The Himachal Pradesh High Court observed that the landlord cannot be made to suffer as the onus is on the statutory authority to decide the matter and announce the award in the statutory period.

The Court was hearing an appeal under Section 37 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 where the appellant challenged the judgment passed by the District Judge.

The bench of Justice Ajay Mohan Goel observed, “This Court again reiterates that as an Arbitrator in terms of the 1956 Act, is a statutory authority, therefore, the onus is upon this authority primarily to decide the matter and announce the award within the statutory period and if he has failed to do so and if the parties have not sought extension from the Court be it before or after the expiry of the statutory period for the pronouncement of the award, the parties, more so the landlord cannot be made to suffer.”

Brief Facts-

The Central Government issued a notification for the acquisition of land for the four-laning of National Highway-21. The notification was published in the official gazette, and the newspapers. The Competent Authority assessed the market value of the acquired land at Rs.35/- lac per bigha, which the landowner challenged, claiming the market value was over Rs.1.00 crore per bigha at the time of acquisition. The Reference under Section 3G(5) of the National Highways Act, 1956 for enhancement of compensation was decided by the Arbitrator, ordering compensation at Rs.36.00/- lac per bigha, along with 30% solatium and 9% interest. NHAI challenged the award by filing an Arbitration Petition under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, which the District Judge decided upon in the impugned judgment.

The Court noted that the award was not made by the Arbitrator within twelve months from the date of the completion of the pleadings.

The Court referred to Section 23(4) of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996 whereof, the statement of claim and defence under Section 23 shall be completed within six months from the date the arbitrator or all the arbitrators as the case may be received notice in writing of their appointment.

The Court stated that though in terms of Section 29(A) of the 1996 Act, the mandate of the arbitrator terminates after twelve months from the date of completion of pleadings under Sub-section (4) of Section 23 or after six months thereafter if the parties by consent extend the period specified in Sub-section (1) or Section 29(A) for a further period not exceeding six months, yet in terms of Sub-section (4) of Section 29(A) power is conferred upon the Court to extend the period for announcing the award either before or after the expiry of period specified in Section 29(A).

The Court further stated that there is no time limit fixed under Section 29(A) as to within which period the parties can approach the Court for an extension of time after the expiry of the statutory period to pronounce the award.

Finally, the Court disposed of the appeal.

Cause Title: Hari Ram v. National Highways Authority of India


Appellant: Sr. Adv. Devyani Sharma, Adv. Anirudh Sharma

Respondent: Adv. Shreya Chauhan

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