Challenge to Arbitrator’s award in a writ court not maintainable if statutory remedy under Section 34 of A&C Act not exhausted

Patna High Court: A Single judge bench comprising of Birendra Kumar, J. while hearing a civil writ petition against an Arbitrator’s order held that since the statutory remedy provided under Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 had not been exhausted, the High Court could not exercise its writ jurisdiction.

The respondent had acquired petitioner’s land for construction of ‘Dedicated Freight Corridor Project’ under the Railways Act, 1989. The dispute involved was regarding the nature of acquired land – while the petitioner claimed it to a residential-cum-commercial land, the respondent treated it as agricultural land while deciding the payable compensation. Petitioner challenged the said order of the respondent authority before an Arbitrator under Section 20-F (6) of the Railways Act; but his claim was rejected by the Arbitral Tribunal. Aggrieved by the said order, petitioner preferred the present petition before the Hon’ble High Court praying for a direction to the respondent authority to treat the acquired land as a commercial land and to quash the Arbitrator’s order.

The High Court noted that Section 20-F (7) of the Railways Act provides that the provisions of the Arbitration Act would be applicable in respect of all arbitration proceedings instituted under the Railways Act. Further, Section 34 of Arbitration Act provides a detailed provision to challenge an Arbitrator’s award before Court. In view of a statutory remedy being available to the petitioner, the Court refused to exercise its writ jurisdiction. Further, it was also observed that the question as to whether the nature of acquired land was commercial or agricultural, would be a question of fact requiring an appreciation of evidence; and the said exercise lay outside the jurisdiction of a writ court.

Therefore, the petition was disposed of granting liberty to the petitioner to approach the appropriate forum under Section 34 of Arbitration Act. [Dilip Kumar v Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 1906, decided on 11-09-2018]

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