Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 – Section 11(6) – Once the arbitrator has become ineligible by operation of law, he cannot nominate another as an arbitrator. The arbitrator becomes ineligible as per prescription contained in Section 12(5) of the Act. It is inconceivable in law that person who is statutorily ineligible can nominate a person.
read HERE 2017 SCeJ 0003 = 2017 PLRonline 1400
Regard being had to the same, we have to compare and analyse the arbitration clause in the present case. Clause (c), which we have reproduced earlier, states that all disputes which cannot be settled by mutual negotiation shall be referred to and determined by arbitration as per the Act, as amended. Clause (c) is independent of Clause (d). Clause (d) provides that unless otherwise provided, any dispute or difference between the parties in connection with the agreement shall be referred to the sole arbitration of the Managing Director or his nominee.
The aforesaid authorities have been commended to us to establish the proposition that if the nomination of an arbitrator by an ineligible arbitrator is allowed, it would tantamount to carrying on the proceeding of arbitration by himself. According to learned counsel for the appellant, ineligibility strikes at the root of his power to arbitrate or get it arbitrated upon by a nominee.
In such a context, the fulcrum of the controversy would be, can an ineligible arbitrator, like the Managing Director, nominate an arbitrator, who may be otherwise eligible and a respectable person. As stated earlier, we are neither concerned with the objectivity nor the individual respectability. We are only concerned with the authority or the power of the Managing Director. By our analysis, we are obligated to arrive at the conclusion that once the arbitrator has become ineligible by operation of law, he cannot nominate another as an arbitrator. The arbitrator becomes ineligible as per prescription contained in Section 12(5) of the Act. It is inconceivable in law that person who is statutorily ineligible can nominate a person. Needless to say, once the infrastructure collapses, the superstructure is bound to collapse. One cannot have a building without the plinth. Or to put it differently, once the identity of the Managing Director as the sole arbitrator is lost, the power to nominate someone else as an arbitrator is obliterated. Therefore, the view expressed by the High Court is not sustainable and we say so.
Another facet needs to be addressed. The Designated Judge in a cryptic manner has ruled after noting that the petitioner therein had no reservation for nomination of the nominated arbitrator and further taking note of the fact that there has been a disclosure, that he has exercised the power under Section 11(6) of the Act. We are impelled to think that that is not the right procedure to be adopted and, therefore, we are unable to agree with the High Court on that score also and, accordingly, we set aside the order appointing the arbitrator. However, as Clause (c) is independent of Clause (d), the arbitration clause survives and hence, the Court can appoint an arbitrator taking into consideration all the aspects. Therefore, we remand the matter to the High Court for fresh consideration of the prayer relating to appointment of an arbitrator.