at their own selection, unless we see that there has been something radically wrong and vicious in the proceedings.'

Can it be said that the arbitrators in this case have disregarded any such fundamental rules of evidence? Can it be said that there is something radically wrong and vicious in their proceeding? We think not. The question was whether the yam supplied was according to the stipulated qualify. There was a term in the contracts that the certificates of the Italian Institute would be final as regards quality of the goods. Such certificates were produced by the sellers and they were accepted by the arbitrators. The arbitrators also found that the buyers had not established affirmatively that the yarn supplied was not according to the stipulated quality.

The arbitrators were entitled to come to their own conclusion on the evidence adduced before them and it is not open to the court on an application under Section 30 of the Indian Arbitration Act, to examine the correctness of their conclusion. With respect to the learned trial Judge, there is no warrant for holding that if the arbitrators had really applied their minds to the question they might well have come to a different conclusion. In our opinion the arbitrators had not misconducted themselves or the proceedings. The respondents have not established any of the grounds on which alone an award may be set aside under Section 30 of the Indian Arbitration Act.

11. The appeal is, therefore, allowed and the respondents' application is dismissed with cost throughout.


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