Vs. Chairman, Orissa Mining Corporationltd. & Anr.  Insc 54 (18 January 2008)
K. Sema, G. P. Mathur & R. V. Raveendran Raveendran, J.
appeals are filed against the common judgment dated 15.10.1999 passed by the
High Court of Orissa in Misc. Appeal No.296/1998 filed by the respondents and
Misc. Appeal No.198/1998 and Civil Revision No.109/1998 filed by the appellant.
appellant is stated to be legal heir and successor in interest of N.C. Budhraja
(hereinafter referred to as the contractor). M/s. Orissa Mining Corporation
Ltd. (for short OMC or respondent) entered into an agreement dated 16.9.1967
(Agreement No.30/F-2) for removal of over-burden at Kaliapani (Cuttack
District) by excavation in all kinds of soil (including stoney earth and gravel
mixed with boulders), and depositing/disposing of the same, as directed. The
maximum lift was 6m including initial lift of one metre. The order to commence
work was issued on 23.9.1967. Parties also entered into three supplementary agreements
in regard to the said contract No.30/F-2, on 2.8.1969, 7.3.1970 and 10.2.1972.
[Note : OMC had also entered into other contracts with the contractor including
contract dated 22.2.1968 (Contract No.2/F/2) for raising Chrome Ore by open
excavation from the said mining area. We are not concerned with those contracts
in these appeals].
main agreement enumerated two items of work in its schedule.
first, second, and third supplementary agreements enumerated respectively eight
items, one item and four items in their respective schedules. The work was
completed by the contractor on 15.6.1975. The final bill in respect of the work
was prepared by OMC on 21.10.1976. It was revised in March-April 1977 by OMC.
The final Bill It showed the total value of the work done (under several items
in the schedule to main and three supplementary agreements) as Rs.1,49,190,76.74.
The contractor countersigned the said bill on 14.4.1977 under protest, but,
however, certified and confirmed that the measurements shown therein were
According to the contractor, having regard to the zig-zag route by which the
over burden had to be carried, the actual lead was much longer and actual lift
was much higher than what were stipulated in the agreement.
contended that the amounts shown as due for the work done was as per contract
rates which was for removing overburden to the extent of lift and lead provided
in the contract schedules; and at several places, he had to cut and remove the
over-burden beyond the extent of lift and lead provided in the contract, and he
should be paid for such extra leads and lifts. He claimed to have executed
certain additional works not provided in the contract schedules, on the
directions of OMC. He therefore represented that the matter may be examined and
enquired into for determination of proper amounts due. In view of the several
representations made by the contractor in respect of the contract no.30/F-2 as
also other contracts, OMC sent the following letter dated 28.10.1978 to the
contractor :- Re : Settlement of pending claims.
had called on Chairman, OMC, recently and apprised him of the dues receivable
by you in respect of certain long pending matters such as mine benches work and
raising at Kaliapani Quarry-I. In the matter of Kaliapani it has been decided
to constitute a committee which will go separately into your claims and other
facts, in which connection you are requested to give all possible help and
assistance, so that your dues, if any, will be ascertainable.
regard to other pending matters, you had indicated yourself that you will give
the details of claims and payment received by you. This may be given within a
day or two so as to enable OMC to settle up the above at the earliest.
contractor sent a reply dated 16.11.1978 enclosing therewith a statement
quantifying his claims relating to contract no. 30F-2 (subject matter of these
appeals) as also another contract (no. 2F-2). A Committee was constituted by
OMC to scrutinize and recommend on the admissibility of the claims made by the
contractor in regard to Agreement No.30/F-2 and Agreement No.2/F-2. Several
meetings were held by the said Committee and the claims of the contractor
aggregating to Rs.50,15,820 in regard to contract no.30.F2 were considered.
Ultimately the Committee submitted a final report dated 7.12.1979 expressing
the view that the contractor could be paid only a sum of Rs.3,52,916/- in
regard to his claims in respect of the two contracts. The contractor,
thereafter, wrote a letter dated 29.2.1980 stating that he had come to know
that the Committee had submitted its final report and requested for a copy of
the report and for payments of the amounts due.
sent a reply dated 4.3.1980 stating that the claims were not accepted yet but however
agreed to release a sum of Rs.3.5 lakhs and released the said sum on that day.
contractor sent a notice dated 4.6.1980 invoking the Arbitration Agreement
(Clause 23) in respect of pending claims relating to Contract No. 30F-2 and two
other contracts. He suggested a panel of names and requested OMC to appoint one
of them as Arbitrator. Immediately, thereafter, the contractor filed Misc. Case
No.306/80 in regard to the contract in the Court of the Sub-Judge, Bhubaneswar,
under section 8(2) of Arbitration Act, 1940 (Act for short) for
appointment of an Arbitrator. The court allowed the said petition by order
dated 6.10.1980 appointing Mr. Justice Balakrishna Patro, a retired Judge of
the Orissa High Court as Arbitrator by consent. On 16.12.1982, an application
was made by the present appellant under Order 22 Rule 3 CPC claiming to be the
son of legatee of the contractor and for substituting him in place of the
deceased N.C. Budhraja, as his legal heir.
said application was allowed by the court on 15.11.1985. In the meanwhile,
Arbitration Act, 1940 ('Act' for short) was amended by the Arbitration (Orissa
Amendment) Act, 1984, inserting section 41A providing for constitution of and
reference to the Arbitration Tribunal. By Notification dated 3.5.1986, (amended
by Memo dated 23.6.1986) the State Government constituted a one Member Special
Arbitral Tribunal with Justice N. K. Das as Arbitral Tribunal to settle the
disputes between the contractor and OMC in regard to contract no. 30/F-2.
contractor filed a claim statement dated 27.6.1986 before the arbitrator
praying for an award of Rs.3,41,42,040 with interest from 1.6.1986, as detailed
of work done by the contractor : Rs.2,45,85,183.89 Less: Amounts paid by OMC to
the Contractor : Rs.1,49,88,566.90 Balance due : (Rs.95,96,616.99) rounded off
as : Rs. 95,96,616.00 Add: Interest on the said amounts from the respective
dates : Rs.2,40,09,948.00 Add: Interest on belated Payments : Rs. 5,35,476.00 Rs.
2,45,45,424.00 _________________ Total : Rs.3,41,42,040.00 _________________ In
the claim statement filed before the arbitrator, the nature and quantum of
claim made was different from what was claimed in the letter dated 16.11.1978
which was considered by the Committee. In the claim statement the contractor
abandoned claims to an extent of Rs.21,83,692 out of the claim of
Rs.50,15,820/- made on 16.11.1978 and claimed only Rs.26,32,128 from the
original claim. The balance of the claim was fresh claims, not made earlier.
The claim of Rs.95,96,616 made before the arbitrator was made up of two parts,
first being a part of the original claim made in the letter dated 16.11.1978
and the second being completely fresh claims made for the first time in the
claim statement, as detailed below :
Out of the original claim of Rs.50,15,820 made Rs. 28,32,128 in the letter
dated 16.11.1978 (The claim for balance of Rs.21,83,692 not pursued in
Fresh claims not made earlier Rs. 67,64,488 (Note : As per actual calculations,
the total of the claims made by the appellant was Rs.96,66,107 and the new
claims were Rs.68,33,979].
Arbitrator made a reasoned award dated 28.11.1986 holding that the appellant
was entitled to a sum of Rs.1,02,66,901.36 (which was more than the claim of
Rs.95,96,616) with interest at 12% per annum from 1.8.1977 till date of award,
and future interest at the rate of 6% P.A. from the expiry of one month from
the date of the award till date of decree. The award is in respect of 35
claims. Out of 35 claims, Items 1 to 16 related to the schedule items of work
under the contract (main agreement and the supplementary agreement 1 to 3).
Items 17 to 34 were in respect of work which did not form part of the contract
schedule. Claim 35 related to escalation in cost of labour and material on
account of delay in execution.
The details of the items 1 to 16, (that is description of work, total amount
claimed, amount admitted, difference in dispute and amount awarded) are as
of item Claim of Contractor Amount admitted by OMC Amount in dispute Award by
Arbitrator 1 Removal of overburden in all kinds of soil etc. within a lead of
100 m. (Maximum lift 6M) 50802.98 45040.32 5762.66 5762.66 2 Removal of
a lead of one km beyond initial lead of 30 m (maximum lift 6m) 406881.20
406581.20 300.00 300.00 3 Transportation of excavated overburdened etc., within
a lead of 1 km beyond initial lead of 6m 676228.94 616245.60 59983.34 59983.34
4 Transportation of excavated over burdened etc., within a lead of 2km beyond
one km. 5361.09 5361.09 0 0 5 Clearing heavy jungle etc., 6201.72 3303.72
2898.00 0 6 Cutting and uprooting trees etc., 5 grith 29800.80 14205.60
15595.20 0 7 Cutting and uprooting trees etc., 5 to 10 grith 11352.00
3360.00 7992.00 0 8 Excavation of overburden in all kinds of rocks etc., upto
60m lead 3689850.00 3390979.12 298870.88 298870.88 9 Excavation of overburden
in all kinds of rock etc., upto 2km distance and within lifts of 35m
10379041.20 10379041.20 0 0 10 Lift beyond 15m upto 16m depth 5066.85 5054.84
12.01 12.01 11 Lift beyond 16m upto 17m 9858.70 9785.55 73.15 73.15 12 Lift
beyond 17m upto 18m 12647.79 12373.84 273.95 273.95 13 Lift beyond 18m upto 19m
13358.54 13037.07 321.47 321.47 14 Lift beyond 19m upto 20m 9812.25 9447.79
364.46 364.46 15 Lift beyond 20 upto 21m 5070.33 4882.89 187.44 187.44 16 Lift
beyond 21m upto 22m 89.71 76.89 12.82 12.82 1,53,16,507.00 149,19,076/72
397,430/28 365,862/18 Though in the claim statement, the appellant had clearly
stated that he had in all received Rs.149,88,566/90, and given credit for the
said sum, during the hearing, the appellant contended that instead of
Rs.149,88,566/90, he had appropriated only Rs.120,01,695/90 towards this
contract and that the balance of Rs.29,86,871/- had been adjusted towards some
though the claim statement was not amended, the Arbitrator proceeded on that
basis and awarded Rs.32,83,243 in respect of items 1 to 16 as under :
Total amount claimed for Items 1 to 16 Rs. 153,16,507.00 B. Total of Items 1 to
16 admitted by OMC Rs. 149,19,076/72 C. Total of claims admitted by Arbitrator Rs.
3,65,862/18 _______________ (B+C) Total Rs. 152,84,938/90 Amount shown as
received by contractor towards Rs.1,20,01,695/90 Items 1 to 16 (as against
Rs.149,88,566/90 shown as received from OMC in the claim statement)
________________ BALANCE arrived at Arbitrator Rs.32,83,243.00 as due to
contractor in respect of items 1 to 16 ________________ 8.2) Claims of
contractor at Sl. No. 17 to 34 related to items of work not covered in the
schedule to the contract, for which claim was made on the basis of
damages/quantum meruit. As against the total of Rs.70,56,573/55 claimed in
regard to these 18 items (Items 17 to 34), the Arbitrator awarded in all
Rs.52,56,847/36. The details of the claims made by the appellant and the amount
awarded in respect of each of them are as under :
of item Amount Claimed Amount Awarded 17 Extra Head Lead for 90 m 2810144.10
2450042.88 18 Removal of excavated materials from the edge of the quarry
54888.60 50858.60 19 Unmeasured quantity of excavation 848372.64 664720.00 20
Catch Water Drain 278842.50 27842.50 21 Removal of slipped earth from side
slopes 143646.00 Nil 22 Restoration of benches to proper shape 186761.16
140070.87 23 Bullah Pilling to prevent slipping of benches 15722.70 Nil 24 Dry
rubble packing 202499.00 122856.40 25 Extra lift during construction of Haul
Road 262837.73 262837.73 26 Extra lift for excavated materials dumped at quarry
270517.88 27 Extra lift measured by Surveyor but not paid 1396128.63 1047096.50
28 Idle labour due to non-supply of working plan 145577.00 Nil 29 Idle labour
due to want of working site 76850.00 Nil 30 Idle labour due to stoppage of work
by the respondent and restriction of working area 389288.00 194644.00 31 Reparing
of Haul road damaged by cyclone 10640.00 Nil 32 Reconstruction of Damsala
Embankment 25370.00 25370.00 33 Barbed wire fencing 27315.00 Nil 34 Supply of
electricity to work site and respondents colony 72000.00 Nil Rs.
70,56,573/55 Rs. 52,56,847/36 8.3) The last item of claim of the appellant,
namely item No.35 was for Rs.22,17,188/34 as escalation in cost between 1972
and 1975 on account of increase in cost of labour and material, based on the
General Price Index.
Arbitrator determined the value of work executed after 1.4.1973 as Rs.52,96,967/-.
He awarded an escalation of 32.6% on the said value of work and awarded Rs.17,26,811.00
as escalation in cost of labour and material.
Thus the Arbitrator awarded Rs.102,66,901.66 to the appellant as detailed below
(exclusive of interest), as against the claim of Rs.95,96,616/- (exclusive of
interest) made by the appellant :
Amounts award in respect of claims 1 to 16 Rs.32,83,243.00
Amounts awarded in respect of claims 17 to 34 Rs.52,56,847.36 (as against claim
Amount awarded in respect of claim 35 as escalation Rs. 17,26,811.00 (as
against claim of Rs.22,17,188/34) _______________ Total award Rs.102,66,901.36
contractor filed OS No.224/1986 for making the award rule of the court, on the
file of the Civil Judge, Sr. Division, Bhubaneswar. The objections to the said award filed by OMC were
registered as Misc. Case No.5/1987. The said court, by common judgment dated
21.3.1998, overruled the objections and directed that the award of the
arbitrator be made the rule of the court and a decree be drawn in terms of the
Feeling aggrieved, OMC filed Misc. Appeal No.296/1998, challenging the decision
of the Civil Judge refusing to set aside the award, directing a decree in terms
of the award. The contractor filed Misc. Appeal No.198/1998 and Civil Revision
No.109/1998 claiming future interest from the date of decree as the judgment of
the Civil Judge was silent on that aspect. The High Court heard and disposed of
the said appeals and revision petition by common judgment 15.10.1999. It
allowed Misc. Appeal No.296/1998 filed by OMC and dismissed M.A. No.198/1998
and C.R. No.109/1998 filed by the contractor. The High Court held :
The claim of the contractor was barred by limitation and therefore the award
was liable to be set aside.
The arbitrator acted beyond his jurisdiction in awarding huge amounts towards
alleged extra work, even though there was nothing to indicate that conditions
contemplated in proviso to Clause 11 (relating to additional work) were
Though the award purported to be a reasoned award, the award in regard to Items
17, 18, 19 and 25 to 27 was not supported by any reason and therefore, the
award was liable to be set aside.
The award in respect of escalation in cost (item 35) at the rate of 32.6% of
the value of work was without basis, (when the claim itself was for a lesser
rate), in the absence of any provision in the contract for escalation, amounted
to legal misconduct.
The award being in excess of the claim made by the contractor shocked the
judicial conscience of the court.
Interest could have been awarded by the arbitrator only from the date of
reference (6.10.1980) and could not be awarded in regard to any pre-reference
Though in the normal course, some of the issues would have necessitated
remitting the matter to the arbitrator for fresh consideration, it was not
necessary to remit the matter as the entire award was being set aside on the
ground of limitation.
said decision of the High Court is challenged by the appellant in this appeal
by special leave.
the contentions urged, the following questions arise for consideration :
Whether the claim made before the arbitrator or any part thereof was barred by
limitation? (ii) Whether the award is liable to be set aside on the ground of
legal misconduct and the error apparent on the face of the award? (iii) Whether
the award is liable to be set aside on the ground that the arbitrator exceeded
his jurisdiction ? (iv) To what relief the parties are entitled? Questions (i)
and (ii) :
The Arbitrator held that the claims were not barred. He held :
the case of a suit, the date on which the cause of action arises is the date
from which the limitation period starts. Under section 20, it is the date on
which the right to apply accrues that determines the starting point.
starting point does not coincide with the date on which the cause of action for
filing a suit arises. The same principle would apply to an application under
section 8 of the Act. The claimant signed the final bill on 14.4.1977 under
protest. It is not correct to say that the claimant accepted the final bill. All
these factors show that negotiation was going on and the matter was in a
nebulous and fluid stage. The committee gave its report in December, 1979. In
March, 1980 some portion out of the money said to have been found due by the
committee was paid on ad hoc basis. Notice was given by the contractor on
14.6.80. So, the dispute as to final bill still continues. Till the final bill
is prepared and accepted by the contractor, limitation would not accrue. When
the matter went to court in 1980, it was not barred by limitation"
The High Court found that the work was completed on 15.6.1975, final
measurement was taken on 16.6.1975 and the final bill was signed by the
contractor under protest on 14.4.1977 and therefore held that the cause of
action for the contractor to make a claim arose on 14.4.1977. According to the
High Court, as the notice invoking arbitration was issued on 4.6.1980 and the
petition under section 8(2) of the Act was filed thereafter, beyond three years
from 14.4.1977, the entire claim was barred by limitation. The High Court
further held that as the final bill was signed under protest by the contractor,
it could be said that the cause of action arose on a date subsequent to the
date of signing of the final bill. It further held that the fact that the
Departmental Committee considered the claims in 1979, subsequent to the signing
of the final bill under protest, did not have the effect of saving/extending
limitation in the absence of any acknowledgement in writing as required under
section 18 of the Act.
Section 18 of the Limitation Act, 1963 deals with effect of acknowledgement in
writing. Sub-section (1) thereof provides that where, before the expiration of
the prescribed period for a suit or application in respect of any right, an
acknowledgement of liability in respect of such right has been made in writing
signed by the party against whom such right is claimed, a fresh period of
limitation shall be computed from the time when the acknowledgement was so
signed. The explanation to the section provides that an acknowledgement may be
sufficient though it omits to specify the exact nature of the right or avers
that the time for payment has not yet come or is accompanied by a refusal to pay,
or is coupled with a claim to set off, or is addressed to a person other than a
person entitled to the right. Interpreting section 19 of the Limitation Act,
1908 (corresponding to section 18 of the Limitation Act, 1963) this Court in Shapur
Fredoom Mazda v. Durga Prosad Chamaria (AIR 1961 SC 1236), held :
as prescribed by section 19 merely renews debt; it does not create a new right
of action. It is a mere acknowledgement of the liability in respect of the
right in question; it need not be accompanied by a promise to pay either
expressly or even by implication.
statement on which a plea of acknowledgement is based must relate to a present
subsisting liability though the exact nature or the specific character of the
said liability may not be indicated in words. Words used in the acknowledgement
must, however, indicate the existence of jural relationship between the parties
such as that of debtor and creditor, and it must appear that the statement is
made with the intention to admit such jural relationship. Such intention can be
inferred by implication from the nature of the admission, and need not be
expressed in words. If the statement is fairly clear, then the intention to
admit jural relationship may be implied from it. The admission in question need
not be express but must be made in circumstances and in words from which the
court can reasonably infer that the person making the admission intended to
refer to a subsisting liability as at the date of the statement. Stated
generally, courts lean in favour of a liberal construction of such statements
though it does not mean that where no admission is made one should be inferred,
or where a statement was made clearly without intending to admit the existence
of jural relationship such intention could be fastened on the maker of the
statement by an involved or far-fetched process of reasoning. In
construing words used in the statements made in writing on which a plea of
acknowledgement rests oral evidence has been expressly excluded but surrounding
circumstances can always be considered. The effect of the words used in a
particular document must inevitably depend upon the context in which the words
are used and would always be conditioned by the tenor of the said document..
is now well settled that a writing to be an acknowledgement of liability must
involve an admission of a subsisting jural relationship between the parties and
a conscious affirmation of an intention of continuing such relationship in
regard to an existing liability. The admission need not be in regard to any
precise amount nor by expressed words. If a defendant writes to the plaintiff
requesting him to send his claim for verification and payment, it amounts to an
acknowledgement. But if the defendant merely says, without admitting liability,
it would like to examine the claim or the accounts, it may not amount to
acknowledgement. In other words, a writing, to be treated as an acknowledgement
of liability should consciously admit his liability to pay or admit his intention
to pay the debt. Let us illustrate. If a creditor sends a demand notice
demanding payment of Rs.1 lakh due under a promissory note executed by the
debtor and the debtor sends a reply stating that he would pay the amount due,
without mentioning the amount, it will still be an acknowledgement of
liability. If a writing is relied on as an acknowledgement for extending the
period of limitation in respect of the amount or right claimed in the suit, the
acknowledgement should necessarily be in respect of the subject matter of the
suit. If a person executes a work and issues a demand letter making a claim for
the amount due as per the final bill and the defendant agrees to verify the
bill and pay the amount, the acknowledgement will save limitation for a suit
for recovery of only such bill amount, but will not extend the limitation in
regard to any fresh or additional claim for damages made in the suit, which was
not a part of the bill or the demand letter. Again we may illustrate. If a
house is constructed under the item rate contract and the amount due in regard
to work executed is Rs. two lakhs and certain part payments say aggregating to
Rs.1,25,0000/- have been made and the contractor demands payment of the balance
of Rs.75,000/- due towards the bill and the employer acknowledges liability,
that acknowledgement will be only in regard to the sum of Rs.75,000/- which is
due. If the contractor files a suit for recovery of the said Rs.75,000/- due in
regard to work done and also for recovery of Rs.50,000/- as damages for breach
by the employer and the said suit is filed beyond three years from completion
of work and submission of the bill but within three years from the date of
acknowledgement, the suit will be saved from bar of limitation only in regard to
the liability that was acknowledged namely Rs.75,000/- and not in regard to the
fresh or additional claim of Rs.50,000/- which was not the subject matter of
acknowledgement. What can be acknowledged is a present subsisting liability. An
acknowledgment made with reference to a liability, cannot extend limitation for
a time barred liability or a claim that was not made at the time of
acknowledgment or some other liability relating to other transactions. Any
admission of jural relationship in regard to the ascertained sum due or a
pending claim, cannot be an acknowledgement for a new additional claim for
will now examine this case with reference to the said principles. In this case,
the cause of action accrued on 14.4.1977 when the final bill was signed by the
contractor. It is not in dispute that the final bill showed that a sum of
Rs.17,69,608.73 was payable to the contractor (after giving credit to the
payments made and after withholding a sum of Rs.7,45,953.83 as 5% security
deposit). Towards the said sum of Rs.17,69,608.73. Rs.17 lacs was paid on
25.2.1976 and Rs.70,000/- was paid on 6.8.1977. The contractor had made some
claims and OMC wrote a letter dated 28.10.1978 in regard to the pending claims
of the contractor. In regard to Kaliapani matters, OMC informed the contractor
that it has been decided to constitute a Committee which will go into the
claims of the contractor so that the dues, if any, could be ascertained. It
further stated that on the details of the claims and payments received being
given to the contractor, OMC will settle up the pending matters at the
earliest. This clearly showed an intention on the part of OMC to admit the jural
relationship of contractor and employer and an intention to settle the pending
claims after being satisfied about them. Therefore, the letter dated 28.10.1978
was clearly an acknowledgement in writing in so far as the pending
claims of the contractor. What were the pending claims is made clear in
the letter dated 16.11.1978 written by the contractor enclosing a statement
showing that in all, a sum of Rs.50,15,820/- was due. The Committee constituted
by the OMC examined these claims and admitted the claims only to an extent of
Rs.3,52,916/- as per its final report dated 7.12.1979. OMC paid Rs.3,50,000/-
on 4.3.1980. In view of the acknowledgement in writing on 28.10.1978 and
payment of the Rs.3,50,000/- on 4.3.1980, it can be said that in regard to the
pending claims of the contractor, the limitation stood extended by three years
from 4.3.1980 and at all events by three years from 28.10.1978. It is not in
dispute that the contractor issued the notice invoking arbitration on 4.6.1980
and immediately filed a petition under section 8(2) of the Act for appointment
of Arbitrator which was allowed on 6.10.1980.
whatever claims were made before the Arbitrator which was part of the claim of
Rs.50,15,820, was within time, having been made within three years from
28.10.1978 and 4.6.1980.
regard to the claims aggregating to Rs.95,96,616/- made in the claim statement
filed before the Arbitrator, only claims aggregating to Rs.28,32,138 related to
and formed part of the said pending claim of Rs.50,15,820. The appellant did
not make a claim in regard to the remaining Rs.21,83,692. Therefore, out of the
claim of Rs.95,96,616 made by the appellant before the Arbitrator, the claim
for only Rs.28,32,138/- was not barred by limitation. The remaining claims of
the appellant aggregating to Rs.67,64,488/- out of the total of Rs.95,96,616/-
being fresh claims, were not pending claims in respect of which the
acknowledgement was made.
the said fresh claims aggregating to Rs.67,64,488 made for the first time in
the claims statement filed on 27.6.1986 were clearly barred by limitation.
The learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the limitation would begun
to run from the date on which a difference arose between the parties, and in
this case the difference arose only when OMC refused to comply with the notice
dated 4.6.1980 seeking reference to arbitration. We are afraid, the contention
is without merit. The appellant is obviously confusing the limitation for a
petition under section 8(2) of the Arbitration Act, 1940 with the limitation
for the claim itself. The limitation for a suit is calculated as on the date of
filing of the suit. In the case of arbitration, limitation for the claim is to
be calculated on the date on which the arbitration is deemed to have commenced.
Section 37(3) of the Act provides that for the purpose of Limitation Act, an
arbitration is deemed to have been commenced when one party to the arbitration
agreement serves on the other party thereto, a notice requiring the appointment
of an arbitrator. Such a notice having been served on 4.6.1980, it has to be
seen whether the claims were in time as on that date. If the claims were barred
on 4.6.1980, it follows that the claims had to be rejected by the arbitrator on
the ground that the claims were barred by limitation. The said period has
nothing to do with the period of limitation for filing a petition under section
8(2) of the Act. Insofar as a petition under section 8(2), the cause of action
would arise when the other party fails to comply with the notice invoking
arbitration. Therefore, the period of limitation for filing a petition under
section 8(2) seeking appointment of an arbitrator cannot be confused with the
period of limitation for making a claim. The decisions of this Court in Inder
Singh Rekhi vs. Delhi Development Authority - (1988) 2 SCC 338, Panchu Gopal
Bose vs. Board of Trustees for Port of Calcutta - (1993) 4 SCC 338 and Utkal
Commercial Corporation vs. Central Coal Fields - (1999) 2 SCC 571 also make
this position clear.
The appellant next contended, relying on section 18 of Limitation Act, that as
there was acknowledgement of liability in regard to Contract No.30/F-2 in the
letter dated 28.10.1978, and the notice invoking arbitration was issued on
4.6.1980 within 3 years from 28.10.1978, he was at liberty to make any claim in
regard to the contract before the arbitrator, (even though such claims had not
been earlier made) and all such claims shall have to be treated as being within
the period of limitation. Such a contention cannot be countenanced. As noticed
above, the cause of action arose on 14.4.1977. But for the acknowledgement on
28.10.1978, on the date of invoking arbitration (4.6.1980), the claims would
have been barred by time as being beyond the period of limitation. The
limitation is extended only in regard to the liability which was acknowledged
in the letter dated 28.10.1978. It is not in dispute that either on 28.10.1978
or on 4.3.1980, the contractor had not made the fresh claims aggregating to
Rs.67,64,488 and the question of such claims made in future for the first time
on 27.6.1986, being acknowledged by OMC on 28.10.1998 did not arise.
Another aspect requires to be noticed. The contractor was N.C.Budhraja. The
original claim (which was the subject matter of letter dated 28.10.1978,
subjected to examination by the Committee as per report dated 7.12.1979, and
towards which Rs.3,50,000/- was paid) made by the contractor N.C. Budhraja
aggregated to Rs.50,15,820. The Appellant who is his LR cannot for the first
time make a fresh claim before the Arbitrator, which was never made by N.C. Budhraja.
The Appellant could only pursue the claim made by N.C. Budhraja, which were
pending or subsisting when N.C. Budhraja issued the notice dated 4.6.1980
The arbitrator committed an error apparent on the face of the record and a
legal misconduct in holding that the entire claim was within time. His
assumption that if the application filed by the contractor in 1980 under
section 8(2) of Arbitration Act for appointment of an Arbitrator was in time,
all claims made in the claim statement filed before the Arbitrator appointed in
such proceeding under section 8(2) are also in time, is patently erroneous and
is an error apparent on the face of the record. The reasoning of the arbitrator
that on account of the formation of the Committee by OMC to scrutinize the
pending claims in pursuance of the OMC's letter dated 28.10.1978, and the
payment of Rs.3,50,000/- on 4.3.1980 in pursuance of the Committee giving its
final report on 7.12.1979, every claim of the contract including new claims
which were made for the first time in the claim statement filed in 1986 (as
contrasted with 'pending claims' considered by OMC), are not barred by
limitation, is also an error apparent in the face of the award. Under section
18 an acknowledgement in writing extends the limitation. Under section 19 a
payment made on account of a debt, enables a fresh period of limitation being
computed. Therefore, the letter of OMC dated 28.10.1978 and the payment of
Rs.3,50,000/- by OMC, would result in a fresh period of limitation being computed
only in regard to the 'existing debt' in respect of which acknowledgment and
payment was made.
as at that time, the claim of the contractor was only for a sum of Rs.50,15,820.
Therefore, the letter dated 28.10.1978 and payment on 4.3.1980 extended the
limitation only in respect of the claims which were part of the said claim of
Rs.50,15,820. Therefore, the fresh claims of Rs.67,64,488/- (out of the total
claim of Rs.95,96,616) is barred by limitation and the award made in that
behalf is liable to be set aside.
we hold that only that part of the claim before the Arbitrator which was part
of the claim of Rs.5015,820/- made by the contractor, that was existing or
pending as on 28.10.1978 and 4.3.1980, namely Rs.28,32,128 (out of Rs.95,96,616)
could have been considered by the Arbitrator.
(iii) & (iv) :
the claim statement filed before the arbitrator the appellant showed the value
of work done as Rs.2,45,85,183.89 and the total payments made by OMC as
Rs.149,88,566.90. Thus he claimed the balance due as Rs.95,96,616. Even while
calculating the interest on the amount outstanding, the claimant proceeded on
the basis that he has received in all, Rs.1,49,88,566.90 from OMC. The prayer
before the arbitrator in the claim statement was for the award of Rs.95,96,616
in regard to the work done after giving credit of Rs.1,49,88,566.90. The
categorical stand of the contractor and the appellant all along has been that
OMC had paid in all a sum of Rs.149,88,566.90. But during the course of the
arbitration proceedings, the appellant contended that out of Rs.149,88,566.90
received from OMC and taken into credit towards this contract, a sum of
Rs.29,86,871/- was being appropriated towards other contracts and therefore the
payments made by OMC towards this contract should be taken as Rs.120,01,695.90.
The arbitrator has mechanically accepted the said altered stand contrary to the
claim statement and proceeded to determine the amount payable by OMC, by taking
the amount paid by OMC as Rs.120,01,659.90 towards this contract, even though
the claim statement showing that OMC had paid Rs.149,88,566.90 remained
unaltered. The claim statement was not amended to show that only Rs.120,01,659.90
had been received from OMC in regard to the contract. When the claim made in
the claim statement is after adjusting Rs.149,88,566.90 paid by OMC towards the
work, the arbitrator cannot proceed on the basis that only Rs.120,01,659.90 was
paid towards the work. As a result though the Arbitrator found that the amount
payable towards claims at Items 1 to 16 was only Rs.365,862.18, he awarded
Rs.32,83,243/- to the appellant, thereby increasing the liability of OMC by
Rs.29,86,871/-. By awarding more than what was claimed in the claim statement
(by showing a lesser amount as having been paid by OMC though claim statement
showed a higher amount), the Arbitrator clearly exceeded his jurisdiction. The
Arbitrator thus committed a legal misconduct and the award to that extent is
liable to be set aside. Therefore the amount awarded in respect of claims at
items 1 to 16 by the Arbitrator is to be reduced by Rs.29,86,871/-.
The Arbitrator has exceeded his jurisdiction in another respect. The total
claim made by the contractor before the Arbitration was Rs.95,96,616/- (excluding
interest). But the amount awarded by the arbitrator towards the said claim was
Rs.1,02,66,901/36 (excluding interest). Making an award in excess of the claim
itself by Rs.6,70,285 is a clear act of exceeding the jurisdiction and amounts
to a legal misconduct and to that extent of Rs.6,70,285/- the award is invalid.
regard to item 35, that is escalation in cost, the claim in the claim statement
was at the rate of 15% for the value of work done in 1972-73, 28.5% in respect
of value of work done in 1973-74 and 32% in respect of work done in 1974-75.
But the Arbitrator has awarded escalation at a flat rate of 32.6% on the entire
cost of work done from 1.4.1973 and thereby awarded an escalation in excess of
what was claimed. This also amounts to exceeding the jurisdiction and therefore
legal misconduct. The award in excess of what was claimed was invalid.
The award of the arbitrator in respect of time barred claim of Rs.67,64,488 is
an error apparent on the face of the award. Award of amounts in excess of claim
(referred to in paras 22, 23 and 24) clearly amount to exceeding the
jurisdiction. All these, that is awarding amount towards time barred part of
the claim of Rs.67,64,488, and awarding amounts of Rs.29,86,871, Rs.670,285 and
escalation in cost at a rate more than what is claimed, are all legal
misconducts and the award in regard to those amounts are null and void. There
is however some overlapping of the aforesaid amounts.
Does it mean that the entire award should be set aside? The answer is no. That
part of the award which is valid and separable can be upheld. That part relates
to the claims which were validly before the Arbitrator, which were part of the
existing or pending claims of Rs.50,15,820 and which were not barred by limitation.
As stated above they were the claims which were existing or pending in 1978,
1979 and 1980 (considered by the committee and payment made by OMC) which were
carried before the Arbitrator to an extent of Rs.28,32,128. Only the amounts
awarded by the Arbitrator against those claims can be considered as award
validly made in Arbitration, falling within jurisdiction. They are clearly
severable from the other portions of the award. The particulars of the claims
and corresponding awards are as follows:
letter dated 16.11.78 Contractor's claim originally made 16.11.78 Contractor's
claim before Arbitrator Award by Arbitrator 7.
and uprooting trees 5 20,869.32 11,352.00 Nil 17.
head lead for 90 M 7(a) 2,61,926.40 28,10,144.00 24,50,042.88 (261,926.40)* 18.
of excavated material from edge of quarry 3 3,43,360.58 54,888.60 50,858.60 19.
quantity of excavation 4 8,44,360.00 8,48,372.64 6,64,720.00 20.
water drain 12 1,55,400.00 27,842.50 27,842.50 21.
of slipped earth from side slopes 15 3,42,960.00 1,43,646.00 Nil 26.
lift for excavated material dumped at quarry edge 7(e) 42,370.00 3,60,690.49
270,517.88 (42,370.00)* 27.
lift measured by surveyor 7(b) 1,25,642.00 13,96,128.67 10,47,096.50
(non supply of plans) 9(a) 1,45,575.00 1,45,575.00 Nil 29.
(for want of site) 9(c) 75,450.00 76,850.00 Nil 30.
(due to stoppage of work and restriction of working area) 9(b) & (d) 2,61,205.00
3,89,288.00 194,644.00 31.
road damaged by cyclone 10(iii) 10,640.00 10,640.00 Nil 32.
of Embasskent 10(vii) 25,370.00 25,370.00 25,370.00 33.
fencing 13 1,05,000.00 27,315.00 Nil 34.
supply to work site and colony 6(b) 72,000.00 72,000.00 Nil 28,32,128.30
13,93,373.50 [Note : The figures shown by (*) in the column 'Award by
Arbitrator', refer to the maximum that could have been awarded by the
Arbitrator having regard to claim that was not barred by limitation].
the total amount awarded by the Arbitrator against claims which were not barred
by limitation was only Rs.13,93,373.50. The award to this extent is not open to
challenge. This part of the award does not suffer from any legal misconduct.
There is also no error apparent on the face of the award in respect of the
amount. It is not open to challenge.
The scope of interference is limited. In Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd. vs.
Governor of Orissa - (1995) 3 SCC 8, this Court held:
is well known that the court while considering the question whether the award
should be set aside, does not examine that question as an appellant court.
While exercising the said power, the court cannot reappreciate all the
materials on the record for the purpose of recording a finding whether in the
facts and circumstances of a particular case the award in question could have
been made. Such award can be set aside on any of the grounds specified in
section 30 of the Act."
Hindustan Tea Co. vs. M/s K. Sashikant & Co. - 1986 (Supp.) SCC 506, this
Court observed thus :
Award is reasoned one. The objections which have been raised against the Award
are such that they cannot indeed be taken into consideration within the limited
ambit of challenge admissible under the scheme of the Arbitration Act. Under
the law, the Arbitrator is made the final arbiter of the dispute between the
parties. The award is not open to challenge on the ground that the Arbitrator
has reached a wrong conclusion or has failed to appreciate facts."
the Award of the Arbitrator has to be upheld to an extent of Rs.13,93,373.50.
view of the foregoing, we allow these appeals in part, set aside the judgment
of the High Court and direct a decree in terms of the award for a sum of Rs.13,93,373.50
with interest at the rate of 12% P.A. from 1.8.1977 to date of award
(28.11.1986) and at the rate of 6% P.A. thereafter, that is from 29.11.1986
till date of payment. Parties to bear their respective costs.