State Of Chhattisgarh vs M/S Sal Udyog(P) Ltd on 8 November, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

State Of Chhattisgarh vs M/S Sal Udyog(P) Ltd on 8 November, 2021

Author: Hon’Ble Ms. Kohli

Bench: Hon’Ble The Justice, Surya Kant, Hon’Ble Ms. Kohli

         CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010



                                                                          REPORTABLE

                                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                      CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                         CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010


         STATE OF CHHATTISGARH & ANR.                            …..     APPELLANTS

                                                   VERSUS

         M/S SAL UDYOG PRIVATE LIMITED                           …..     RESPONDENT



                                                JUDGMENT

HIMA KOHLI, J.

1. The appellant-State of Chhattisgarh is aggrieved by a common

judgment dated 21st October, 2009 passed by the Chhattisgarh High

Court disposing of two appeals; one preferred by the appellant 1 and the

other preferred by the respondent-M/s. Sal Udyog Private Limited 2,

whereby the order dated 14th March, 2006 passed by the learned District

Judge, Raipur in a petition filed by the appellant under Section 34 of the

Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 3 has been partially modified and

the interest awarded in favour of the respondent from the date of the
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
SATISH KUMAR YADAV
Date: 2021.11.08
17:52:01 IST
Reason:

1 Appeal No. 22 of 2006

2 M.A. No. 727 of 2006

3 For short “the 1996 Act”

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

notice i.e. 6th December, 2009 till realisation, has been reduced from 18

per cent per annum to 9 per cent per annum. At the same time, the

appeal preferred by the respondent-Company came to be dismissed.

2. In brief, the relevant facts of the case are that on 30 th August,

1979, the State of Madhya Pradesh had entered into an agreement with

the respondent-Company for supply of 10,000 tonnes of Sal seeds per

annum for a period of 12 years. In the year 1987, faced with loss of

revenue, Government of Madhya Pradesh decided to annul all

agreements relating to forest produce and enacted a legislation 4.

However, the said Act was notified after a decade, on 1 st January, 1997.

In the absence of any Notification of the said enactment, the agreement

between the State of Madhya Pradesh and the respondent-Company

was renewed on 30th April, 1992 and was valid till 29th April, 2004. Under

the renewed Agreement, the State of Madhya Pradesh agreed to supply

10,000 tonnes of Sal seeds to the respondent-Company. When the Act

was finally notified in the year 1996, by virtue of Section 5A, State of

Madhya Pradesh terminated the Agreement dated 30 th April, 1992, on

21st December, 1998. Aggrieved by the said termination, the respondent-

Company issued a notice dated 6th December, 1999 invoking Arbitration

4 M.P. Van Upaj Ke Kararon Ka Punarikshan Adhiniyam No. 32 of 1987 dated nil

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

Clause No. 23 in the Agreement and raised certain disputes, including a

claim for refund of a sum of Rs.1,72,17,613/- (Rupees One Crore

Seventy Two Lakhs Seventeen Thousand Six Hundred and Thirteen

Only) on the ground that the said amount had been paid in excess to the

State of Madhya Pradesh for the supply of Sal seeds during the period

between 1981-82 to 31st December, 1998.

3. For the sake of completeness, it may be noted that the

respondent-Company had filed an application under Section 11(6) of the

1996 Act before the Jabalpur Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court

praying inter alia for appointment of an Arbitrator. During the pendency

of the said application, the Madhya Pradesh Re-organisation Act, 2000

came into force. Resultantly, the application moved by the respondent-

Company was transferred to the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur.

With the consent of the parties, an order dated 21 st March, 2002 was

passed in the said proceeding, appointing a Sole Arbitrator, who was

subsequently replaced by another Arbitrator.

4. Vide Arbitral Award dated 17.02.2005, the claim of the respondent-

Company was allowed and a sum of Rs.7,43,46,772/- (Rupees Seven

Crores forty three lakhs forty six thousand seven hundred seventy two

only) was awarded in its favour which included interest at the rate of 18

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

per cent per annum upto February, 2005 along with future interest at the

rate of 18 per cent per annum payable with effect from 1 st March, 2005.

5. Aggrieved by the aforesaid Award, the appellant-State filed a

petition under Section 34 of the 1996 Act before the District Judge,

Raipur. Vide order dated 14th March, 2006, the learned District Judge

declined to interfere with the Award except for modifying the same to the

extent of the interest awarded in favour of the respondent- Company and

making it payable from the date of the notice i.e. 6 th December, 1999,

instead of, from the date of the Agreement, till 31 st December, 1999.

6. The appellant-State assailed the order dated 14 th March, 2006 by

preferring an appeal under Section 37 of the 1996 Act. The respondent-

Company also filed a Cross Appeal being aggrieved by the modification

of the Award and reduction of the period of interest awarded in its favour.

Several pleas were taken by the appellant-State in the appeal, including

the ground of non-joinder of the State of Madhya Pradesh as a

necessary party; that the respondent-Company never claimed refund of

the excess recovery throughout the tenure of both the Agreements and

that the respondent’s claim was barred by limitation. A plea of estoppel

was also taken against the respondent-Company.

7. In view of the order dated 30th April, 2010 whereunder leave was

granted in the present petition limited to the issue of disallowance of

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

supervision charges to the tune of Rs.1.49 crores under the Award,

which as per the appellant-State, was liable to be borne by the

respondent-Company under the Agreement, this Court does not

propose to examine the other pleas taken by the appellant-State in the

present appeal.

8. Ms. Prerna Singh, learned counsel for the appellant-State has

contended that a perusal of the terms and conditions of the Agreement

make it apparent that the parties had agreed that the expenses incurred

every year by the State Government for supplying Sal seeds to the

respondent-Company would not only include the cost of collection,

purchase price paid to the growers and Commission Agents, cost of

storage and transportation, but also include handling and supervision

charges. She pointed out that the said plea taken by the appellant-State

was duly noted by the learned Arbitrator in para 18, but was erroneously

turned down in para 19 of the Award. Paras 18 and 19 of the Award are

extracted herein below for ready reference:-

“18. The further submission of the defendant is that in clause
6(B) of the agreement in respect of supervision expense it is
mentioned and the provision also enjoins that the supervision
expenses along with other expenses which are spent by the
defendant would be recoverable. In so far as the supervision
expense is concerned that concerned that concerns will all those
expenses with respect to collection of the Sal seeds under the
banner of the government. And in these expenses there are certain
expenses like godown rent, the Salary of the officers and the staffs,
the appointment of the different persons of the work in the
department and their travelling allowance, vehicle, telephone,
furniture, transport and all other expenses of the vehicle. They are

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

all such proportionate expenses which cannot be shown under the
head of the bill or the voucher under the head of Sal seeds and
therefore 10% supervision expenses are acceptable and
recoverable.

19. On the analysis of this issue there is a clear provision in
the agreement that the purchase of the Sal seeds shall be divided
into two parts, the first would be of royalty and the second part
would be of the purchaser of Sal seed and all those expenses until
its delivery in which the collection expenses, purchasing price,
handling and supervision expenses, the agents commission,
transports would all be assembled. After the examination of the
price on both the ends the first end would be of royalty according to
the industrial policy of the state government of Madhya Pradesh
the meaning of royalty implies the meaning the price at the
production site. For the calculation the bazaar rate or the auction or
the price received on tender, the transport (in wood matter the
cutting) expenses may be reduced. In this was in the matter of
royalty from the point of production and protection and until the
arrangement for the sake of trading all in direct expenses are
assembled so far as the second part is concerned from the point of
collection of Sal seeds until its delivery all expenses are
assembled. In order it to make more clear the first part has been
shown which relates to the expenses relating to ‘storing and the
purchase price to the producers and other handling and
supervision expenses’. In so far as the guidelines which have been
issued by virtue of the notification of the state government dated
25.04.1981 in so far as in para 17 is concerned and particularly the
guidelines which has been issued by Madhya Pradesh Rajya
Vanopaj Sangh it is apparent that the work of the supervisor has to
be done by the agent/committee and particularly the expenses to
the clerk checher etc and all those other expenses which goes to
the handling expenses and the commission. And thus in so far as
in the form of supervision expenses there is no basis to admit any
indirect expense. In this situation the amount which is shown in the
account by the account experts are liable to be admitted for
adjustments.”

9. Learned counsel for the appellant-State argued that the aforesaid

patent illegality on the face of the Award was highlighted in grounds (J) &

(K) of the appeal preferred under Section 37 of the 1996 Act and was

noted in para 3 of the impugned judgment but the High Court failed to

return a finding. It was canvassed that ‘supervision charges’ have been

clearly referred to in Clause 6(b) of the Agreement and is the subject

matter of a Circular dated 27 th July, 1987 issued by the State

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

Government. Levy of ‘supervision charges’ had also been intimated to

the respondent-Company at the time of seeking advance payment and it

did not raise any objection to paying the same. She adverted to the

documents filed with the appeal and marked as Annexure P2(Colly.)

which are specimen copies of the orders placed, indicating the price of

the Sal seeds to be supplied by the State Government and the amount

required to be paid by the respondent-Company to state that the same

specifically refer to supervision charges described as ”Paryavekshan

vyay” in Hindi. It was thus submitted that the respondent-Company

having failed to raise any objection regarding levy of ‘supervision

charges’ over the years and having paid the said amount without any

demur till termination of the contract, there was no reason for the learned

Sole Arbitrator to have deducted ‘supervision charges’ and directed

refund thereof to the respondent-Company. To buttress the argument

that the plea of patent illegality is a permissible ground for reviewing a

domestic Award, the ruling in Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt. Ltd. v.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd.5 has been cited.

10. Per contra, Mr. Pranav Malhotra, learned counsel for the

respondent-Company argued that the appellant-State having failed to

raise any objection relating to deduction of ‘supervision charges’ in its
5 2021 SCC Online SC 695

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

Section 34 petition, it must be assumed that it had waived its right to

take any such plea in the Section 37 petition filed in the High Court and

for that matter, before this Court. He cited State of Maharashtra v.

Hindustan Construction Company Limited 6 to substantiate such an

objection.

11. Learned counsel for the appellant-State relied on the judgment in

Lion Engineering Consultants v. State of Madhya Pradesh and

Others7 to meet the aforesaid objection raised by learned. counsel for

the respondent-Company that the appellant-State did not take a specific

ground in the Section 34 petition on the aspect of refund of ‘supervision

charges’. She reiterated that the objection regarding ‘supervision

charges’ was taken by the appellant-State before the learned Sole

Arbitrator as also in the Section 37 petition and ought to have been

considered by the High Court.

12. We have carefully perused the records and given our thoughtful

consideration to the submissions advanced by learned counsel for the

parties.

6 [2010] 4 SCC 518
7 [2018] 16 SCC 758

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

13. The law on interference in matters of Awards under the 1996 Act

has been circumscribed with the object of minimising interference by

courts in arbitration matters. One of the grounds on which an Award

may be set aside is “patent illegality”. What would constitute “patent

illegality” has been elaborated in Associate Builders v. Delhi

Development Authority8, where “patent illegality” that broadly falls

under the head of “Public Policy”, has been divided into three sub-heads

in the following words:-

“…42. In the 1996 Act, this principle is substituted by the “patent
illegality” principle which, in turn, contains three subheads:

42.1. (a) A contravention of the substantive law of India would
result in the death knell of an Arbitral Award. This must be
understood in the sense that such illegality must go to the root of the
matter and cannot be of a trivial nature. This again is really a
contravention of Section 28(1)(a) of the Act, which reads as under:

“28. Rules applicable to substance of dispute. – (1) Where
the place of arbitration is situated in India-

(a) In an arbitration other than an
international commercial arbitration, the Arbitral
Tribunal shall decide the dispute submitted to
arbitration in accordance with the substantive
law for the time being in force in India;”

42.2. (b) A contravention of the Arbitration Act itself would be
regarded as a patent illegality – for example if an arbitrator gives no
reasons for an award in contravention of Section 31(3) of the Act,
such award will be liable to be set aside.

42.3. (c) Equally, the third subhead of patent illegality is
really a contravention of Section 28(3) of the Arbitration Act,
which reads as under:

“28. Rules applicable to substance of dispute. – (1) – (2) ***
(3) In all cases, the Arbitral Tribunal shall decide in
accordance with the terms of the contract and shall take into
account the usages of the trade applicable to the transaction.”

8 [2015] 3 SCC 49

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

This last contravention must be understood with a caveat. An
Arbitral Tribunal must decide in accordance with the terms of the
contract, but if an arbitrator construes a term of the contract in a
reasonable manner, it will not mean that the award can be set aside
on this ground. Construction of the terms of a contract is primarily
for an arbitrator to decide unless the arbitrator construes the
contract in such a way that it could be said to be something that no
fair-minded or reasonable person could do.”
(emphasis added)

14. In Ssangyong Engineering and Construction Company

Limited v. National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) 9, speaking

for the Bench, Justice R.F. Nariman has spelt out the contours of the

limited scope of judicial interference in reviewing the Arbitral Awards

under the 1996 Act and observed thus :

“34. What is clear, therefore, is that the expression “public policy of
India”, whether contained in Section 34 or in Section 48, would now
mean the “fundamental policy of Indian law” as explained in paras 18
and 27 of Associate Builders [Associate Builders v. DDA (2015) 3
SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC (Civ) 204] i.e. the fundamental policy of In –
dian law would be relegated to “Renusagar” understanding of this ex-
pression. This would necessarily mean that Western Geco [ONGC v.
Western Geco International Ltd., (2014) 9 SCC 263 : (2014) 5 SCC
(Civ) 12] expansion has been done away with. In short, Western
Geco [ONGC v. Western Geco International Ltd.,(2014) 9 SCC 263 :
(2014) 5 SCC (Civ) 12], as explained in paras 28 and 29 of Associate
Builders [Associate Builders v. DDA
,(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC
(Civ) 204], would no longer obtain, as under the guise of interfering
with an award on the ground that the arbitrator has not adopted a ju-
dicial approach, the Court’s intervention would be on the merits of the
award, which cannot be permitted post amendment. However, insofar
as principles of natural justice are concerned, as contained in Sec-
tions 18 and 34(2) (a)(iii) of the 1996 Act, these continue to be
grounds of challenge of an award, as is contained in para 30 of Asso-
ciate Builders [Associate Builders v. DDA
(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2
SCC (Civ) 204].

35. It is important to notice that the ground for interference insofar as
it concerns “interest of India” has since been deleted, and therefore,
no longer obtains. Equally, the ground for interference on the basis
that the award is in conflict with justice or morality is now to be under-
stood as a conflict with the “most basic notions of morality or justice”.

This again would be in line with paras 36 to 39 of Associate Builders
[Associate Builders v. DDA
(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC (Civ)

9 [2019] 15 SCC 131

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

204], as it is only such Arbitral Awards that shock the conscience of
the court that can be set aside on this ground.

36. Thus, it is clear that public policy of India is now constricted to
mean firstly, that a domestic award is contrary to the fundamental
policy of Indian law, as understood in paras 18 and 27 of Associate
Builders [Associate Builders v. DDA
(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC
(Civ) 204], or secondly, that such award is against basic notions of
justice or morality as understood in paras 36 to 39 of Associate
Builders [Associate Builders v. DDA
(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC
(Civ) 204]. Explanation 2 to Section 34(2)(b)(ii) and Explanation 2 to
Section 48(2)(b)(ii) was added by the Amendment Act only so that
Western Geco [ONGC v. Western Geco International Ltd., (2014) 9
SCC 263 : (2014) 5 SCC (Civ) 12], as understood in Associate
Builders [Associate Builders v. DDA
(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC
(Civ) 204], and paras 28 and 29 in particular, is now done away with.

37. Insofar as domestic awards made in India are concerned, an
additional ground is now available under sub-section (2-A),
added by the Amendment Act, 2015, to Section 34. Here, there
must be patent illegality appearing on the face of the award,
which refers to such illegality as goes to the root of the matter
but which does not amount to mere erroneous application of the
law. In short, what is not subsumed within “the fundamental pol-
icy of Indian law”, namely, the contravention of a statute not
linked to public policy or public interest, cannot be brought in
by the backdoor when it comes to setting aside an award on the
ground of patent illegality.

38. Secondly, it is also made clear that reappreciation of evidence,
which is what an appellate court is permitted to do, cannot be per-
mitted under the ground of patent illegality appearing on the face of
the award.

39. To elucidate, para 42.1 of Associate Builders [Associate Builders
v DDA(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC (Civ) 204], namely, a mere
contravention of the substantive law of India, by itself, is no longer a
ground available to set aside an Arbitral Award. Para 42.2 of Asso-
ciate Builders [Associate Builders v DDA (2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2
SCC (Civ) 204], however, would remain, for if an arbitrator gives no
reasons for an award and contravenes Section 31(3) of the 1996
Act, that would certainly amount to a patent illegality on the face of
the award.

40. The change made in Section 28(3) by the Amendment Act
really follows what is stated in paras 42.3 to 45 in Associate
Builders [Associate Builders v. DDA
(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2
SCC (Civ) 204], namely, that the construction of the terms of a
contract is primarily for an arbitrator to decide, unless the ar-
bitrator construes the contract in a manner that no fair-minded
or reasonable person would; in short, that the arbitrator’s view
is not even a possible view to take. Also, if the arbitrator wan-
ders outside the contract and deals with matters not allotted
to him, he commits an error of jurisdiction. This ground of
challenge will now fall within the new ground added under Sec-
tion 34(2-A).

41. What is important to note is that a decision which is perverse,
as understood in paras 31 and 32 of Associate Builders [Associate
Builders v. DDA
(2015) 3 SCC 49 : (2015) 2 SCC (Civ) 204], while
no longer being a ground for challenge under “public policy of In-

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

dia”, would certainly amount to a patent illegality appearing on the
face of the award. Thus, a finding based on no evidence at all or an
award which ignores vital evidence in arriving at its decision would
be perverse and liable to be set aside on the ground of patent ille-
gality. Additionally, a finding based on documents taken behind the
back of the parties by the arbitrator would also qualify as a decision
based on no evidence inasmuch as such decision is not based on
evidence led by the parties, and therefore, would also have to be
charcterised as perverse.”

(emphasis added)

15. In Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt. Ltd. (supra) referring to the facets

of patent illegality, this Court has held as under:

“26. Patent illegality should be illegality which goes to the root of
the matter. In other words, every error of law committed by the Ar-
bitral Tribunal would not fall within the expression ‘patent illegality’.
Likewise, erroneous application of law cannot be categorised as
patent illegality. In addition, contravention of law not linked to pub-
lic policy or public interest is beyond the scope of the expression
‘patent illegality’. What is prohibited is for courts to re-appreciate
evidence to conclude that the award suffers from patent illegality
appearing on the face of the award, as courts do not sit in appeal
against the Arbitral Award. The permissible grounds for interfer-
ence with a domestic award under Section 34(2-A) on the ground
of patent illegality is when the arbitrator takes a view which is not
even a possible one, or interprets a clause in the contract in such
a manner which no fair-minded or reasonable person would, or if
the arbitrator commits an error of jurisdiction by wandering outside
the contract and dealing with matters not allotted to them. An Arbi-
tral Award stating no reasons for its findings would make itself
susceptible to challenge on this account. The conclusions of the
arbitrator which are based on no evidence or have been arrived at
by ignoring vital evidence are perverse and can be set aside on
the ground of patent illegality. Also, consideration of documents
which are not supplied to the other party is a facet of perversity
falling within the expression ‘patent illegality.”

16. Having regard to the aforesaid parameters, we may proceed to examine

the facts of the instant case. As noted above, this Court is required to

examine the singular issue as to whether any interference is called for in the

Award on the ground taken by the appellant-State that the learned Arbitrator

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

as also the High Court has ignored the binding terms of the contract governing

the parties relating to recovery of ‘supervision charges’ from the respondent-

Company and the Circular dated 27 th July, 1987 issued by the State

Government on the same lines which as per the appellant-State, goes to the

root of the matter.

17. Some of the relevant terms and conditions of the Original Agreement

dated 30th August, 1979, are extracted below for ready reference:-

“6. The price payable by the Purchaser for the Sal Seeds
supplied under this agreement shall consist of: –

(a) Royalty at the rate of Rs. 312.50/- (Rupees Three Hundred
Twelve and Fifty Paise only) per tonne for the initial four years of this
agreement and.

(b) All expenses incurred by the Governor each year, till
the delivery of the Sal Seeds to the Purchaser, which shall
include the cost of collection and/or the Purchase price paid to
growers, as well as handling supervision charges, commission
to agent, cost of storage, transportation etc.

8. Supply of Sal Seeds shall be made to the Purchaser
against advance payments as given below: –

At the beginning of each working season not later than 1 st April
each year, the Conservator(s) of Forests of the Circle(s) mentioned
in Schedule ‘A’ shall intimate to the Purchaser the price payable as
per clause 6 above. The Purchaser shall pay the same in the
following manner: –

(i) The amount of royalty as per clause 6(a) shall be
deposited initially (not later than 30 th April each year) and 500
quintals of Sal Seeds through a crossed Bank Draft or a Call
Deposit Receipt in favour of the concerned Divisional Forest
Officer(s). This initial payment shall be replenished by the
Purchaser every week or immediately after delivery of the quantity
paid for, whichever is earlier.

Provided that in case of a shortfall in the supply of Sal
Seeds for any such payment, the amount paid to the Sal Seeds not
actually supplied shall be adjusted towards the subsequent
payment.

(ii) Advance payment on account of collection costs and/or the
purchase price as specified in clause 6(b) above shall be made in
cash simultaneously and separately for the quantity mentioned

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

above and as laid down above to such officer who may be
authorized by the concerned DFO in this behalf.

9.(i) The Purchaser shall arrange to take delivery of the Sal
Seeds at the collection centre(s) or godown(s) as decided by the
DFO within 24 hours of its collection there and shall arrange to
remove the Sal Seeds so deposited within 15 days of the delivery
thereof.

(ii) If the Purchaser fails to take delivery of the collected
Sal Seeds or fails to remove the same within the period
prescribed above, then the Purchaser shall pay to the
Governor supervision charges and godowns rent at the rate of
five paise per quintal per day from the date of expiry of the
period mentioned above.

(iii) If failure to take delivery of Sal Seeds continue beyond the
prescribed period of 15 days, the concerned Divisional Forest
Officer may, in tis discretion, refuse delivery of Sal Seeds to the
Purchaser and permit delivery to any other person or party in
respect of a part or the whole quantity of such Sal Seeds to any
other person or party and in such circumstances, the Purchaser
shall be liable to pay the amount of loss as well as other expenses
on supervision etc. Incurred by the Governor and this sum shall be
recoverable as arrears of land revenue.”

18. It is an admitted position that both, the Original Agreement dated 30 th

August, 1979 and the renewed Agreement dated 30th April, 1992 included a

clause relating to levy of “supervision charges”. Most of the terms and

conditions of the Original Agreement dated 30 th August, 1979 and the

Renewed Agreement dated 30th April, 1992 are materially the same. Clause

6(b) of the Agreement dated 30th August, 1979 is identical to Clause 5(b) of

the Agreement dated 30th April, 1992. The said clauses stipulate that expenses

incurred by the State Government towards supply of Sal seeds were to

include amongst others, ‘supervision charges’. Clause 8 of the first

Agreement is identical to Clause 7 of the second Agreement which stipulates

that supply of Sal seeds to the respondent-Company would be against

advance payment. There is also a similarity between Clause 9(ii) of the

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

Agreement dated 30th July, 1979 and Clause 8(ii) of the Agreement dated 30 th

April, 1992, that require the respondent-Company to take delivery of the

collected Sal seeds within a stipulated time and prescribe that in case of

failure to do so, supervision charges and godown rent shall be payable at a

fixed price of 0.05p. [five paise] per quintal per day.

19. Circular dated 27th July, 1987 issued by the Government of

Madhya Pradesh provides for the assessment of the actual collection

expenditure of the Sal seeds supplied from the year 1981 to 1986, and

stipulates that:-

“2. The imposition of 10% supervision charges on the amount
calculated after deducting the actual expenditure, adding the cost of
sukhat (illegible) in the Sal seeds in the expenditure, and computation
& recovery of interest for the period from the date of supply order till
the date of supply after the order of Court, in certain cases wherein
stay orders were passed by High Court & Supreme Court, have been
recommended.”

20. The appellant-State had taken a plea on the aspect of levy of

‘supervision charges’ in Ground (J) and (K) of the Section 37 petition as

follows:

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

“J. For that the Ld. Arbitrator failed to appreciate that general
supervision charges which includes administrative expenses
including Salary, telephone, TA/DA, POL and other expenses
incurred on officers and staff of the Department and, therefore, vide
circular No. 7/87 dated 27.07.87 the erstwhile State of Madhya
Pradesh has fixed the general supervision charges as 10% of the
price which do not require any assessment.

K. That vide order dated 27.08.1999 of Hon’ble High Court,
Jabalpur in W.P. No. 3177/99 in Bastar Oil Mills case, recovery of
handling and supervision charges was fixed at 20% of the price,
which was subsequently fixed by the Supreme Court as Rs. 1500/-
per tonne vide order dated 17.01.2000 in SLP (C) No. 6/2000,
State of M.P. Vs. Bastar Oil Mills case, that was about 60% of the
price, meaning thereby the terms of contract contains two types of
supervision charges i.e. one is General handling and Supervision
charges and second is Special supervision charges when there is
delay in the taking of delivery of Sal Seed under Clause (9) of the
agreement and there was no dispute at all about the supervision
charges charges under Clause (6) at the rate of 10% of the price
nor such dispute was ever raised by the respondent. So, the order
directing refund of general handling and supervision charges
collected is bad in law and is error apparent on the face of the
record.”

21. Though the aforesaid plea has been recorded in paras 3 and 5 of

the impugned judgment, as can be seen from the following, it has

remained un-answered by the High Court:-

“3 ***
***
Learned Arbitrator has also ignored circular of the erstwhile
State Government whereby general supervision charges was fixed by
10% of the price which did not require assessment. Learned Arbitrator
also not considered that High Court of M.P. at Jabalpur in W.P. No.
3177/99 in Bastar Oil Mill’s case fixed the recovery towards handling
and supervision charges at 20% of the price, which was subsequently
fixed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court at Rs. 1,500/- per ton vide order
dated 17.01.2000 by S.L.P. (Civil) No. 6/2000. Thus, the impugned
award whereby the State has been directed refund of general handling
and supervision charges collected by the State is bad in law.

4 ***

5 “….The State was within its right to recover supervision charges
under Clause 6 at the rate of 10% of the price and there was no
dispute raised by the purchaser in this regard and thus, the award

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

directing refund of general handling and supervision charges collected
by the State is contrary to law.”

22. On a conspectus of the facts of the case, it remains undisputed that

though the appellant-State did raise an objection before the Arbitral Tribunal

on the claim of the respondent-Company seeking deduction of supervision

charges, for which it relied on Clause 6(b) of the Agreement and the Circular

dated 27th July, 1987 to assert that recovery of supervision charges along with

expenses was a part and parcel of the contract executed with the respondent-

Company, the said objection was turned down by the learned Sole Arbitrator

by giving a complete go by to the terms and conditions of the Agreement

governing the parties and observing that there is no basis to admit any such

“indirect expenses”. The Circular dated 27th July, 1987 issued by the

Government of Madhya Pradesh that provides for imposition of 10%

supervision charges on the amounts calculated towards the cost of the Sal

seeds in the expenditure incurred, was also ignored. Pertinently, the

respondent-Company has not denied the fact that supervision charges were

being levied by the appellant-State and being paid by it without any demur as

a part of the advance payment made on an annual basis, right from the date

the parties had entered into the first agreement, i.e., from 30th August, 1979.

This fact is also borne out from the specimen copies of the orders filed by the

appellant-State with the appeal that amply demonstrate that the cost of the Sal

seeds required to be paid by the respondent-company included ‘supervision

charges’ described as ”Paryavekshan vyay” in vernacular language. It was

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

only after the appellant-State had terminated the second contract on 21 st

December, 1998, that the respondent-company raised a dispute and for the

first time, claimed refund of the excess amount purportedly paid by it to the

appellant-State towards supervision charges incurred for supply of Sal seeds.

In our opinion, this is the patent illegality that is manifest on the face of the

Arbitral Award inasmuch as the express terms and conditions of the

Agreement governing the parties as also the Circular dated 27 th July, 1987

issued by the Government of Madhya Pradesh have been completely ignored.

23. We are afraid, the plea of waiver taken against the appellant-State on

the ground that it did not raise such an objection in the grounds spelt out in the

Section 34 petition and is, therefore, estopped from taking the same in the

appeal preferred under Section 37 or before this Court, would also not be

available to the respondent-Company having regard to the language used in

Section 34(2A) of the 1996 Act that empowers the Court to set aside an award

if it finds that the same is vitiated by patent illegality appearing on the face of

the same. Once the appellant-State had taken such a ground in the Section

37 petition and it was duly noted in the impugned judgment, the High Court

ought to have interfered by resorting to Section 34(2A) of the 1996 Act, a

provision which would be equally available for application to an appealable

order under Section 37 as it is to a petition filed under Section 34 of the 1996

Act. In other words, the respondent-Company cannot be heard to state that

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

the grounds available for setting aside an award under sub-section (2A) of

Section 34 of the 1996 Act could not have been invoked by the Court on its

own, in exercise of the jurisdiction vested in it under Section 37 of the 1996

Act. Notably, the expression used in the sub-rule is “the Court finds that”.

Therefore, it does not stand to reason that a provision that enables a Court

acting on its own in deciding a petition under Section 34 for setting aside an

Award, would not be available in an appeal preferred under Section 37 of the

1996 Act.

24. Reliance placed by learned counsel for the respondent-Company on the

ruling in the case of Hindustan Construction Company Limited(Supra) is

found to be misplaced. In the aforesaid case, the Court was required to

examine whether in an appeal preferred under Section 37 of the 1996 Act

against an order refusing to set aside an Award, permission could be granted

to amend the Memo of Appeal to raise additional/new grounds. Answering the

said question, it was held that though an application for setting aside the

Arbitral Award under Section 34 of the 1996 Act had to be moved within the

time prescribed in the Statute, it cannot be held that incorporation of additional

grounds by way of amendment in the Section 34 petition would amount to

filing a fresh application in all situations and circumstances, thereby barring

any amendment, however material or relevant it may be for the consideration

of a Court, after expiry of the prescribed period of limitation. In fact, laying

emphasis on the very expression “the Courts find that” applied in Section

Page 19 of 21
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

34(2)(b) of the 1996 Act, it has been held that the said provision empowers the

Court to grant leave to amend the Section 34 application if the circumstances

of the case so warrant and it is required in the interest of justice. This is what

has been observed in the preceding paragraph with reference to Section

34(2A) of the 1996 Act.

25. To sum up, existence of Clause 6(b) in the Agreement governing the

parties, has not been disputed, nor has the application of Circular dated 27 th

July, 1987 issued by the Government of Madhya Pradesh regarding imposition

of 10% supervision charges and adding the same to cost of the Sal seeds,

after deducting the actual expenditure been questioned by the respondent-

Company. We are, therefore, of the view that failure on the part of the learned

Sole Arbitrator to decide in accordance with the terms of the contract

governing the parties, would certainly attract the “patent illegality ground”, as

the said oversight amounts to gross contravention of Section 28(3) of the 1996

Act, that enjoins the Arbitral Tribunal to take into account the terms of the

contract while making an Award. The said ‘patent illegality’ is not only

apparent on the face of the Award, it goes to the very root of the matter and

deserves interference. Accordingly, the present appeal is partly allowed and

the impugned Award, insofar as it has permitted deduction of ‘supervision

charges’ recovered from the respondent-Company by the appellant-State as a

part of the expenditure incurred by it while calculating the price of the Sal

seeds, is quashed and set aside, being in direct conflict with the terms of the

Page 20 of 21
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4353 OF 2010

contract governing the parties and the relevant Circular. The impugned

judgment dated 21st October, 2009 is modified to the aforesaid extent.

26. The present appeal is disposed of in the above terms, while leaving the

parties to bear their own costs.

……………………………CJI.

[N. V. RAMANA]

……………………………..J.

[SURYA KANT]

……………………………..J.

[HIMA KOHLI]
New Delhi,
November 08, 2021

Page 21 of 21



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