The Supreme Court, in a recent judgement of State of Gujrat through Chief Secretary and Anr v. Amber Builders held that Gujrat Public Works Contract Disputes Arbitral Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as ‘Tribunal’) has jurisdiction to make interim orders with respect to S. 17 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
The Gujrat Public Works Contract Disputes Arbitral Tribunal is a Tribunal constituted under S. 3 of Gujrat Public Works Contract Disputes Arbitration Tribunal Act, 1992 (hereinafter referred to as ‘Gujrat Act’), this was mainly enacted with a view to compulsorily refer all disputes arising out of “works contract” entered into by the State Government of Gujrat or the Public Sector Undertakings with any other person for those works defined as “works contract” in terms of Section 2 (k) of the Gujarat Act.
In the present case, the bench comprising of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Annirudha Bose observed-
“On a conjoint reading and a careful analysis of the Acts together, we are of the view that insofar as the powers vested in the Arbitral Tribunal in terms of the Section 17 of the A&C Act are concerned, such powers can be exercised by the Tribunal constituted under the Gujarat Act because there is no inconsistency in these two Acts as far as the grant of interim relief is concerned. This power is already vested in the tribunal under the Gujarat Act and Section 17 of the A&C Act compliments these powers and therefore it cannot be said that the provisions of Section 17 of the A&C Act are inconsistent with the Gujarat Act.”
Another issue which came to be adjudicated upon in the present case was with respect to the withholding of the money of the contractor till the demand of the Government is crystallised or adjudicated upon. While answering the above question, the bench went into the correctness of view laid down in Gangotri Enterprises Limited v. Union of India, (2016) 11 SCC 720, since it was specifically relied upon by the respondent counsel and laid down that-
“In our opinion, the judgment rendered in Gangotri Enterprises Limited is per incuriam because it relies upon Union of India v. Raman Iron Foundry, (1974) 2 SCC 231 which has been specifically overruled by three Judge Bench in the case of H.M. Kamaluddin Ansari v. Union of India, (1983) 4 SCC 417”
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