Monday, 21 December 2020

Supreme court: Existence of Arbitration Agreement in Arbitration Act Includes aspect Of Validity Of Agreement

 We now proceed to examine the question, whether the word 'existence' in Section 11 merely refers to contract formation (whether there is an arbitration agreement) and excludes the question of enforcement (validity) and therefore the latter falls outside the jurisdiction of the court at the referral stage. On jurisprudentially and textualism it is possible to differentiate between existence of an arbitration agreement and validity of an arbitration agreement. Such interpretation can draw support from the plain meaning of the word "existence'. However, it is equally possible, jurisprudentially and on contextualism, to hold that an agreement has no existence if it is not enforceable and not binding. Existence of an arbitration agreement presupposes a valid agreement which would be enforced by the court by relegating the parties to arbitration. An agreement evidenced in writing has no meaning unless the parties can be compelled to adhere and abide by the terms. A party cannot sue and claim rights based on an unenforceable document. Thus, there are good reasons to hold that an arbitration agreement exists only when it is valid and legal. A void and unenforceable understanding is no agreement to do anything. Existence of an arbitration agreement means an arbitration agreement that meets and satisfies the statutory requirements of both the Arbitration Act and the Contract Act and when it is enforceable in law.

Existence and validity are intertwined, and arbitration agreement does not exist if it is illegal or does not satisfy mandatory legal requirements. Invalid agreement is no agreement.


Civil Appeal No. 2402 of 2019, 

Decided On: 14.12.2020

Vidya Drolia and Ors. Vs.  Durga Trading Corporation and Ors.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

N.V. Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari, JJ.

Citation: MANU/SC/0939/2020

Read full judgment here: Click here

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