In a recent case, the Supreme Court has held that the period of limitation for filing petition u/s 34 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act will commence from the date on which a signed copy of the award was given to the parties.
The Bench observed that there could not be the finality of award, except after the copy is signed.
In the instant case, a petition was filed u/s 34 by Bijli Vitran Nigam that challenged the arbitral award passed favouring Navigant Technologies Pvt Ltd.
The civil court dismissed the petition on the ground that the signed copy was released on 27/04/2018, and objections u/s 34(3) should have been filed by 27/07/2018, and as the objections were filed on 10.09.2018, the civil court cannot entertain the petition. The High Court also affirmed the order passed by the civil court.
Observations of the Supreme Court:
The Bench noted that even though the award was pronounced on 27.04.2018, the signed copy and the dissenting opinion of one of the arbitrators were provided to the parties on 19.05.2018.
In this regard, the Bench observed that only one date is recognised as per law, which is when the signed copy of the award is provided to the party. The Bench further noted that if there are three members in the panel, and one gives a dissenting opinion, it must be delivered on the same date and not on subsequent dates. The period of rendering award is covered u/s 29A of the Act.
The Bench further opined that Section 31(1) mandates that arbitral award should be in writing and signed by all members. The award cannot be declared final unless all members sign it.
Hon’ble Court also remarked that a party’s dissenting opinion could be used by a party to support setting aside the award u/s 34, and the Court can consider the opinion of the dissenting member while deciding the case.
The Court held that objections were filed within the limitation period as prescribed u/s 34(3) and allowed the appeal.