Supreme Court on Arbitration Agreement in an Unstamped Instrument

[Mansi Patel is an Advocate based in Mumbai] In Garware Wall Ropes v Coastal Marine Constructions & Engineering Ltd (10 April 2019), the Supreme Court held that an arbitration agreement in an unstamped instrument does not exist in law; thus it cannot be acted upon by courts for the appointment of an arbitrator under section 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. By this judgment, the Supreme Court has reinforced the principles laid down in SMS Tea Estates v Chandmari Tea Company Pvt. Ltd., (2011) 14 SCC 66, which held that the courts cannot act upon an unstamped document. Brief Background Before the matter had reached the Supreme Court, Coastal Marine Construction and Engineering Limited (‘CMCEL’) had approached the Bombay High Court under section 11 of the Arbitration Act. The Bombay High Court took note of the fact that the scope of section 11 of that legislation, after the amendment, has been narrowed; hence the court’s role following the…

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