In a judgment handed down on 30th May 2018 in Antrix Corporation Ltd. Vs Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd., a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court speaking through Mr Justice S. Ravindra Bhat addressed a “number of interesting questions” with respect to the Indian Arbitration Act. In particular, whether the Delhi High Court has exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate any applications arising out of an arbitration agreement or subsequent award, merely because the seat of the arbitration was designated as New Delhi.
In September 2015, a three-member ICC tribunal rendered an award in favour of Devas for USD 562.5 million plus interest. Both parties filed applications before different courts in India: Devas filed an application before the Delhi High Court seeking interim measures, whilst two months later Antrix filed an application before the Bangalore City Civil Court challenging the award. In February 2017, a single judge of the Delhi High Court ruled that the petition filed by Devas was maintainable and consequently, the subsequent petition by Antrix before the Bangalore City Civil Court was not maintainable.
The Division Bench allowed Antrix’s appeal. It held that the Delhi High Court did not have jurisdiction merely because the seat for the arbitration had been designated as New Delhi. For the court to have exclusive jurisdiction, it would also have been necessary to have an exclusive forum selection clause in favour of the Courts at New Delhi. That being absent, both Delhi and Bangalore had concurrent jurisdiction, and there was no reason for the Bangalore City Civil Court not to retain jurisdiction over Antrix’s challenge to the award.