(Prayer: Petition filed under Section 34(2)(B)(ii), Explanation 1 and (ii) and (iii) and 2(A) and (B) (2) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, as amended in 2019, praying to set aside the Arbitration Award dated 31.12.2019 passed by the Learned Arbitrator, which had arisen out of the dispute between the petitioners and the respondent in so for allowing the claims of the Respondent is concerned and also in disallowing the claims of the Petitioners.)1. Read this in conjunction with and in continuation of earlier proceedings made in previous listing on 25.01.2021, which reads as follows:'Mr.A.L.Somayaji, learned Senior Advocate instructed by Mr.M.Vijaya Mehanath of M/s.AAV Partners (Law Firm) on behalf of petitioners and Mr.S.Vijayakumar, learned counsel for sole respondent are before me in this web hearing on a video conferencing platform.2. Learned counsel for caveator (to be noted, sole respondent has lodged caveat) is before me in this web hearing on a video conferencing platform.3. When the matter was taken up, an interesting question regarding jurisdiction propped up qua Arbitration agreement between the parties. To be noted, arbitration agreement in the case on hand i.e., arbitration agreement within the meaning of Section 2(1)(b) read with Section 7 of 'The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Act No.26 of 1996)' which shall hereinafter be referred to as 'A and C Act' for the sake of convenience and clarity is Clause 37 of an agreement dated 24.08.2015 and that Clause 37 reads as follows:'37 (a) All questions, disputes and differences arising under or in relation to this Agreement shall be referred to the sole arbitration of the Director (Marketing) of the Corporation. If such Director (Marketing) is unable or unwilling to act as the sole arbitrator, the matter shall be referred to the sole arbitration or some other officer of the Corporation by such Director (Marketing) in his place, who is willing to act as such sole arbitrator. It is known to the parties herein that the Arbitrator appointed hereunder is an employee of the Corporation and may be shareholder of the Corporation. The arbitrator to whom the matter is originally referred, whether the Director (Marketing) or officer, as the case may be on his being transferred or vacating his office or being unable to act, for any reason, the Director (Marketing) shall designate any other person to act as arbitrator in accordance with the terms of the Agreement and such person shall be entitled to proceed with the reference from the stage at which it was left by his predecessor. It is also the term of this Agreement that no person other than the Director (Marketing) or the person designated by the Director (Marketing) as aforesaid shall act as arbitrator. The award of the Arbitrator so appointed shall be final, conclusive and binding on all the parties to the Agreement and provisions of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996 or any statutory modification or re-enactment thereof and the Rules made thereunder and for the time being in force shall apply to the arbitration proceedings under this clause.(b) The parties hereby agree that the Court in City of TRICHY alone shall have jurisdiction to entertain any application or other proceedings in respect of anything arising under this agreement and any awards made by the Sole Arbitrator or other proceedings in respect of anything arising under this Agreement.'4. 'Arbitral Tribunal' [hereinafter 'AT' for the sake of convenience and clarity] was constituted by a sole Arbitrator, who is a former Hon'ble Judge of this Court and he was appointed vide order dated 01.02.2019 made in O.P.No.1119 of 2018.5. Pursuant to the aforementioned order, AT conducted arbitral proceedings in the Madras Arbitration Center under the aegis of this Court.6. Be that as it may, sub-clause (b) of Clause 37 supra, now raises the interesting question regarding jurisdiction. The question is whether captioned OP should be heard by this Court or it ought to have been filed in the jurisdictional District Court in the City of Trichy.7. In the light of the above, this Court is inclined to issue notice and Mr.S.Vijayakumar, learned counsel accepts notice on behalf of sole respondent.8. Learned Senior Advocate and learned counsel who has accepted notice on behalf of sole respondent seek time to examine this position and make submissions in the next listing. Be that as it may, though obvious, it is made clear that this jurisdiction issue will be taken up first in the next listing. 9. List under the caption 'FOR FINAL DISPOSAL/ARGUMENTS' on 04.02.2021.'2. Today, in this web hearing on a video conferencing platform i.e., virtual court Mr.A.L.Somayaji, learned senior Advocate instructed by Mr.M.Vijaya Mehanath of M/s.AAV Partners [Law Firm] on behalf of the two petitioners and Mr.M.K.Kabir, learned senior counsel instructed by Mr.S.Vijayakumar, learned counsel on record for sole respondent are before me.3. Adverting to aforementioned earlier proceedings dated 25.01.2021, both learned senior counsel on instructions, submit in unison that a supervisory Court with exclusive jurisdiction is the Court in the city of Chennai.4. In continuation of earlier proceedings made in previous listing on 25.01.2021, it will suffice to say that in Indus Mobile Distribution Private Limited Vs. Datawind Innovations Private Limited and Others reported in (2017) 7 SCC 678, Hon'ble Supreme Court has made it clear that 'place' occurring in sub sections (1) and (2) of Section 20 of 'The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Act No.26 of 1996)' [hereinafter 'A and C Act' for the sake of brevity] is 'Seat' i.e., juridical seat and 'place' occurring in sub section (3) of Section 20 of A and C Act is 'Venue'.5. Further in BGS SGS SOMA JV Vs. NHPC Limited reported in (2020) 4 SCC 234, Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that when juridical seat has been agreed upon by parties by exercise of party autonomy, it becomes exclusive jurisdiction qua Supervisory Court.6. In this regard, judgments of Hon'ble Supreme Court being Mankastu Impex Private Limited Vs. Airvisual Limited reported in (2020) 5 SCC 399 and Hindustan Construction Company Limited Vs. NHPC Limited and another reported in (2020) 4 SCC 310 are also of relevance as BGS SGS SOMA principle i.e., seat determines exclusive jurisdiction of supervisory court.7. In the light of the law laid down by Hon'ble Supreme Court in the aforementioned case laws, both learned senior counsel submit that Clause 37 more particularly sub clause (b) of Clause 37 of the contract between the parties being agreement dated 24.08.2015 sets out the juridical seat. Both learned senior counsel also submit without any disputation and disagreement that aforementioned Clause 37 of the agreement dated 24.08.2015 serves as arbitration agreement between the parties being arbitration agreement within the meaning of Section 2(1)(b) read with Section 7 of A and C Act as articulated by this Court in paragraph 3 of earlier proceedings made in the listing on 25.01.2021 (to be noted entire 25.01.2021 proceedings has been extracted and reproduced supra).8. Common submission made in unison by both sides is, captioned OP may be rejected on the ground of lack of territorial jurisdiction albeit preserving the rights of the petitioners to present a similar/same captioned OP in the jurisdictional Court i.e., Court in the City of Trichy. Though obvious, it is made clear that if the petitioners choose to approach the jurisdictional supervisory Court, the said Supervisory Court shall deal with the matter on its own merits and in accordance with law uninfluenced by anything expressed in this
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order except the articulation expressing lack of territorial jurisdiction for this Court qua captioned OP.9. Senior counsel for petitioners makes a request that the papers constituting the case file including the original impugned award may please be returned to the counsel on record for petitioners for the purpose of presentation in the jurisdictional Supervisory Court. Registry is directed to return the papers to the counsel on record on a written request from counsel on record for petitioners at the earliest and in any event, within eleven (11) days from today i.e., on or before 15.02.2021. To be noted, Registry to return original impugned award also, under due acknowledgement.10. Captioned Original Petition rejected albeit of on above terms. There shall be no order as to costs. Consequently, connected Application No.51 of 2021 is closed.