India: Caution: Disobeying Orders Of An Arbitral Tribunal May Land You In Jail!

  • Supreme Court clarifies that parties can be punished for contempt for any action/default in complying with Tribunal's order or during the conduct of the proceedings and not merely restricted to taking evidence


The Supreme Court ("Court"), in Alka Chandewar ("Appellant") v Shamshul Ishrar Khan ("Respondent") recently held that under Section 27(5) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 ("Act") any non-compliance of an arbitral tribunal's order or conduct amounting to contempt during the course of the arbitration proceedings can be referred to the appropriate court to be tried under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.


The Sole Arbitrator passed an interim order dated October 7, 2010 ("Order") under Section 17 of the Act directing the Respondent not to dispose any further flats without the leave of the Arbitral Tribunal. The Respondent allegedly was in breach of the said Order. The Arbitral Tribunal by an order dated May 5, 2014 referred the aforesaid contempt of the Order to the High Court to pass necessary orders under Section 27(5) of the Act. The High Court held that Section 27(5) of the Act does not empower an Arbitral Tribunal to make a representation to the Court for contempt of interim orders unless it relates to taking of evidence.


The Supreme Court in the present case dealt with the scope and ambit of Section 27 (5) of the Act, specifically whether non-compliance with any order/direction of an Arbitral Tribunal would fall within its scope.


The Appellant argued that Sections 9 and 17 being alternative remedies available to the parties during the conduct of arbitration proceedings, if orders made under Section 17 were deemed unenforceable or unactionable then the same would be rendered otiose. They also argued that Section 27 of the Act does not leave any doubt as to the scope and ambit of the Court's power to punish for contempt of orders made by the Arbitral Tribunal.

The Respondent contented that the marginal note of Section 27 made it clear that Section 27(5) would only apply to assistance in taking evidence and not to any other contempt that may be committed. It was further highlighted that this lacuna in the law has now been filled pursuant to the 246th Law Commission Report, inserting Section 17(2) by the Amendment Act of 2015.


The Court held that:

  1. A literal interpretation of Section 27(5) would show that there are different categories of actions which can be referred to a court by a tribunal for contempt proceedings. One of those categories is the general and wide category of "any other default". Further, the Section is not confined to a person being guilty of contempt only when failing to attend in accordance with the process of taking evidence as the Section specifically states that persons guilty "of any contempt to the Arbitral Tribunal during the conduct of the Arbitral proceedings" shall be subject to contempt proceedings.
  2. It is well settled that a marginal note in a statute was used to understand the general drift of the section only when the plain meaning of the words of the statute were ambiguous. This was not the case in the present situation and therefore the marginal note in section 27 would not alter the purport of the section.
  3. Per the modern rule of interpretation of statutes, the object of providing a party with the right to approach an Arbitral Tribunal instead of the Court for interim reliefs would be stultified if interim orders passed by such a Tribunal are deemed toothless. It is to give teeth to such orders that an express provision has been made in Section 27(5) of the Act.
  4. The Court observed that the Supreme Court in M/s Ambalal Sarabhai Enterprises vs. M/s Amrit Lal & Co. & Anr.1 had held that parties to arbitration proceedings had to choose between applying for interim relief before the Tribunal under Section 17 or before the Court under Section 9. Such an election would be meaningless if interim orders passed by the Arbitral Tribunal were held to be unactionable, as all parties would then go only to the Court, which would render Section 17 a dead letter.
  5. However, since an order passed by an arbitral tribunal was unenforceable therefore sub-section (2) to Section 17 was added by the Amendment Act of 2015, so that the cumbersome procedure of an Arbitral Tribunal having to apply every time to the High Court for contempt of its orders would no longer be necessary. Such orders would now be deemed to be orders of the Court for all purposes and would be enforced under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 in the same manner as if they were orders of the Court.


One of the major lacunas existing in the Act prior to the commencement of the Amendment Act of 2015 was the unenforceability of order/directions passed by a tribunal. Under section 17, the arbitral tribunal has the power to order interim measures of protection, unless the parties have excluded such power by agreement. Prior to amendment, the section was quite open-textured in the scope of reliefs that could be provided; it permitted the tribunal to issue any interim measure of protection. However, courts and arbitral tribunals took the view that the scope of the interim measures that may be granted under Section 17 was more limited than that under Section 9. Despite the arbitral tribunal's power to issue interim measures, the fact that the Act did not provide for a method of enforcing any interim relief granted meant that there were doubts regarding efficacy of the arbitral process.2 Therefore parties chose to approach the courts rather than continue with the arbitration proceedings. The Amendment Act has introduced much needed changes with respect to grant of interim reliefs by an arbitral tribunal and has brought clarity on the kind of reliefs that may be granted.

The Delhi High Court had attempted to find a suitable legislative basis for enforcing the orders of an arbitral tribunal under section 17 of the Act. In the judgment of Sri Krishan v. Anand,3 (followed in Indiabulls Financial Services v. Jubilee Plots and upheld by the Court in the present judgment)4 the Delhi High Court held that any person failing to comply with the order of the arbitral tribunal under section 17 would be deemed to be "making any other default" or "guilty of any contempt to the arbitral tribunal during the conduct of the proceedings" under section 27 (5) of Act, being the only mechanism for enforcing its orders.

The Supreme Court has through the present judgment confirmed the above position of law (in relation to arbitrations being conducted under the regime as applicable prior to 2015 amendment).

It is pertinent to note that under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, any person found guilty of contempt would be liable to be punished with imprisonment upto 6 months along with fine.5


1 (2001) 8 SCC 397

2 M.D. Army Welfare Housing Organisation v. Sumangal Services Pvt. Ltd., (2004) 9 SCC 619, Sri Krishan v. Anand (2009) 3 Arb LR 447 (Del)

3(2009) 3 Arb LR 447 (Del)

4 OMP Nos 452-453/2009 (Order dated 18.08.2009).

5Section 12 - Punishment for contempt of court
(1) Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act or in any other law, a contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both:

Provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

Explanation.--An apology shall not be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or conditional if the accused makes it bona fide.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Payel Chatterjee
Moazzam Khan
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.