For Section 34 application, cross-examination of persons swearing to the affidavits should not be allowed unless absolutely necessary

The legal position under Arbitration Act is clear that Section 34 application will not ordinarily require anything beyond the record that was before the arbitrator and that cross-examination of persons swearing in to the affidavits should not be allowed unless absolutely necessary.

The Supreme Court in the matter of M/s. Canara Nidhi Limited vs. M. Shashikala and Ors. deal with the question of whether the parties can adduce evidence to prove the specified grounds in sub-section (2) to Section 34 of the Act.

As per the order of Emkay Global Financial Services Limited vs. Girdhar Sondhi (2018) 9 SCC 49, it was held as under:-

“21. It will thus be seen that speedy resolution of arbitral disputes has been the reason for enacting the 1996 Act, and continues to be the reason for adding amendments to the said Act to strengthen the aforesaid object. Quite obviously, if issues are to be framed and oral evidence taken in a summary proceeding under Section 34, this object will be defeated. It is also on the cards that if Bill No. 100 of 2018 is passed, then evidence at the stage of a Section 34 application will be dispensed with altogether. Given the current state of the law, we are of the view that the two early Delhi High Court judgments in Sandeep Kumar v. Ashok Hans 2004 SCC OnLine Del 106, Sial Bioenergie v. SBEC Systems 2004 SCC OnLine Del 863, cited by us hereinabove, correctly reflect the position in law as to furnishing proof under Section 34(2)(a). So does the Calcutta High Court judgment in WEB Techniques and Net Solutions (P) Ltd. v. Gati Ltd. 2012 SCC OnLine Cal 4271. We may hasten to add that if the procedure followed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment in Punjab SIDC Ltd. v. Sunil K. Kansal 2012 SCC Online P&H 19641 is to be adhered to, the time-limit of one year would only be observed in most cases in the breach. We therefore overrule the said decision. We are constrained to observe that Fiza Developers was a step in the right direction as its ultimate ratio is that issues need not be struck at the stage of hearing a Section 34 application, which is a summary procedure. However, this judgment must now be read in the light of the amendment made in Sections 34(5) and 34(6). So read, we clarify the legal position by stating that an application for setting aside an arbitral award will not ordinarily require anything beyond the record that was before the arbitrator. However, if there are matters not contained in such record, and are relevant to the determination of issues arising under Section 34(2)( a), they may be brought to the notice of the Court by way of affidavits filed by both parties. Cross-examination of persons swearing to the affidavits should not be allowed unless absolutely necessary, as the truth will emerge on a reading of the affidavits filed by both parties.”

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