The Delhi High Court has held that jurisdiction to execute foreign arbitration award continues with the High Court, despite the change in pecuniary jurisdiction as per 2015 amendment to Delhi High Court Act.
The said ruling was made in the matter of Precious Sapphires Ltd vs Amira Pure Foods Pvt Ltd (Ex. P. 330/2015), decided on 28.11.2018.
In the instant case, the Court was dealing with an interesting interplay between the amendments made to Arbitration and Conciliation Act and Delhi High Court Act, both in 2015. The execution petition was filed in High Court when it had the pecuniary jurisdiction to deal with the matter. After 2015 amendment to Delhi High Court Act, the pecuniary value of the matter came within the limits of Subordinate Court.
However, the 2015 amendment to Arbitration Act specifically stated that execution of foreign award should be carried out in the High Court. This amendment being made in the light of opinion expressed in 246th Report of Law Commission of India that it is desirable for the High Courts to deal with execution of foreign awards to ensure speedy and efficient execution.
The petitioners contended that amendment to Section 47 was retrospective in nature by relying on the judgment of BCCI vs Kochi Cricket Private Ltd while the Respondents contended that the 2015 Delhi amendment was substantive in nature, applying only prospectively. Hence, pending proceedings cannot take benefit of amended Section 47. Reliance was placed on Supreme Court precedent in Videocon International Ltd vs SEBI to advance the position.
The Delhi High Court overruled the objection that the execution petition had to be transferred to the Subordinate Court in view of the change in pecuniary jurisdiction following 2015 amendment. The amendment to High Court Act cannot affect the provisions of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, as it is a special statute.
Hence, Arbitration Act will prevail over Delhi High Court Act. Reliance was placed on the Apex Court precedent in the matte of Kandla Export Corporation vs OCI Corporation, which held that Arbitration Act was a self-contained code prevailing over Commercial Courts Act.
Also, the objective of the amendment to Section 47 to give effect to Law Commission’s recommendation cannot be defeated by a subsequent amendment to a general law.