In any legal dispute, evidence almost always plays the most crucial role, often determining the result of a trial. Arbitration proceedings differ from in court trials using the mechanism and create a demarcation regarding the relevance of evidence. While one can say that evidence is necessary to determine the incidents that occurred or led to the dispute, in arbitration proceedings, it is a settled rule that the decision-making power of an arbitrator/an arbitral tribunal does not depend based on the rule of evidence which is seen in a regular court of law during the course of a trial.
Section 19 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996
- This particular section of the statute governing the arbitration and conciliation proceedings in our country deals with the determination of rules that are meant to be applied in a regular arbitration proceeding.
- This section clearly states that no arbitral tribunal or a sole arbitrator shall be bound by the provisions laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- This section, in a way, liberates the arbitral tribunal and the parties to decide the procedure that they want to follow during the course of the arbitration.
- In addition to the freedom of choosing the procedure for the arbitration proceedings, the section through its sub-clause (4), also empowers the tribunal or the arbitrator to determine the admissibility of any evidence that is relevant to the dispute at hand, the relevance, materiality, and weight of which lies at their discretion itself.
- While on the one hand, this section does not obligate the tribunal/arbitrator/parties to stick to the aforementioned legislative texts and their provisions. At the same time, it allows them the discretion if they choose to give any evidence of any weightage.
The Extent of Applicability of Rules of Evidence
It must be noted that while the arbitral tribunal has its discretion to decide the admissibility and relevance of a piece of evidence without being bound to statutory provisions mentioned in either of the acts mentioned above (Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 & the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, it does not mean they are free to flout the rules that form part of the fundamental principles of natural justice.
In layman language, this means that in case there is an absence of an agreement between the parties regarding the procedure to be followed in the arbitration proceedings, the arbitral tribunal is free to act upon the available evidence as per its discretion, but at no point should any interim or final order result in an award, that has been a consequence of unfair or biased ruling which has flouted the principles of natural justice.
In conclusion, as long as an arbitral tribunal is sticking to the principles of natural justice and doing its due diligence in analyzing and interpreting the evidence before them in a judicial manner, the relevance of said evidence and its weightage to the decision making of a particular dispute lies at the discretion of said arbitral tribunal/arbitrator.
This Article Does Not Intend To Hurt The Sentiments Of Any Individual Community, Sect, Or Religion Etcetera. This Article Is Based Purely On The Authors Personal Views And Opinions In The Exercise Of The Fundamental Right Guaranteed Under Article 19(1)(A) And Other Related Laws Being Force In India, For The Time Being. Further, despite all efforts made to ensure the accuracy and correctness of the information published, White Code VIA Mediation and Arbitration Centre shall not be responsible for any errors caused due to human error or otherwise.