Section 34: Application for setting aside arbitral award—
(1) Recourse to a Court against an arbitral award may be made only by an application for setting aside such award in accordance with sub-section (2) and sub-section (3).
(2) An arbitral award may be set aside by the Court only if—
(a) the party making the application establishes on the basis of the record of the arbitral tribunal that—
(i) a party was under some incapacity; or
(ii) the arbitration agreement is not valid under the law to which the parties have subjected it or, failing any indication thereon, under the law for the time being in force; or
(iii) the party making the application was not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator or of the arbitral proceedings or was otherwise unable to present his case; or
(iv) the arbitral award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or it contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration:
Provided that, if the decisions on matters submitted to arbitration can be separated from those not so submitted, only that part of the arbitral award which contains decisions on matters not submitted to arbitration may be set aside; or
(v) the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties, unless such agreement was in conflict with a provision of this Part from which the parties cannot derogate, or, failing such agreement, was not in accordance with this Part; or
(b) the Court finds that—
(i) the subject-matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by arbitration under the law for the time being in force, or
(ii) the arbitral award is in conflict with the public policy of India.
Explanation 1.—For the avoidance of any doubt, it is clarified that an award is in conflict with the public policy of India, only if,—
(i) the making of the award was induced or affected by fraud or corruption or was in violation of Section 75 or Section 81; or
(ii) it is in contravention with the fundamental policy of Indian law; or
(iii) it is in conflict with the most basic notions of morality or justice.
Explanation 2.—For the avoidance of doubt, the test as to whether there is a contravention with the fundamental policy of Indian law shall not entail a review on the merits of the dispute.
(2-A) An arbitral award arising out of arbitrations other than international commercial arbitrations, may also be set aside by the court, if the court finds that the award is vitiated by patent illegality appearing on the face of the award:
Provided that an award shall not be set aside merely on the ground of an erroneous application of the law or by reappreciation of evidence.]
(3) An application for setting aside may not be made after three months have elapsed from the date on which the party making that application had received the arbitral award or, if a request had been made under Section 33, from the date on which that request had been disposed of by the arbitral tribunal:
Provided that if the Court is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application within the said period of three months it may entertain the application within a further period of thirty days, but not thereafter.
(4) On receipt of an application under sub-section (1), the Court may, where it is appropriate and it is so requested by a party, adjourn the proceedings for a period of time determined by it in order to give the arbitral tribunal an opportunity to resume the arbitral proceedings or to take such other action as in the opinion of arbitral tribunal will eliminate the grounds for setting aside the arbitral award.
(5) An application under this section shall be filed by a party only after issuing a prior notice to the other party and such application shall be accompanied by an affidavit by the applicant endorsing compliance with the said requirement.
(6) An application under this section shall be disposed of expeditiously, and in any event, within a period of one year from the date on which the notice referred to in sub-section (5) is served upon the other party.
IMPORTANT CASE LAWS
1. ‘Domestic Award’, ‘foreign award’ and ‘international award’
Bharat Aluminium Co. v. Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services Inc., (2012) 9 SCC 552: “……………it would appear that the term “domestic award” means an award made in India whether in a purely domestic context i.e. domestically rendered award in a domestic arbitration or in the international context i.e. domestically rendered award in an international arbitration. Both the types of awards are liable to be challenged under Section 34 and are enforceable under Section 36 of the Arbitration Act, 1996. Therefore, it seems clear that the object of Section 2(7) is to distinguish the domestic award covered under Part I of the Arbitration Act, 1996 from the “foreign award” covered under Part II of the aforesaid Act; and not to distinguish the “domestic award” from an “international award” rendered in India. In other words, the provision highlights, if anything, a clear distinction between Part I and Part II as being applicable in completely different fields and with no overlapping provisions.”
2. Limitation period for challenging an Arbitral Award
State of Maharashtra v. ARK Builders (P) Ltd., (2011) 4 SCC 616: “……the period of limitation prescribed under Section 34(3) of the Act would start running only from the date a signed copy of the award is delivered to/received by the party making the application for setting it aside under Section 34(1) of the Act. The legal position on the issue may be stated thus. If the law prescribes that a copy of the order/award is to be communicated, delivered, dispatched, forwarded, rendered or sent to the parties concerned in a particular way and in case the law also sets a period of limitation for challenging the order/award in question by the aggrieved party, then the period of limitation can only commence from the date on which the order/award was received by the party concerned in the manner prescribed by the law.”