The Onus Is Upon Arbitrator To Perform Entrusted Task Within Period Prescribed Statute: Himachal Pradesh HC While Extending Time In Arbitration From Land Acquisition
The Himachal Pradesh High Court held that the onus to conclude the arbitration proceedings within the prescribed time per the statute is upon the arbitrator.
The Court directed the arbitrator to conclude the proceedings by March 31, 2024. The Court noted that the landowners whose lands were acquired for the construction of National Highway 21 were entitled to just and fair compensation.
Justice Bipin Chander Negi observed, “This Court is of the considered view that when the law requires a particular act to be done in a particular manner, then the same is mandatorily required to be followed. In the cases at hand, the onus was upon the Arbitrator to perform the task entrusted to him within the time schedule prescribed in the statute. The delay, if any, has to be bonafide and explainable”.
Advocate Umesh Kanwar appeared for the Petitioners and Advocate General Anup Rattan appeared for the Respondent.
The Arbitral dispute arose out of land acquisition in District Mandi for the purpose of building, maintenance and operation of National Highway-21. The land was acquired under provisions of the National Highways Act, 1956. The landowners approached the High Court challenging the awards granted to them.
The Court noted that the arbitration must be completed within six months from the date the arbitrator receives a statement of claim and defence. The arbitral award shall be made within 12 months from the conclusion of pleadings. The Court held that if the arbitral award is not made within the mandated period, the mandate of the arbitrator would terminate except in cases where extension was granted.
Furthermore, the Court held that when the law mandates a protocol to be followed in a particular act, then such protocol is required to be followed. The Court held that the onus was upon the arbitrator to perform the task within the time schedule prescribed in the statute.
The Court, while referring to the records, noted that the arbitrator had adjourned the cases on numerous occasions. The Court noted that it would invoke its powers under Section 29(a)(6) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Act) and terminate the mandate of the arbitrator if courts found that the arbitrator remissed in his duties.
The Court noted, “Be that as it may, the Court is restraining from making any further observation in the case, save and except, that hence forth, if the Court finds the Arbitrator to be remiss in his duties then it shall not hesitate in invoking its powers as are enshrined in Section 29 (A) (6) of the 1996 Act to terminate the mandate of the Arbitrator de hors the fact that the Arbitrator happens to be appointed, in terms of the aforesaid notification, issued by the Central Government under the National Highways Act, 1956”.
Therefore, the Court held that the landowners were entitled to just and fair compensation and the arbitrator failed in his duty to complete the proceedings within prescribed time causing great prejudice to the Petitioners.
Accordingly, the Court disposed of the Petitions and directed the arbitrator to conclude the proceedings till March 31, 2024.
Cause Title: Puran Singh v Land Acquisition Officer And Anr.