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Extending Time for Arbitration: Court having Jurisdiction to be Decided

The Bombay High Court has directed that the question as to which Court could entertain the applications for the extension of time for making an arbitral award, be placed before a larger bench.[1]

The arbitration proceedings, in the instant case, were initiated concerning a dispute under the memorandum of family settlement entered into by the parties. The present petition came to be filed after the Commercial Court permitted a six-month extension on an application filed by the respondent under Section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

Maintaining that it was only the High Court which had the jurisdiction to entertain applications for time extension, the petitioner called for a contextual interpretation of the word “Court” appearing in said Section. In support of this, the petitioner stated that the definition provided under Section 2(1)(e) did not apply as the provision began with the words, “unless the context otherwise requires”, and Section 29A dealt with not only extension of time but also with reconstitution of the Arbitral Tribunal, reduction of arbitrator’s fees, etc. Such substitution, it was contended, had to be read with Section 11 and hence, only the High Court, in case of domestic arbitration, and the Supreme Court, in case of international arbitration, could entertain applications under Section 29A.

In view of the conflicting views taken by Courts in the interpretation of Section 29A, it was held that the matter had to be placed before the larger bench to decide on the question as to whether the applications for time extension under Section 29A(4) had to be filed before the High Court or the Civil Court having original jurisdiction in case of domestic arbitration.

[1] Sheela Chowgule v. Vijay V Chowgule and Ors. (WP No.88 of 2024)