Upper Ganges Valley Electricity Supply
Company Ltd. Vs. U.P. Electricity Board  INSC 303 (19 December 1972)
KHANNA, HANS RAJ VAIDYIALINGAM, C.A.
CITATION: 1973 AIR 683 1973 SCR (3) 107 1973
SCC (1) 254
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1989 SC 890 (18,30)
Arbitration Act (10 of 1940), s. 30--Speaking
award -Error apparent on its face with respect to a severable Item-if entire
award should be set aside-Court, if may amend award instead of remitting it.
The respondent took over the appellant's
Undertaking, in May 19591, but as the parties were at variance on the true
market value to ',paid to the appellant, the matter was referred to
arbitration. As the arbitrators were unable to agree on the question whether
the appellant was entitled to compensation for the 'service lines which were
laid with the help of contributions made by consumers, they referred the
question to the umpire. The umpire framed an issue and gave a finding that the
appellant was not entitled to claim from the respondent the value of the
portion of the service lines which were laid at the cost of the consumers, for
the sole reason that they were, laid at the cost of the consumers.
The appellant filed an application under s.
30 of the Arbitration Act, 1940, challenging the validity of the award on the
question. The lower court and High Court hold against the appellant.
Allowing the appeal to this Court,
HELD : (1) The appellant's application for
setting aside the award could succeed only if there was an error of law on the
face of the award. The other conditions of s. 30 have no bearing on the, case.
(2)The umpire had made a speaking award and
there was no question of the construction of any document incorporated in or
appended to the award. If it is transparent from the award that a leggal
proposition which forms its basis is erroneous, the award is liable to be set
aside.[111 D] Unionof India Y. Bugo Steel Furniture P. Ltd.,  (1) S.C.R.
324, M/S. Allen Berry and Co. P., Ltd. v. The Union of India, A.I.R. 1971 S.C.
(3)The conditions of licence, the provisions
of the Act namely, ss. 2(f), (1) and (n), 3(f), 7(1) as it stood at the time of
taking over, Section 8 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, Paragraph VI of,
the Schedule to the Act, and the legal position, all point only in one
direction that the appellant is entitled to receive compensation for the
service lines laid at the cost of the consumers. The umpire, however, in his
calculations, had expressly excluded the value of the portion of service lines
installed at the cost of consumers. In making the exclusion, the umpire had
therefore mis conducted himself in law rendering his award erroneous on its
face. [113G] 108 Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation v. Commissioner of
Wealth-tax, West Bengal, 82 I.T.R. 154 referred to.
(4)The reference to the arbitrations in the
present case was on the broad question of the fair market value of the
appellant's undertaking, and the parties did not refer any specific question of
law for the decision of the arbitrators. Therefore, the decision in Durga
Prasad Chamria and Anr. v. Sewkishendas Bhatter, A.I.R. 1949 P.C. 334 has no
application. [115B] (5)The part of the award, which is invalid, being severable
from that which is valid, there is no justification for setting aside the
entire award. [115D] (6)This Court should itself amend the award instead of
remitting it in the interests of justice and to avoid undue delay in a dispute
pending since 1959. [115E] (7)The consumers' contribution for laying the
service line were made from April 1, 1958 to March 31, 1959. The, taking over
of the undertaking by the respondent being in May 1959, the consumers'
contribution would roughly represent the market value of the service lines,
even if, as required by the first proviso to s. 7(1) as it then stood, due
regard was to be had to the nature and condition of the 'works', to the
circumstance that they ate in such a Position as to be ready for immediate
working, and to their suitability for the purposes of the undertaking.
Therefore, the sum representing the consumers' contributions should be taken
into account in arriving at the price to be paid to the appellant. [115G],
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1314 of 1967.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
decree dated April 15, 1966 of the Allahabad High Court in F.A.F.O. No.279
B. Sen and S. N. Mukherjee, for the
C. B. Agarwala, O. P. Rana and Ravinder Bana,
for the respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
CHANDRACHUD, J. On February 5, 1929 the Governor-in Council of the then
Government of the United Provinces granted to Messrs. Martin & Co. a
licence under section 3 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910 for supply of
electric energy within the Districts of Bijnor and Moradabad. Messrs.
Martin & Co., who were Managing Agents of
the appellants company, assigned that licence to it. By a notice dated January
31, 1957 the Government of Uttar Pradesh exercised its option to purchase the
Undertaking of the appellant on the expiry of two years from the date of the
notice. This period was on appellant's request, extended till May 4, 1959. The
respondent-Uttar Pradesh State Electricity, Board was constituted on April 1,
1959 and under section 71 of the 109 Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948, the option
of the Government of Uttar Pradesh to purchase electrical undertakings stood
transferred to the respondent.
By a letter dated May 1, 1959 respondent
informed the appellant that it had decided to purchase the Undertaking on
payment of a sum of Rs. 25,38,407/-, being the fair market value of all its
assets, inclusive of solatium. On May 4, 1959 respondent made a provisional
payment of rupees 15 lakhs to the appellant which, the latter accepted under
protest. The Undertaking was eventually taken over by the respondent on May
Being unable to agree on the true market
value of the Undertaking, parties referred their differences to two
arbitrators. Out of the several contentions raised before the arbitrators, we
are concerned with one only : Whether, in the computation of the market value
of its Undertaking, the appellant was entitled to compensation for the
"service lines" which were laid with the help of contributions made
by consumers. On this question, arbitrators were unable to agree and therefore
they referred it to the decision of an umpire, Shri Randhir Singh.
Out of the eight issues framed by the umpire,
issues 1 (a), 1 (b), 7 and 8 only are relevant. These issues read thus :
Issue No. 1 (a) : Is the Board entitled to
get a credit for the amount of consumers' contribution paid for the service
lines, laid on their premises and at their cost ? Issue No. 1 (b) : What is the
amount of the Consumers' contribution for the period 1st of April, 1958 to 4/5
May, 1959 ? Issue No. 7 : Has any excess payment been made by the Board to the
Company ? If so are the Board entitled to a refund, and interest thereon ? What
should be the rate of interest if any ? Issue No. 8 : What was the fair market
value of the Undertaking on the midnight of 4/5 May 1959 ? Issue No. 1 (a) :
"The Company is not entitled to claim from the Board the value of the
portion of the service lines which were laid at the cost of the
consumers." Issue No. 1 (b) : "The Consumers' contribution from
1.4.58 to 31st of March, 1959 is Rs. 2,38,255/-. The amount of the contribution
from 1.4.59 to 415 May, 1959 has not been proved." On Issue No. 8, the
umpire found that on the date of purchase, the fair market value of the assets
of the Undertaking was 110 Rs. 23,81,670/-. As the appellant had already
received a sum of rupees 15 lakhs from the respondent and as the respondent was
entitled to a refund of Rs. 9,80,238/on account of security deposits held by
the appellant, the Umpire came to the conclusion by his award dated November
27, 1961 that the appellant had received Rs. 9,8,568/in excess of the amount of
the fair market value. On Issue No.
7, the Umpire accordingly held that the
respondent had made an excess payment of the. aforesaid amount to the appellant
which the latter was liable to refund with future interest as awarded.
The appellant, by an application under
section 30 of the Arbitration Act, 1940 challenged the validity of the award in
the court of the Civil Judge, Moradabad on the ground that the Umire had
legally misconducted himself in not awarding compensation for the service
lines. The learned Judge upheld a part of the award, to the extent to which the
market value of the Undertaking was fixed at Rs. 23,81,670/but he set aside the
rest of it. Obviously, he misunderstood the appellant's contention in regard to
its right to receive compensation for the service lines. He mixed up that claim
with the claim in regard to security deposits and overlooked considering the
main question whether the appellant was entitled to compensation for the
The appellant filed an appeal in the High Court
of Allahabad against that judgment while the respondent filed its cross objections.
By a judgment dated April 15,1966 the High Court held that the Umpire was
justified in refusing to award compensation to the appellant for the service
'the appeal as well as the cross-objections
were dismissed by the High Court. This appeal by special leave is directed
against that judgment.
The only point of dispute in the appeal is
whether the appellant is entitled to compensation for the service lines.
Before considering this question, it is
necessary to emphasise that these proceedings arise, not out of a suit but out
of an application made under section 30 ofthe Arbitration Act, 1940 for setting
aside an award. That section provides that an award shall not be set aside
except on one or more of the grounds therein mentioned. Two of the three
grounds on which alone an award is liable to be set aside under section 30 are
that the arbitrator or umpire has misconducted himself or the proceedings, or
(ii) that the award has been improperly procured or is otherwise invalid.
It is well settled that if parties constitute
an arbitrator as the sole and final judge of the disputes arising between them,
they bind themselves as a rule to accept the award as final and conclusive. An
award is Ordinarily not liable to be set aside on the 111 ground that either on
facts or in law, it is erroneous. In Hodgkinson v. Fernie(1) the true
principle_was states thus :
"Where a cause or matters in difference
are referred to an arbitrator. He is constituted the sole and final judge of
all questions both of law and fact... The only exceptions to that rule are,
cases where the award is the result of corruption or fraud, and one other,
which though it is to be regretted, is now, I think, firmly established, viz.,
where the question of law necessarily arises on the face of the award, or upon
some paper accompanying and forming part of the award." This view was
cited with approved in Union of India v. Bungo Steel Furniture P. Ltd.(2) and
was recently adopted in Mls.Allen Berry and Co. P. Ltd. v. The Union of India.
(3) It is therefore plain that the appellant's application for setting aside
the award can succeed only if there is an error of law on the face of the
award. The other conditions of section 30 have no. bearing on the case.
It is unnecessary to consider the
comprehension of the expression "on the face of the award" because
the Umpire has made a speaking award and there is no question here of the
construction of a document incorporated in the award or appended to it. If it
is transparent from the award that a legal proposition which forms its basis is
erroneous, the award would be liable to be set aside.
In order to find the true legal position, it
is necessary to look at a few provisions of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910
(herein, "the Act"). Section 2(1) of the Act defines a' "service
"line" as meaning any electric supply-line, through which energy is,
or is intended to be, supplied (i) to a single consumer either from a
distributing main or immediately from the supplier's premises or (ii) from a
distributing main to a group of consumers on the same premises or on adjoining
premises supplied from the same point of the distributing main. Under section
2(c), "consumer" means any person who is supplied with energy by a
licensee or by the Government. Under section 3(f) the provisions contained in
the Schedule to the Act are to be deemed to be incorporated' with and to form
part of every licence granted under the Act, save in so far as they are
expressly added to, varied or excepted by the licence.
Paragraph VI(1) of the Schedule casts on the
licensee an obligation, subject to certain exceptions, to supply electric
energy to the opener or occupier of premises situated within the area of (1)
1857 (3) C.B. (N.S.) 189.
(3) A.LR. 1971 S.C. 696.
(2)  1 S.C.R. 32,4.
112 supply, within one month of the
requisition. Under clause (b) of the first provision to Paragraph VI(1), however,
the licensee is not bound to comply with such requisition unless, among other
things, the person making the requisition, if required by the licensee so to
do, pays to the licensee the cost of so much of any service line as may be laid
down or placed for the purposes of the supply upon the property in respect of
which the requisition is made.
Section 7 of 'the Act, as it stood then,
conferred on the State Government an option to purchase the undertaking of a
licensee " on payment of the value of all lands, buildings, works,
materials and plant of the licensee suitable to, and used by him for, the
purposes of the undertaking-." The first proviso to section 7(i) said that
"the value of such lands, buildings, works, materials and IC plant shall
be deemed to be their fair market value at the time of purchase, due regard
being had to the nature and condition for the time being" of such lands,
buildings, works etc.
Section 2 (n) defines "work' to include
electric, supply line and any building, plant, machinery, apparatus and any
other thing of Section 2(f) defines "electric supply line" as meaning
a wire, conductor or other means used for conveying, transmitting or
It is patent from these provisions that the
appellant was entitled to receive compensation for the service lines laid with
the help of contributions made by consumers. Section 7 (1 ) of the Act
conferred upon the appellant the right to receive the fair market value of
"works' amongst other assets. Under section 2(n) "'works" includes
an electric supply-line and by reason of the definitions in sections 2(f) and
(1), a supply-line includes a service line.
Under paragraph VI (2) of the Schedule, any
service line laid for the purpose of supply in pusuance of a requisition made
by a consumer has to be maintained by the licensee, "notwithstanding that
a portion of it may have been paid for by the person making the
requisition"; the licensee, however, has the right to use such service
fine "for the supply of energy to any other person". Under section, 8
of the Act, if neither the State Electricity Board nor the State Government nor
the local authority is willing to purchase a licensee's undertaking and the
licence is revoked, the licensee has the right to dispose of "all lands,
buildings, works, materials and plant belonging to the undertaking in such
manner as he may think fit".
An interesting sidelight of the issue
involved in this appeal is H that in 1923, the Government of India in its
Department of Industries and Labour, had sought the opinion of the officiating
113 Advocate-General, Bengal, on the, "question of ownership of the
service line the cost of which has been paid for by the consumer". Shri B.
L. Mitter who was then the officiating Advocate-General opined that "the
property in a service line is in the licensee It makes no difference whether
the consumer pays for any portion under schedule rule VI( 1 ) (b). The service
line is part of the "Works' (Sec. 2) (n) and the licensee maintains it.
Schedule VI(2)". In 1924, a copy of this opinion was forwarded by the
Government of India to The Government of the United Provinces., When years
later, the same question cropped over once again, the Government of Uttar
Pradesh informed all the electric supply undertakings in the State by their letter
dated December 5, 1952 that the Government had decided "that the ownership
of a service line vests in the licensee irrespective of whether the cost of the
whole or part of it, has been paid for by a consumer or not".
On March 10, 1953, the, Government of Uttar
Pradesh sent an intimation to all the electricity supply companies in the State
including the appellant that the Governor of Uttar Pradesh had, under section
21 (2) of the Act, given his sanction to an amendment or modification in the
existing conditions of the licences by the addition of a new clause 4. That
clause reads thus :
"The whole of the service line,
irrespective of the payment made by the consumer, shall be and remain the
property of the company to whom and at whose cost it shall be maintained and
the Company reserves the rights to extend. alter, remodel or replace the said
service line or cable to afford a supply to other consumers, should this be
necessary." Finally, it is of some relevance that in Calcutta Electric
Supply Corporation v. Commissioner of Wealth-tax, West Bengal(1), it was held
by this Court that service lines laid with the help of contributions made by
consumers for a part of the licensee's wealth for the purposes of computing the
net wealth under Wealth-tax Act, 1957.
The conditions of the licence, the provisions
of the Act and the legal position point only in one direction : that the
appellant is entitled to receive compensation for the service lines laid at the
cost of the consumers. In the award. the Umpire has made calculations for
arriving at the market value of the appellant's undertaking and has expressly
excluded there from the "value of the portion of services installed at the
cost of the consumers." In (1) 82 I.T.R. 154.
9-L631 Sup CI 73 114 making this exclusion,
the Umpire misconducted himself in law, thereby rendering the award erronous on
The reason for this error may easily be this
: Under section 7 of the Act to which we have called attention, the licensee
was entitled to the "payment of the value of all lands, buildings,
works" etc. This section, along with certain others, was amended by the
Electricity (Amendment) Act, 32 of 1959, which came into force on September 5,
1959. By this amendment, a new section 7A was inserted in the Act in order to
provide for the "Determination of purchase price".
Under the relevant part of sub-section (2) of
that section, the market value of an undertaking is to be the value of all
lands, buildings, works etc. other than "service lines.
C .... which have been constructed at the
expense of consumers". The appellant's undertaking having been acquired on
4/5 May, 1959, the provisions of old section 7 and not of the newly added
section 7A would govern his rights. The Umpire made his award on November 27,
1961 relying, probably, on section 7A which had no application.
Learned counsel for the respondent is right
that even a mistake of law cannot vitiate the award unless the mistake is
apparent on the face of the award. But here, the Umpire framed specific issues
for decision, the first of these being : whether the respondent was
"entitled to get a credit for the amount of consumers' contribution paid
for the service lines. laid on their premises and at their cost".
The finding of the Umpire on this issue was
that "The Company is not entitled to claim from the Board the value of the
portion of the service lines which were laid at the cost of the
consumers". The calculations made by the Umpire in the award for
ascertaining the true market value of the appellants undertaking show that the
" value of the portion of services installed at the cost of the
consumers" was expressly excluded from the total market value of the
assets of the undertaking. It seems beyond the pale of controversy that the
Umpire did not award compensation to the appellant in respect of the service
lines for the sole reason that they were laid at the cost of the consumers.
Some market value the service-lines must have had, even if it be no more than
the scrap value. But to the way of thinking which the Umpire adopted, that
consideration had no relevance. The service-lines were paid for by the
consumers and that. for the Umpire, was the end of the matter. That, patently,
was the wrong end, Respondent drew our attention to the decision in Durga
Prasad Chamria and Anr. v. Sewkishendas Bhattar and Ors.(1) in which it was
held that if a question of law is specifically referred to an (1) A.T.R. 1949
115 arbitrator for his decision. it would be
contrary to well established principles for a court of law to interfere with
the award, even if the court itself would have taken a different view of the
point of law, had it been before it.
This decision can have no application because
the parties here did not refer any specific question of law for the decision of
the arbitrators. The reference to arbitrators was on the broad question as to
what was the fair market value of the appellant's undertaking. Being unable to
agree on this question, the two arbitrators referred the matter to an umpire.
The umpire raised a question of law and decided it. Parties had invited none to
decide a specific question of law.
We are Dot disposed to hold, as contended by
the respondent, that if a part of the award be found to be invalid, the entire
award should be set aside and remitted back for a fresh decision. The error
which has occurred in the award of the Umpire relates to a matter which is
distinct and separate from the rest of the award. The part which is invalid
being severable from that which is valid, there is no justification for setting
aside the entire award.
Normally, we would have remitted the award
for a decision in the light of our judgment but that is likely to involve undue
delay and expense in a dispute which is pending since 1959. Learned counsel for
the appellant was agreeable that we should ourselves amend the award. Learned
counsel for the respondent demurred but the was unable to indicate any cogent
reason why we should not adopt a course which. far from causing any prejudice
to the parties, was clearly in the interests of justice.
The Umpire has held that on the date of sale.
the fair market value of the appellant's undertaking was Rs. '23 81.670. He
arrived at this figure after excluding from the total market value, the sum of
Rs. 2,38.255 which represented the consumers' contributions to the cost of
laying the service lines. These contributions, according to him, were made from
April 1, 1958 to March 31, 1959. The date of sale being 4/5 May, 1959 the
consumers' contribution will roughly represent the market value of the service,
lines even if, as, required by the first proviso to section 7(1) of the Act as
it then stood, due regard is to be had to the nature and condition for the time
being of the "works" to the state of repair thereof, to the
circumstance that they are in such a position as to be ready for immediate
working and to the suitability of the same for the purposes of the undertaking.
Accordingly, we direct that the award of the
Umpire will stand amended to the extent that the fair market value of the
appellant's undertaking shall be Rs. 23,81,670 plus Rs.
2,38,255, plus 116 Rs. 5,26,962/60 that is to
say Rs. 31,46,887/60. We have not allowed solatium on the additional amount, so
as to offset reasonable depreciation in the value of the service lines after
they were laid.
The appeal is accordingly allowed to the
extent indicated and with costs.
V.P.S. Appeal allowed.