Report No. 76
8.16. Sections 31, 32 and .- Scheme.-
This takes us to the next group of sections-sections 31 to 33. These sections are parts of an integrated scheme designed to expedite the disposal of objections to arbitration agreements or awards. The provisions inserted are both positive and negative. They are positive, in the sense that a party desiring to challenge the existence or validity of an arbitration agreement or award or to have its effect determined must apply to the court, which will decide the question on affidavits.1 Further, all questions regarding the validity, effect or existence of the award or agreement shall be decided by the court in which the award has been or may be filed2. Applications regarding the conduct of arbitration proceedings or otherwise arising out of such proceedings should also be made to such court.3
The provisions are negative, in the sense that only the court in which the award has been or may be filed, can decide such questions and applications.4 And, further, even if the competent courts are more than one, once an application in any reference has been made in a competent court, that court alone has jurisdiction over the arbitration proceedings and over all subsequent applications arising out of that reference and the arbitration proceedings.5 Lastly, no suit shall lie on any ground whatsoever for a decision upon the existence or validity of an arbitration agreement or award, nor shall any arbitration agreement or award be set aside, amended, modified or in any way affected, otherwise than as provided in the Act.6
These provisions were inserted for the first time in 1940. Speaking briefly, the main impact of these provisions is in (i) the prohibition of a suit, (ii) the bringing of all questions relating to awards and arbitration agreement in one court, thereby avoiding conflicting adjudications,7 and (iii) the provision of a speedy remedy to a party objecting to a reference or award, under section 33.
1. Section 33.
2. Section 31(2), earlier half.
3. Section 31(3), earlier half.
4. Section 31(2), latter half; and section 37(3), latter half.
5. Section 31(4).
6. Section 32.
7. See paras. 8.20 and 8.23, infra.