The Supreme Court, in Anilkumar Jinabhai Patel (D) v Pravinchandra Jinabhai Patel, has reiterated that the limitation period prescribed under Section 34(3) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act would commence only from the date of the signed copy of the award delivered to the party making the application for setting it aside.
The bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice R Banumathi made this observation while referring to State of Maharashtra and Ors v Ark Builders Pvt Ltd, wherein it was held that the expression "...party making that application had received the arbitral award..." cannot be read in isolation and it must be understood that Section 31(5) of the Act requires a signed copy of the award to be delivered to each party.
The bench was hearing an appeal challenging a Bombay High Court judgment which held that challenge to the arbitral award was time-barred under the provisions of Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
In this case, family members decided to make division of the assets of the family and had appointed arbitrators. About a decade after the award was passed by the arbitrators, one of the brothers approached district court with an application to set aside the award. Their case was that they learnt about the arbitral award only on 11.08.2005 when they were served with the notice of execution petition filed by Pravinchandra Patel along with the xerox of the award dated 07.07.1996. The district judge condoned the delay, holding that the period of limitation prescribed under Section 34(3) of the Act is to be computed from the point of time when the party concerned received the copy of the arbitral award. The high court, which set aside the district court order, enumerated various circumstances to hold that Anilkumar Patel and his six family members were well aware of the award dated 07.07.1996.
The apex court bench, approving the high court view, observed that the appellant has gone to the extent of even disputing his signature in the award by drafting a choreographed petition. Having accepted the award through Anilkumar Patel, being the head of the family, appellant Nos. 1(a) to 1(d) and respondent No.10 cannot turn round and contend that they had not received the copy of the award, the bench said dismissing their appeals.