2019 SCC Vol. 8 October 14, 2019 Part 5

Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 — S. 11(6-A) [as inserted by 2015 Amendment Act w.e.f 23-10-2015] and S. 11 [as would come into force upon effectuation of S. 3 of 2019 Amendment Act]: Effect of 2015 Amendment Act as fortified, broadened and deepened by 2019 Amendment Act, held, is to legislatively overrule the position of law as prevailing prior to 2015 Amendment Act, that Court in addition to examination of existence of arbitration agreement, could also go into preliminary questions such as stale claims, accord and satisfaction having been reached, etc. Hence, SBP & Co., (2005) 8 SCC 618 and Boghara Polyfab (P) Ltd., (2009) 1 SCC 267 and other rulings of Supreme Court following these judgments on this point, stand legislatively overruled on this point by the 2015 Amendment Act. Thus, the position of law that prevails after the insertion of S. 11(6-A) is that Supreme Court or, as the case may be, the High Court, while considering any application under Sections 11(4) to 11(6) is to confine itself to examination of existence of arbitration agreement, nothing more, nothing less, and leave all other preliminary issues to be decided by arbitrator. Determining “existence of arbitration agreement”, held, has correctly been explained in paras 48 & 59 of Duro Felguera, SA, (2017) 9 SCC 729, to mean that “all that needs to be done, is to see if the agreement contains a clause which provides for arbitration pertaining to the disputes which have arisen between the parties to the agreement”. [Mayavati Trading (P) Ltd. v. Pradyuat Deb Burman, (2019) 8 SCC 714]

Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 — Ss. 11 and 8 — Appointment of arbitrator — Allegations of fraud/fabrication — Effect of, on arbitrability of dispute: Where allegations of fraud are leveled against party seeking appointment are “simple allegations” not falling within the realm of public domain, test for distinguishing a “simple allegation” from a “serious allegation” are, namely: (1) does the plea of fraud permeate the entire contract and above all, the agreement of arbitration, rendering it void, or (2) whether allegations of fraud touch upon the internal affairs of the parties inter se having no implication in the public domain. [Rashid Raza v. Sadaf Akhtar, (2019) 8 SCC 710]

Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 — Ss. 37 and 31(7)(a) — Award of interest by arbitrator as per agreement — Interference by Court when warranted — Public interest and parties leaving matter to discretion of Court: In absence of agreement to contrary between parties, S. 31(7)(a) confers jurisdiction upon Arbitral Tribunal to award interest unless otherwise agreed by parties at such rate as Arbitral Tribunal considers reasonable, on whole or any part of money, for whole or any part of period between date of cause of action and date of award. In this case, parties had agreed to rate of interest at 18% p.a. However, since award is of 1999 and matter related to construction of Paediatrics Centre in a Medical Institute and parties having left matter to discretion of Court, in exercise of power under Art. 142 of the Constitution, interest rate of 18% awarded by Arbitral Tribunal as affirmed by High Court modified and reduced to 10% p.a. simple interest. Award amount along with accrued interest @ 10% p.a. simple interest shall be payable to respondent Company within eight weeks failing which entire award amount will carry interest at 18% as awarded by Tribunal. [Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research v. Kalsi Construction Co., (2019) 8 SCC 726]

Competition Act, 2002 — Ss. 4 and 26(1) — Abuse of dominant position — Predatory pricing: In this case, appellant Uber, was making losses in respect of every trip, it was held that the same does not make any economic sense other than pointing to Uber’s intent to eliminate competition in market. Further, based on the information on record, held, it would be very difficult to say that there is no prima facie case under S. 26(1) as to infringement of S. 4. Further, if in fact, a loss is made for trips made, Expln. (a)(ii) to S. 4 would prima facie be attracted inasmuch as this would certainly affect appellant’s competitors in appellant’s favour or relevant market in its favour. Furthermore, insofar as “abuse” of dominant position is concerned, under S. 4(2)(a), so long as this dominant position, whether directly or indirectly, imposes an unfair price in purchase or sale including predatory price of services, abuse of dominant position also gets attracted. Hence, in this case, the order made by Appellate Tribunal, not interfered with. [Uber (India) Systems (P) Ltd. v. CCI, (2019) 8 SCC 697]

Contract and Specific Relief — Formation Defects Rendering Contracts Voidable — Undue Influence — Clear and specific pleadings setting out details — Cardinal necessity of: General allegations are insufficient even to amount to an averment of fraud, undue influence or coercion however strong may be the language in which such allegations are couched. Furthermore, undue influence and coercion may overlap in part in some cases but they are separate and there must be clear and separate pleading. Onus would shift onto defendant under S. 16 of Contract Act, 1872 r/w S. 111 of Evidence Act, 1872 only after plaintiff establishes a prima facie case. Close relation between parties would not lead to presumption of undue influence, particularly in a case where some only of the siblings are/is providing care to parent(s)/the elderly. [Raja Ram v. Jai Prakash Singh, (2019) 8 SCC 701]

Evidence Act, 1872 — S. 32(1) — Multiple dying declarations which are divergent and cannot be reconciled — Determining which dying declaration is to be believed: When there are multiple dying declarations, and in the earlier dying declaration, accused is not sought to be roped in but in the later dying declaration, a somersault is made by the deceased, the case must be decided on the facts of each case. The court will not be relived of its duty to carefully examine the entirety of materials as also the circumstances surrounding the making of different dying declarations. It is the compatibility with the remaining evidence/circumstantial evidence that will be vital in determining which dying declaration(s) are to be believed, as in present case. If the court finds that the incriminatory dying declaration brings out the truthful position in conjunction with capacity of deceased to make such declaration, and voluntariness with which it was made is established, ruling out tutoring and prompting; and the other evidence support the contents of the incriminatory dying declaration, it can be acted upon. Equally, circumstances which render earlier dying declaration, worthy or unworthy of acceptance, can be considered. However it is equally true that when there are divergent dying declarations it is not the law that the court must invariably prefer the statement which is incriminatory and must reject the statement which does not implicate the accused. The real point is to ascertain which one(s) contain the truth. [Jagbir Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2019) 8 SCC 779]

Evidence Act, 1872 — Ss. 30 and 114 Ill. (b) — Confession recorded in custody (assumed to be admissible in present case under S. 67 of NDPS Act) — Confession of co-accused — Evidentiary value: A confession, recorded when accused is in custody, even when admissible, is a weak piece of evidence and there must be some corroborative evidence. Moreover, evidence of co-accused is also a very weak type of evidence which needs to be corroborated by some other evidence. No such corroborative evidence has been led in this case. Even if confession is admissible, court has to be satisfied that it is a voluntary statement, free from any pressure and also that accused was apprised of his rights before recording the confession. In this case, no such material has been brought on the record, hence, conviction reversed. [Mohd. Fasrin v. State, (2019) 8 SCC 811]

Limitation Act, 1963 — S. 27 and Arts. 65 & 64 — Acquisition of ownership by possession — Effect of elapse of period prescribed for loss of ownership by adverse possession — Nature of rights acquired by adverse possessee thereupon: Remedies available to person who perfects his title to property by adverse possession (Art. 65), and even to person in settled possession who is yet to perfect his title by adverse possession (Art. 64) are: (1) Firstly, held, once 12 years’ period of adverse possession is over, the owner’s right to eject the person in adverse possession (adverse possessee/possessory owner) is lost and the possessory owner acquires the right, title and interest possessed by the outgoing person/owner, as the case may be, against whom he has established the period of prescription. (2) Secondly, held, such adverse possessee/possessory owner can not only seek to protect his title as defendant in a suit but can also file suit for declaration of his title and for permanent injunction restraining defendant from interfering with his possession, where owner whose title stood extinguished, or any other person seeks to dispossess him from property. This would include the case where the property is sold away by the owner after the extinguishment of his title: in which case also a suit can be filed by a person who has perfected his title by adverse possession to question alienation and attempt of dispossession. Rulings of Supreme Court holding that person who had perfected his title by adverse possession could only protect his title as defendant in a suit, but could not file a suit for declaration of his title/protection of his possession, overruled. (3) Thirdly, held, even before ripening of his title by adverse possession, possessory suit under Art. 64 can be maintained by person in settled possession against person seeking to dispossess him by force without recourse to law. Possession confers enforceable right under S. 6 of Specific Relief Act, 1963. [Ravinder Kaur Grewal v. Manjit Kaur, (2019) 8 SCC 729]

T.N. Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 (22 of 1959) — Ss. 6(16), 6(19), 63 and 70 — Religious endowments and trusts — Public and Private — Distinction between, summarized: “Specific endowment” means any property or money endowed for performance of any specific service or charity in math or temple or for performance of any other religious charity. Specific endowment includes any money that has been endowed for performance of religious charity. “Religious charity” means public charity associated with Hindu festival or observance of religious character. Public charity need not be connected with temple or math. Expression “associated” means being connected with or in relation to. This expression does not import any control by authorities who manage or administer festival. “Endow” and “endowment” have not been defined in Act. However, they relate to idea of giving, bequeathing or dedicating something, whether property or otherwise, for some purpose. In context of Act, purpose is with respect to religion or charity. While explaining meaning of “divest”, held, to create endowment settlor must give it and if he has given it, he has not retained it. He has then divested himself of property endowed. Settlor divested himself of right to receive certain part of income derived from such properties. There is deprivation of right to deal with properties free of charge as absolute owners which he previously was. In public trust, beneficial interest is vested in uncertain and fluctuating body of persons. It could be either public at large or some considerable portion of it answering particular description. In private trust, beneficiaries are definite and ascertained individuals or who within a definite time can be definitely ascertained. Uncertain and fluctuating body of persons is a section of public following particular religious faith or only a sect of persons of certain religious persuasion would not make any difference in matter. It would not make the trust a private trust. [M.J. Thulasiraman v. Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Admn., (2019) 8 SCC 689]

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