The Project Director, NHAI V. M. Hakeem & ANR. : A Critical Analysis
Devansh Dixit, Gujarat National Law University.*
Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”) gives recourse to anyone aggrieved by an arbitral award by providing them with an opportunity to file an application seeking to set aside such arbitral award. Whether this power includes the power to modify the arbitral award is a point on which there have been divergent judicial opinions by the Indian High Courts, and the legal position has primarily been unclear in the Indian arbitration regime.
The Apex Court, through its decision in The Project Director, NHAI v. M. Hakeem & Anr, has cleared the air around this decades-old debate and has held that inclusion of the power to modify an arbitral award in section 34 would be crossing the “Lakshaman Rekha” reaffirming the position that the statute envisions minimal court intervention in arbitral awards.
* Second Year Law Student pursuing B.B.A. L.L.B. (Hons.) from Gujarat National Law University. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, § 34, No. 26, Acts of Parliament, 1996 (India). The Project Director, NHAI v. M. Hakeem & Anr, LL 2021 SC 311.