Unsigned Arbitration Agreements not invalid in all cases: SC

Unsigned Arbitration Agreements not invalid in all cases: SC

Section 7(4) only further adds that an arbitration agreement would be found in the circumstances mentioned in the three sub-clauses that make up Section 7(4). This does not mean that in all cases an arbitration agreement needs to be signed.’…

Supreme Court in Caravel Shipping services pvt ltd.., VS  M/s Preimer Sea foods Exim pvt ltd.,

a document styled as “Multimodal Transport Document/Bill of Lading” dated 25.10.2008. This Bill of Lading states that the Consignor/Shipper is one M/s Premier Seafoods Exim Private Limited of Kerala, and that Caravel Shipping Services Private Limited, who is the appellant before us, is the agent who facilitates transport. The very opening Clause of the Bill of Lading specifies:

“In accepting this Bill of Lading the Merchant expressly agrees to be bound by all the terms, conditions, clauses and exceptions on both sides of the Bill of Lading whether typed, printed or otherwise.”

The Respondent filed a Suit being O.S. No. 9 of 2009 before the Sub-Judge’s Court in Kochi to recover a sum of Rs.26,53,593/- in which the Bill of Lading was expressly stated to be a part of cause of action. Soon after the Suit was filed, an I.A. being I.A. No. 486 of 2009 was filed by the appellant under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) in which it was pointed out to the Court that an arbitration clause was included in the printed terms annexed to the Bill of Lading.

The law in this behalf, in Jugal Kishore Rameshwardas vs. Mrs. Goolbai Hormusji, AIR 1955 SC 812, is that an arbitration agreement needs to be in writing though it need not be signed. The fact that the arbitration agreement shall be in writing is continued in the 1996 Act in Section 7(3) thereof. Section 7(4) only further adds that an arbitration agreement would be found in the circumstances mentioned in the three sub-clauses that make up Section 7(4). This does not mean that in all cases an arbitration agreement needs to be signed. The only prerequisite is that it be in writing, as has been pointed out in Section 7(3).

Hon’ble Supreme court has held that the Arbitration agreement need not necessarily be a signed document to invoke the arbitration clause of the agreement. it prerequisites that the agreement shall be in writing.

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