Vulcan Insurance Co. Ltd Vs. Maharaj
Singh & ANR  INSC 236 (3 October 1975)
CITATION: 1976 AIR 287 1976 SCR (2) 62 1976
SCC (1) 943
CITATOR INFO :
D 1984 SC 15 (21)
Arbitration Repudiation of claim by
insurer-No dispute raised about quantum of loss or damages-Remedy of insured,
whether by suit or arbitration.
The respondent-insured, claimed from the
appellant- insurer a certain sum on the basis that he had suffered loss due to
fire. The appellant repudiated the claim under cl. 13 of the policy. The
respondent thereupon wrote to the appellant suggesting arbitration on the
dispute as per cl.
18 of the policy. The appellant however wrote
back saying that since it had repudiated the claim of the respondent the
arbitration clause was inoperative. The respondent then filed an application
under s 20 of the Arbitration Act, 1940, for the filing of the arbitration
agreement in the Court and for appointment of arbitrators. The trial court
dismissed the petition as barred under cl. 19 of the policy.
on appeal, the High Court set aside the order
of the trial court and remanded the matter to ii for appointment of
Allowing the appeal to this Court,
HELD: (1) The difference which arose between
the parties on the appellant's repudiation of the claim made by the respondent
was not one to which the arbitration clause applies and hence the arbitration
agreement could not be filed and no arbitrator could be appointed under s 20 of
the Act. The only remedy open to the respondent was to commence a suit within
three months of the date of the repudiation to establish the insurer's
liability. [72 B-C].
(a) Clause 18 provides that if any difference
arises as to the amount of any loss or damage such difference shall be referred
to arbitration. In the rejection of the claim made by the insured be on the
ground that he had suffered no loss as a result of the fire or the amount of
loss was not to the extent claimed by him then, and then only a
difference-could have arisen as to the amount of any loss or damage within the
meaning of the clause. The dispute raised in the present case appertained to
the liability of the insurer to pay any amount whatsoever. Such repudiation of
the claim could not amount to the raising of a dispute as to the amount of any
loss or damage suffered by the insured. [66 G-H].
(b) As per cl. 13, on rejection of the claim
by the insurer, an action or suit has to be commenced within three months from
the date of such rejection. Otherwise, all benefits under the policy stand
forfeited. That is, as soon as there is a rejection of the claim, and not the
raising of a dispute as to the amount of any loss or damage, the only remedy
open to the claimant is to file a suit for establishing the insurer's
liability. It may be that after the liability of the insurer is so established,
reference to arbitration under cl. 18 will have to be resorted to for
determination of the quantum of loss or damage. [67 A-C] (2) The last part of
cl. 18 provides that an award is a condition precedent to any right of action
or suit. But it cannot on that account be contended that even when there is a
repudiation of liability the matter has to go to arbitration first. If the
arbitration clause is couched in a comprehensive language taking within its
ambit any kind of dispute arising under the policy then the obtaining of an
award by arbitration is a condition precedent to the starting of any other
legal proceeding. But, reading cls. 13 and 18 together, in the present case. it
must be held that on the rejection or repudiation of the claim by the insurer
me insured is under an obligation to start a legal proceeding within three
months of such rejection and hence the obtaining of an award 63 in such cases
cannot be a condition precedent. If the dispute is such that can go to
arbitration then no action or suit can be commenced without obtaining an award.
But the condition of obtaining an award prior to any action or suit can never
be attracted if the dispute raised cannot be referred to arbitration and has
got to be determined in a legal proceeding. [67 D-E, G-68 B,G-H].
Scott v Avery (185) 25 L.J. Ex. 308. 5H.L.C.
Jureidini v. National British and Irish
Millers/Insurance Company Ltd.  Appeal Cases 499. Heyman and another v.
Darwine Ltd.  1 All England Reports,
337; Viney v. Bignold  20 Queen's Bench Division, 171; Caledonian
Insurance Company v. Adrew Gilmour  Appeal Cases, 85 and O'connor v.
Norwich Union Fire and Life Insurance Society (1894) 2 Irish Law Reports, 723;
The Eagle Star and British Dominions
Insurance Company v. Dinanath and, Hemraj, I.L.R. 47, Bombay, 509, approved.
Charanjit Lal Sodhi v. Messrs. Caledonian
Insurance Co. Ltd. and another  Accidents Claims Journal. 12, overruled.
(3) Clause 19 of the policy provides that in
no case whatever shall the insurer be liable for any loss or damage after the
expiry of 12 months from the happening of the loss or damage unless the claim
is the subject of pending action or arbitration. the High Court is not right in
its view that the claim of the insured was not barred under this clause because
of s. 37 (3) of the Arbitration Act. It is, however, not necessary to decide
whether the appellant's application under s. 20 was barred by clause 19 or could
be defeated on the ground of the extinction of the insurance liability under
clause 19. If the dispute was one to which the arbitration clause applied then
the application under S. 20 could not be dismissed on the ground that the claim
would not ultimately succeed either on facts or in law, because, the matter
will have to be left for the decision of the arbitrator. [71 D, F-72 A].
Wazirchand Mahajan and another v. Union of
India  1 S.C.R. 303 (vide page 308), followed.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 2228 of 1972.
Appeal by Special leave from the Judgment
order dated the 7th October 1971 of the Delhi High Court in F.A.O. No. 155-D of
F. S. Nariman and Vineet Kumar for the
S. N. Andley, Miss Uma Mehta, Mrs. S. Bagga,
S. K. Bagga, Ramesh Chand and R. K. Mehta for Respondent No. 1.
S. K. Mehta, K. R. Nagaraja and M. Qamaruddin
and P. N. Puri for Respondent No. 2.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
UNTWALIA, J. This appeal by special leave was filed by The Vulcan Insurance Co.
Ltd. The general insurance business of the Company was nationalised during the
pendency of this appeal and therefore, in place of the original appellant was
substituted United India Fire and General Insurance Company Ltd by order
28-2-1975 passed in CMP No. 84/1975. For the sake of facility hereinafter in
this judgment by the appellant would be meant the original appellant company.
The respondent no. 1 in the appeal is Maharaj Singh, sole proprietor of
Khatauli Manure Mills, Khatauli, District Muzaffarnagar. Respondent no. 2 is
Punjab National Bank.
64 Respondent no. 1 carries a business of
manufacturing Bone Manure etc. in his mills at Khatauli. He entered into an
arrangement with respondent no. 2 for taking advance of money on the security
of the factory premises, machineries and the stock of goods. A mortgage deed
was executed by him in favour of the respondent bank for that purpose. The Bank
insured the mortgage properties from time to time with the appellant company
under three insurance policies, the terms governing the same being identical.
A fire is said to have broken out in the
factory premises of respondent no. 1 in the night between 28-2-1963 and
1-3-1963 The Bank informed the Insurance Company about the fire. Thereupon
representatives of the Bank and the Insurance Company and some surveyors
visited the factory premises of 1-3-1963 and after. Respondent no. 1 claimed
that due to fire he had suffered a loss of Rs. 24,800/- on account of damage to
the fixed assets and Rs. 2,730,004.40 due to damage caused to the stock of
goods. Eventually M/s. R. K. Bhandari & Sons, Surveyors of the Insurance
Company wrote a letter dated 26th April, 1963 to respondent no. 1 informing him
that they had assessed the total damage caused to him due to fire at Rs.
4,620/-. They, however, added at the end of their letter-"This is without
prejudice to the terms and conditions of the policy and without any commitment
of liability on the part of the Insurance Company." Further correspondence
between the parties ensued and ultimately the appellant intimated to respondent
no. 1 by its letter dated 5th July, 1963-"Referring to the previous
correspondence relating to the above mentioned claim, we regret to inform you
that we repudiate the claim under the above mentioned policies."
Respondent no. 1 seems to have written a letter dated 22nd July, 1963 of the
appellant, to which it sent a reply dated 29th July, 1963 categorically
stating-"We are advised to repudiate your claim inter alia under Clause 13
of the Fire Policies. We regret that survey report and any other reports cannot
be furnished to you." Respondent no. 1 thereupon wrote a letter dated 1-1-
1963 to the Insurance Company informing it that since. it had repudiated his
claim under clause 13 of the Insurance Policy a difference had arisen between
the parties and hence respondent no. 1 proposed to appoint one Shri K. N. Bannerjee
as the sole arbitrator, to decide the disputes as per the arbitration agreement
incorporated in the policies.
He said further that if the company was not
agreeable to the appointment of Shri Bannerjee as the sole arbitrator, he may
be treated as a nominee of respondent no. I and the company may point its own.
In reply to the said letter dated the 1st October, 1963 the company wrote a
letter dated 10th October.
1963 to respondent no. 1 that since it had
reputed his claim the arbitration clause in the policies was rendered
inoperative and no arbitration proceeding could be commenced by appointment of
Respondent no. 1 in the first instance filed
the application under section 20 of the Arbitration Act. 1940- hereinafter
called the Act on 20-1-1964 in the Court at Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. The
65 appellant appeared and, inter alia, took an objection to the jurisdiction of
that Court to entertain the application. In view of a special clause in the
policies excluding the jurisdiction of courts other than the court at Delhi,
the Muzaffarnagar court allowed that objection and directed the return of the
application by its order dated 1-5-1964.
Respondent no. 1 refiled it on 19-5-1964 in
the Delhi Court.
Appellant resisted it.
On reading clauses 13, 18 and 19 of the
Insurance Policies which are in identical terms and on appreciation of the
other materials in the case the Trial Court at Delhi dismissed the application
holding that the dispute arising out of the repudiation of the liability under
clause 13 by the Insurance company was within the scope of the arbitration
agreement contained in clause 18 and a reference to arbitration could be made,
but, as per clause 19, the petition was barred by limitation .
On appeal by respondent no. 1 the Delhi High
Court has held-(1) Clause 18, does not include in its scope all kinds of
differences or disputes that may arise between the parties in respect of the
subject matter of the insurance policies. The scope of clause 18 is restricted
to differences as to the amount of loss or damage. (2) Yet reference to
arbitration is not ousted and the arbitration clause covers the dispute even if
the company has repudiated the claim in to (3) The arbitration clause 18 is
inoperative unless the conditions contained in clause 19 are satisfied and (4)
the condition aforesaid was satisfied because respondent no. 1 had commenced
the arbitration on the date when he issued the notice dated the 1st October,
1963; as such, his claim was the subject of a pending arbitration within the
meaning of clause 19. The High Court, therefore, set aside the order of the
Trial Court and remanded the case to it for appointment of arbitrators under
section 20 of the Act. Hence this appeal by the Insurance Company.
It appears in this case that arguments have
been advanced on either side in the courts below as also, in this Court
widening the scope of the matters in issue resulting in the missing of the
crucial point in controversy. Really only one point need be decided in this
appeal and that is this-whether in view of the repudiation of liability by the
appellant under clause 13 of the Insurance Policy, a dispute was raised which
could be referred to arbitration ? Incidentally in this judgment reference will
be made to the other question as to whether the claim of respondent no. I and
the proceeding commenced by him were. barred by clause 19.
In order to discuss and determine the
questions which fall for determination in this appeal it is necessary to read
the relevant clause of the Insurance policies.
"13. If the claim be in any respect fraudulent,
or if any false declaration be made or used in support thereof, or if any
fraudulent means or devices are used by the insured or any one acting on his
behalf to obtain any benefit under this Policy; or, if the loss or damage be
occasioned by the wilful act. Or with the connivance of the insured: or, if the
claim 66 be made and rejected and an action or suit be not commenced within
three months after such rejection, or (in case of an arbitration taking place
in pursuance of the 18th condition of this Policy) within three months after
the Arbitrator or Arbitrators or Umpire shall have made their award, all
benefit under this Policy shall be forfeited." "18. If any difference
arises as to the amount of any loss or damage such difference shall independently
of all other questions be referred to the decision of an Arbitrator, to be
appointed in writing by the parties in difference, or, if they cannot agree
upon a single Arbitrator to the decision of two disinterested persons as
Arbitrators * * * * * And it is hereby expressly stipulated and declared shall
be a condition precedent to any right of action upon this policy that the award
by such arbitrator, or Umpire of the amount of the loss or damage if shall be
first obtained." "19. In no case whatever shall the company be liable
for any loss or damage after the expiration of twelve months from the happening
of the loss or damage unless the claim is the subject of pending action or
arbitration." The correspondence between the parties makes it clear that
at one time the surveyors had assessed the damages at Rs. 4,620/- in their
letter dated 26-4-1963. But the said assessment was, in express terms, without
commitment of any liability on the part of the Insurance Company. The Company,
however, completely repudiated the liability under clause 13.
Although the surveyors in their letter dated
26-4-1963 had raised a dispute as to the amount of any loss or damage alleged
to have been suffered by respondent No. 1, the appellant at no point of time
raised any such dispute. The appellant company in its letter dated the 5th and
the 29th July, 1963 repudiated the claim altogether. Under clause 13 the
company was not required to mention any reason for rejection of the claim nor
did it mention any. But the repudiation of the claim could not amount to the
raising of a dispute as to the amount if any loss or damage alleged to have
been suffered by respondent No. 1. If the rejection of the claim made by the
insured be on the ground that he had suffered no loss as a result of the fire
or the amount of loss was not to the extent claimed by him, then, and then
only, a difference could have arisen as to the amount of any loss or damage
within the meaning of clause 18. In this case, however, the company repudiated
its liability to pay any amount of loss or damage as claimed by respondent No.
In other words, the dispute raised by the
company appertained to its liability to pay any amount of damage whatsoever. In
our opinion, therefore, the dispute raised by the appellant company was not
covered by the arbitration clause.
67 As per clause 13 on rejection of the claim
by the company an action or suit, meaning thereby a legal proceeding which
almost invariably in India will be in the nature of a suit, has got to be
commenced within three months from the date of such rejection; otherwise, all
benefits under the policy stand forfeited. The rejection of the claim may be
foe the reasons indicated in the first part of clause 13, such as, false
declaration, fraud or willful neglect of the claimant or on any other ground
disclosed or undisclosed. But as soon as there is a rejection of 13 the claim
and not the raising of a dispute as to the amount of any loss or damage, the
only remedy open to the claimant is to commence a legal proceeding, namely, a
suit, for establishment of the company's liability. It may well be that after
the liability of the company is established in such a suit, for determination
of the quantum of the loss or damage reference to arbitration will have to be
resorted to in accordance with clause 18. But the arbitration clause,
restricted as it is by the use of the words "if any difference arises as
to the amount of any loss or damages', cannot take within its sweep a dispute
as to the liability of the company when it refuses to pay any damage at all Mr.
S. N. Andley, learned counsel for respondent No. 1 submitted that in view of
the last part of clause 18 which makes the award of an arbitration a condition
precedent to ally right of action or suit, it should be held that even when
there is a repudiation of liability, the matter has to go to arbitration first.
In support of such a submission, learned counsel placed reliance upon certain
decisions of the courts in India as also ill England. We shall presently show
that on the facts and in the circumstances of this case, none of them is of
help to respondent No. 1 A clause like the last part of clause 18 making the
award a condition precedent to any right of action or suit first came up for
consideration in the case of Scott v. Avery(1) and since then such clauses are
Commonly called Scott v. Avery clauses. Generally it has been found that it the
arbitration clause is couched in a comprehensive language taking within its
ambit any kind of dispute arising under the policy, then obtaining of an award
by arbitration is a condition precedent to the starting of any other legal
proceeding. A clause like Scott v. Avery has repeatedly, been held to be a
valid one. "Even a clause of this type, however is not absolute in effect:
where the court orders that the arbitration agreement cease to have effect in
relation to a particular dispute. it has a discretion to order further that the
Scott v. Avery clause cease to have effect, too" (vide pages 57, 58 of
Russell on Arbitration, Eighteen Edition). The said statement of the law,
however, has been made with reference to section 25(4) of the English
Arbitration Act, 1950. The corresponding provision in our Act is contained in
section 36. But that apart, when an arbitration clause is not operative on the
dispute raised, as in this case, then it is wholly unreasonable, almost
impossible, to hold that still the parties have to obtain an award before
starting any legal proceeding. What dispute will be referred to arbitration ?
The dispute raised is not within the purview of arbitration. Reading clauses 13
and 18 together it must be held that on the rejection or repudiation of the
claim by the insurer, the insured 68 is under an obligation to start a legal
proceeding within three months of such rejection, and hence obtaining of an
award in such a case cannot be a condition precedent. It is not possible to go
to arbitration for determination of the said dispute. Clauses similar to the
ones contained in clauses 13 and 18 in this case were the subject matter of
consideration before the house of Lords ill the case of Jurisdini v. National
British and Irish Millers Insurance Company, Limited(1). The claim made by the
insured was rejected by the insurer as being fraudulent. When the former
brought an action the latter resisted it on the Scott v. Avery clause. The
House gave a unanimous opinion that the repudiation of the claim on a ground
going to the root of the contract precluded the company from pleading the
arbitration clause as a bar to an action to enforce the claim. The matter put
in that form in some of the speeches of the Law Lords does not seem to have
received full approval of the House in later decisions including the one in
Heyman and another v. Darwins Ltd.(2) as it would appear from the speech of Lord
Macmillan at page 346. But the real ratio of the decision which remains
unshaken even till today is to be found in the speech of Lord Parmoor at page
508 when his Lordship said that since no difference had arisen which could be
covered by arbitration clause 17 and the company had raised an issue on which,
if it had succeeded, the insured would have lost all benefit under the policy,
the arbitration clause had no application.
Learned counsel for respondent No. 1 placed
reliance upon some decisions of the English courts in support of his contention
that in spite of the repudiation of the liability by the appellant his client
could not commence any legal proceeding without going to arbitration. Only two
may be noticed here: In Viney v. Bignold (3) it was held that the determination
of the amount by arbitration was a condition precedent to the right to recover
on the policy and if any action was brought without an award obtained in an
arbitration it was not maintainable. It should, however, be noticed that the
language of arbitration clause 21 in that case was wide enough to cover any
dispute and from the facts stated in the judgment it is nowhere to be found
that the dispute raised by the company was not covered by the arbitration
clause. If the dispute is such that can go to arbitration then no, action or
suit can be commenced without obtaining an award. But the condition of
obtaining a award prior to any action or suit can never be attracted if the
dispute raised cannot be referred to arbitration and has got to be determined
in a legal proceeding. The other case is the decision of the House of Lords in
Caledonian Insurance Company v. Andrew Gilmour(4). That was again a case of a
comprehensive arbitration clause and thus justifying the application of the
Scott v. Avery clause as a bar to the maintainability of an action without an
In O'connor v. Norwich Union Fire and life
Insurance Society(5) the decision in the case of Viney v. Bignold (supra) was
distinguished (1)  Appeal Cases, 499. (2)  1 All England Reports,
(3) (1888) 20 Queen's Bench Division, 171.
(4)  Appeal Cases, 85.(5) (1894) 2 Irish Law Reports, 723.
69 and the Scott v. Avery clause was held to
be inapplicable because the dispute raised was not covered by the arbitration
clause. Holmes, J. pointed out at page 728:
"Now, if it was a term of the contract
that a difference of this kind was to be settled by arbitration, I should not
hesitate to stay the action......................................But there is
no provision in the plaintiff's policy that such a controversy as has arisen is
to be referred to arbitration. There is a carefully drawn clause, by which it
is agreed that the amount to be paid, as distinguished from liability to pay
anything, is to be settled by arbitrators, and that no action can be commenced
until they shall have determined such amount.
One result of this clause may be to render
two proceedings necessary where there is a dispute as to the amount of the loss
as well as a denial of all liability; but this ought not to be a ground of
complaint to either of the parties who have 1, made it a term of the
contract;" We agree with this.
Mr. Andley placed reliance upon paragraphs
1983 to 1986 at pages 964 and 965 of the Fifth edition of Mac Gillivray on Insurance
Law. On the basis of the decision in Scott v. Avery (supra) as also certain
other decisions it is said in paragraph 1983;
"There is a rule of law that parties
cannot by their private contract oust the jurisdiction of the court; but it has
been held that parties to a contract may nevertheless agree that no cause of
action shall arise upon it until any matter in dispute between them shall have
been determined by arbitration and then only upon the arbitrators' award."
The discussion in paragraph-1986 relates to whether arbitration is a condition
precedent or is merely a collateral agreement. But the relevant paragraph which
applies on all fours to the facts of the case on hand, as pointed out by Mr. F.
S. Nariman, counsel for the appellant, is paragraph 1987 at page 966:
"As a rule, where the amount of the loss
or damage is the only matter which the parties refer to arbitration, then if
the insurers repudiate any liability on the policy there is no obligation on
the assured to arbitrate as to the amount before commencing an action on the
policy." To the same effect is to be found the statement of the law at
pages 328 to 332 in the Fourth edition of Welford & otter-Barry's Fire
Following the decision of the House of Lords
in Jureidini's case (supra) a Bench of the Bombay High Court in The Eagle Star
and British Dominions Insurance Company v.
Dinanath and Hemraj(1) while interpreting an
identical clause 13 said at page 521:
(1) I. L. R. 47 Bombay 509.
70 "But in clause 13 there are various
contingencies set out which is established entitle the insured to bring an
action without an award having been made by arbitrators. One of these
contingencies is "if the claim be made and rejected" which if
established gives a right of action, the period of limitation provided for the
suit being filed at three months from the date of the rejection. While it is
also provided that where arbitration takes place in pursuance of condition 18
of the policy, three months' time should be allowed for a suit to be brought
after the award has been made.
Therefore it is quite obvious that a right of
action accrued after the company rejected the claim. Naturally that question
would have first to be decided by suit as under clause 18 that question could
never have been referred to arbitration." We approve the law so enunciated
by the Bombay High Court.
Mr. Andley placed reliance upon some
decisions of the High Courts in India in support of his contention. We briefly
refer to 4 of them. In the Great American Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Bodh Raj(1)
some observations by Harnam Singh, J. with whom Weston C.J. agreed in paragraph
is do not seem to be quite accurate although on facts as found in paragraph 17
the case was rightly decided. The decision of Falshaw, J.
in Great American Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Dina
Nath(2) again relates to the dispute which was held to have, on the facts of
that case fallen within the arbitration clause. It would appear from the facts
of the case, decided by Mathew, J. in The Vanguard Fire and General Insurance
Company Limited, Madras v. N. R. Sreenivasa Iyer, Trivandrum (3) that clause 7
of the policy was couched in a wide language so as to cover the dispute and the
difference including the one as to liability, which arose between the parties.
In such a situation on a consideration various authorities including the one in
the case of Viney v. Bignold (supra) the learned Judge said at page 275 column
"This condition may either mean that the
arbitrators have to decide the question whether there is any liability at all
under the contract or that they have to decide the quantum of that liability.
In either case an award by the arbitrators is a condition precedent to any
right of action. There is no difference between a case where the arbitrators
have to decide the question of the liability itself and a case where he has to
decide the question the quantum of that liability. In both cases if the
contracts makes the decision of the arbitrators a condition precedent that has
to be fulfilled before a suit can be instituted." In Charanjit Lal Sodhi
v. Messrs. Caledonian Insurance Co. Ltd. and another,(4) a learned single Judge
of the Delhi High Court (1) A.I.R. 1953 Punjab 50. (2) A. T. R. 1957 Punjab,
(3) A.I.R. 1963 Kerala 270. (4) (1969)
Accidents Claims Journal, 12.
71 seems to have gone wrong in treating the
dispute raised by the insurer as one falling under the arbitration clause. The
company had said that the insured had made a false claim.
The learned judge thought that even the
restricted arbitration clause covering only the difference as to the amount of
any loss or damage was "wide enough to include a case of some loss or
damage as well as a case of no loss or damage." The two lines of cases
clearly bear out the two distinct situations in law. A clause like the one in
Scott V. Avery bars any action or suit if commenced for determination of a
dispute covered by the arbitration clause. But if on the other hand a dispute
cropped up at the very outset which cannot be referred to arbitration as being
not covered by the clause, then the Scott v. Avery clause is rendered
inoperative and cannot be pleaded as a bar to the maintainability of the legal
action or suit for determination of the dispute which was outside the
We do not propose, as it is not necessary, to
decide whether the action commenced by respondent no. 1 under section 20 of the
Act for filing filing of the arbitration agreement and for appointment of
arbitrators was barred under clause 19 of the policy. It has been repeatedly
held that such a clause is not hit by section 28 of the Contract Act and is
valid; vide-The Baroda Spinning and Weaving Company Limited v. The Satyanarayan
Marine and Fire Insurance Company Limited(1) Dawood Tar Mahomed Bros and others
v. Queensland Insurance Co. Ltd.(2) and The Ruby General Insurance Co. Ltd. v.
The Bharat Bank Ltd. and others(3). Clause 19 has not prescribed a period of 12
months for the filing of an application under section 20 of the Act. There was
no limitation prescribed for the filing of such an application under the Indian
Limitation Act, 1908 or the Limitation Act, 1963. Article 181 of the former did
not govern such an application. The period of three years prescribed in Article
137 of the Act of 1963 may be applicable to an application under section 20.
Nor are we concerned in this case to decide whether the time taken by
respondent no. 1 in prosecuting his application in Muzaffarnagar court could be
excluded under section 14(2) of the Limitation Act, 1963. Nor do we propose to
decide whether the application under section 20 could be defeated on the ground
of the extinction of the liability of the company under clause 19. We may,
however, observe in passing that in view of the decision on this Court in
Wazirchand Mahajan and another v. Union of India(4) if the difference which had
arisen between the parties was the one to which the arbitration clause applied
then the application under section 20 of the Act could not be dismissed on the
ground that the claim would not ultimately succeed either on facts or in law.
The matter will have to be left for the decision of the arbitrator. Without any
discussion we may just state that the High Court is not right in its (1) I.L.R.
XXXVIII Bombay, 344. (2) A.I.R.1949, Calcutta, 390.
(3) A.I.R. 1950 (East) Punjab 352. (4) 
1 S. C. R. 303 (vide page 308).
6-L1276 SCI/75 72 view that respondent no.
1's claim was not barred under clause 19 because of the provision of law
contained in section 37(3) of the Act But in this case on a careful
consideration of the matter we have come to the definite conclusion that the
difference which arose between the parties on the company's repudiation of the
claim made by respondent no. 1 was not one to which the arbitration clause
applied and hence the arbitration agreement could not be filed and 3 no
arbitrator could be appointed under section 20 of the Act. Respondent no. 1 was
ill-advised to commence an action under section 20 instead of instituting a
suit within three months of the date of repudiation to establish the company's
For the reasons stated above, we allow this
appeal, set aside the judgment and orders of the courts below and dismiss
respondent , no. 1's application filed under section 20 of the Act. Since he
fails on technical grounds, in the circumstances of the case, we shall direct
the parties to pay and bear their own costs throughout.
V.P.S. Appeal allowed.