In today’s globalized world, disputes are common among parties involved in cross-border trade. To resolve these disputes, alternate dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as arbitration have gained popularity. When parties agree to arbitration, they accept the arbitrator’s decision, the award, as final and binding, without any avenue for appeals. However, court intervention in arbitration disputes is still possible on limited grounds. 

India’s arbitration landscape is still evolving, and the acceptable extent of such intervention is under examination. The spirit of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996 emphasizes minimal judicial interference, but striking the right balance remains a challenge. Curative jurisdiction exercised by courts in arbitration disputes raises concerns about the finality of rulings by the apex court. While intended to rectify errors, it can lead to prolonged delays, especially in time-sensitive matters. This undermines the enforceability of arbitral awards in India. 

This research paper focuses on India’s context, analyzing the delicate equilibrium between curative jurisdiction wielded by courts and the autonomy of arbitration tribunals. By studying case law, international conventions, and scholarly works, we explore the challenges faced by both national courts and tribunals. The paper highlights the flaws in India’s current arbitration regime, which have led to excessive delays caused by court intrusion at every stage. Plausible solutions are suggested to strengthen India’s arbitration law and minimize judicial interference while maintaining the enforceability of arbitral awards.


Arbitration, Curative Jurisdiction, Enforcement, Autonomy. 


Arbitration has become a popular method of dispute resolution due to its flexibility, neutrality, and efficiency. However, the effectiveness of arbitration is significantly dependent on the enforceability of arbitral awards. After receiving an arbitral award, the next step is to enforce it in court (to certify its finality on factual and legal issues) and then have it executed (to ensure that any financial payments under the award are made within a reasonable time frame). Although national courts play an important role in enforcing these awards, their intervention can sometimes undermine the arbitral process’s autonomy. This balance is especially important in India, where arbitration is becoming more popular as a dispute resolution method. 

The Indian Constitution, 1950, and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, hereafter referred to as the “ACA” together provide a framework for the Supreme Court’s intervention in arbitration proceedings. According to Article 136 of the Indian Constitution and Sections 34 and 37 of the ACA, the Court’s intervention is expected to be limited and only in exceptional circumstances that justify its discretionary involvement.

The Supreme Court of India recently issued a landmark decision in In Re: Interplay between Arbitration Agreements under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 and the Indian Stamp Act 1899 2023 (7J Judgment), that clarifies the enforceability of arbitration agreements found in unstamped or inadequately stamped contracts. It reinforces the Indian ACA’s underlying principles of separability (the arbitration agreement is separate from the main contract) and Kompetenz-Kompetenz (the arbitral tribunal’s authority to rule on its own jurisdiction). Notably, the 7J Judgment is significant after the landmark BALCO v. Kaiser decision, which clarified the Indian courts’ supervisory powers over India-seated arbitrations and their authority to grant interim relief. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) intervened in both the 7J Judgment and the BALCO Case. SIAC has administered a substantial number of India-related arbitrations, with more than 1,300 cases, involving over 2,000 Indian parties between 2011 and 2022. Importantly, no SIAC awards were set aside or enforced in India during this time.

In 2023, the Supreme Court’s decision in NN Global 5J, addressed the issue of whether arbitration agreements would be rendered void due to insufficient stamping of the main contract. By a 3:2 majority, the 5-judge bench ruled that the Indian Stamp Act of 1899 invalidates an arbitration agreement if the main contract is insufficiently stamped. This decision underscored the importance of proper stamping in enforceable arbitration agreements.

In the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) case, the Supreme Court used its curative writ petition to revive a 2019 Delhi High Court decision that partially overturned the Delhi Metro arbitration award. This rare judicial innovation corrected a “grave miscarriage of justice” and expanded the scope of the court’s extraordinary powers beyond constitutionally prescribed processes, stating that “Curative jurisdiction may be invoked if there is a miscarriage of justice.” In essence, this Court’s jurisdiction when deciding a curative petition extends to cases in which the Court acts outside of its jurisdiction, resulting in a grave miscarriage of justice. The Court clarified that the Supreme Court’s curative jurisdiction should not be exercised regularly. “The curative jurisdiction should not be used to open the floodgates and create a fourth or fifth stage of court intervention in an arbitral award, under either the Supreme Court’s review jurisdiction or curative jurisdiction.

These cases highlight the delicate balance courts must strike between intervention and autonomy in arbitration proceedings. They emphasize the importance of balancing curative jurisdiction with the enforcement of arbitral awards to maintain confidence in the effectiveness of arbitration. The ACA emphasizes party autonomy, allowing parties to select their own dispute resolution process. The principle of separability ensures that the arbitration agreement remains valid even if the main contract is defective. The doctrine of competence-competence recognizes the arbitral tribunal’s authority to determine its own jurisdiction. The Supreme Court examined jurisprudence from various jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore, and international conventions. These principles help to establish a modern and efficient arbitration regime in India.

The tension arises when national courts interfere excessively in the arbitration process. Overly intrusive judicial review can erode the autonomy of arbitration and discourage parties from choosing this dispute resolution mechanism. Striking the right balance requires courts to exercise restraint while addressing genuine concerns. 

To comprehensively explore this topic, a mixed-methods approach is adopted. This includes a legal analysis of relevant Indian case law to comprehend how Indian courts tackle challenges related to curative jurisdiction and enforcement. Additionally, a literature review of scholarly articles, books, and commentaries focusing specifically on India’s experience is undertaken to identify trends, challenges, and potential solutions.

The existing literature underscores several key issues within the Indian context. Indian courts have emphasized the need for judicial restraint in interfering with arbitral awards, recognizing the principle of minimal judicial interference. 

According to Srividhya Ragavan and Niraj K. Seth, a curative petition to the Supreme Court is “the last opportunity available to a party involved in a legal dispute. When a review petition is dismissed, the option to file a curative petition becomes available. Thus, the curative petition is the Supreme Court of India’s final opportunity to hear a question after a review petition, and it is genuinely done with a view to prevent or cure a gross miscarriage of justice. A curative petitioner should establish either a violation of principles of natural justice or an apprehension of bias from a conflict of interest adversely affecting the petitioner.”

“A curative jurisdiction is a remedy created by judicial precedent”

The Supreme Court of India has permitted curative writs as a last resort to rectify judgments that cause a “grave miscarriage of justice” and are oppressive to judicial conscience. However, courts have a disturbing tendency to set aside arbitral awards after reassessing factual aspects, potentially undermining the purpose of the ACA.

Scope of Curative Jurisdiction

Curative jurisdiction is the Supreme Court’s special authority to reconsider its decision in order to prevent abuses of process and correct any gross miscarriage of justice in exceptional circumstances. This jurisdiction was established judicially to ensure justice under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, allowing an aggrieved party to seek relief against the Court’s final judgment or order even after a review petition was dismissed.

The basis for invoking curative jurisdiction includes violations of natural justice principles, such as process abuse and bias from presiding judges. However, the application of this jurisdiction to arbitral awards, as seen in the DMRC v. DAMEPL case, where the Supreme Court invoked its curative jurisdiction to reconsider an arbitral award rendered in 2017, can be intricate. This case led to questions about the Supreme Court’s curative jurisdiction scope over arbitral awards confirmed and appealed under Sections 37 and 34 of the ACA, respectively.

The ACA restricts judicial scrutiny to exceptional cases, and when an arbitral award is upheld by a court under Section 34, the appellate court’s jurisdiction is limited. Therefore, while curative jurisdiction offers a mechanism for the Supreme Court to rectify gross injustices, its application concerning arbitral awards must be judiciously considered to respect arbitration autonomy and the ACA’s boundaries. 

In essence, curative jurisdiction is the Supreme Court’s power to correct gross miscarriages of justice in arbitral proceedings, including procedural irregularities, jurisdictional challenges, or public policy violations. However, its exercise must be cautiously balanced to prevent undermining arbitral awards’ finality and respect the autonomy of arbitration and the limits set by the ACA.

Enforcement of Arbitral Awards

The enforcement of arbitral awards can be a complex process due to the diversity of legal systems, invalid arbitration agreements, jurisdictional challenges, and public policy concerns. The New York Convention and the UNCITRAL Model Law have been established to facilitate the enforcement of these awards across different jurisdictions. They impose a limited number of conditions on enforcement, including serious irregularities such as the invalidity of the arbitration agreement, a lack of due process, or a violation of the enforcement state’s public policies. These conditions, however, are limited to a specific set of procedural defects or issues with the award itself. The New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958) establishes a comprehensive framework for enforcing awards across national borders. In this context, national courts play a pivotal role in ensuring that arbitration-based resolutions are beneficial to all parties involved.

Enforcing arbitral awards is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of the arbitration system. It ensures that the final decision reached through arbitration is binding and enforceable. This allows parties to benefit from the resolution of their disputes. The ACA, provides a framework for enforcing both domestic and foreign awards. Section 36 addresses the enforcement of arbitral awards, and its 2015 amendment eliminated the automatic stay on enforcement, reinforcing the pro-enforcement stance.

The Indian courts and legislature have taken steps to expedite the enforcement of arbitral awards. This includes minimal intervention by national courts and a prompt resolution of arbitration proceedings. Section 17 of the ACA reinforces the arbitral tribunal’s authority. It ensures that interim orders issued by an arbitrator are as enforceable as court orders. The Supreme Court of India has further reinforced its pro-arbitration stance. It has affirmed the recognition of emergency arbitration awards under Indian law, thereby instilling confidence in overseas parties in India’s jurisdiction.

Judicial Intervention and Arbitration Autonomy

The principle of arbitration autonomy, which is at the heart of arbitration proceedings, is delicately balanced with judicial intervention. This balance aims to ensure fairness and protects the rights of the parties involved. Section 5 of the ACA, identical to Article 5 of the UNCITRAL Model Law, states that the court’s role in arbitration is intentionally limited. The court primarily assists the proceedings by providing interim protection, but it may also enforce the award or address challenges to it once the arbitral award is declared.

The Act also allows for limited court intervention during arbitration proceedings in certain circumstances. These include appointing an arbitrator or determining that the arbitration agreement or procedure is not legally valid. Such interventions seek to protect the rule of law and the integrity of the arbitration process. However, they must be judiciously exercised to avoid undermining the arbitral process’s autonomy.

Party autonomy is a fundamental principle in the arbitration process. It allows parties to shape the form, structure, and details of arbitration. This includes selecting the arbitral tribunal, determining the applicable law, and specifying the procedural rules. The ACA, supports this principle by aiming to enforce the agreement to arbitrate rather than intervene.

The Supreme Court of India issued a landmark decision upholding party autonomy under arbitration law. It allowed Indian parties to choose a foreign arbitration seat and defined foreign awards under the Act. The court emphasized that parties’ autonomy extends to selecting a foreign seat, even when both parties are Indian entities.

India’s legal framework recognizes both domestic and foreign awards. It treats them similarly to the decrees of Indian courts. This recognition is essential for making India an arbitration hub. Striking a delicate balance between preserving the autonomy of arbitration and ensuring enforcement involves legal reforms, pro-enforcement policies, and judicial decisions. The ACA, along with court interpretations, provides the necessary framework for achieving these objectives.

Courts are responsible for upholding the rule of law while also respecting the autonomy and integrity of the arbitration process. This delicate balance ensures that justice is served while maintaining the effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. This balance involves several key considerations, including minimal judicial interference and respect for party autonomy, public policy exceptions, and a balancing act of reviewing awards, non-interference, and enforcement.

The UNCITRAL Model Law, which influenced the ACA, emphasizes limited court intervention. Article 16 allows tribunals to rule on jurisdiction, while Article 5 limits court involvement before proceedings commence. Section 5 of the ACA prohibits courts from intervening in an arbitration award except on the grounds specified in Sections 34(2)(a) and (b) of the ACA. An arbitral award can not be set aside merely on grounds of an erroneous application of law or by reappreciation of evidence. Notably, Section 34 of the ACA expressly prohibits judicial interference with arbitral awards and explicitly limits the judicial instinct to (re)appreciate matters of fact or decided questions of law. In the case of McDermott International Inc. v. Burn Standard Company Limited and Ors., it was determined that the Court’s supervisory role under the statute is solely to ensure fairness, preventing fraud, bias, and so on, and that the court cannot correct arbitration errors but can quash the award, leaving parties free to arbitrate again if they so desire. The court’s interference is intended to be minimal and limited.

Therefore, a nuanced approach by courts is required to preserve arbitration autonomy while ensuring effective enforcement. This approach should be guided by legal principles and international best practices to strike the right balance between intervention and autonomy.

Evolution and Challenges of Arbitration

Arbitration, as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, has gained global prominence in resolving commercial disputes. India, with its aim to attract foreign investments and enhance the ease of doing business, has made significant strides in promoting arbitration.

The ACA, forms the bedrock of the legal framework in India. It has been amended to streamline arbitration proceedings and align them with international standards. The 2019 Amendment Act was introduced to enhance efficiency and credibility. Despite these reforms, the intervention of courts in arbitration proceedings remains a contentious issue. The Supreme Court has emphasized the need for judicial restraint, particularly regarding arbitral awards. However, a trend of courts reassessing cases and dissecting factual aspects potentially undermines the objective of minimal judicial interference enshrined in the ACA.

Internationally, there is a growing consensus favoring party autonomy and limited judicial intervention. The courts recognize the need to preserve arbitration’s effectiveness while safeguarding due process. Striking the right balance remains challenging. Courts must avoid overreach while ensuring fairness and enforceability. Efforts to harmonize arbitration laws across jurisdictions continue, emphasizing party autonomy and curbing excessive judicial scrutiny. Excessive judicial scrutiny can lead to delays in enforcing arbitral awards, an issue highlighted by the Supreme Court ruling. It emphasized that courts should avoid setting aside awards unless strictly necessary.

Frequent annulment of awards based on perceived perversity or patent illegality erodes the purpose of the ACA. The delicate balance between judicial review and party autonomy must be maintained. To handle complex commercial disputes, India needs robust infrastructure and specialized expertise. Adequate training for arbitrators, efficient case management, and institutional support are essential. The ACA underscores party autonomy and minimal judicial intervention.

Significantly, the delicate interplay between curative jurisdiction, judicial intervention, and arbitration autonomy varies across legal systems. While each jurisdiction grapples with unique challenges, the overarching goal is to maintain a robust arbitration regime that respects parties’ choices while safeguarding justice.Thus, while the current legal framework has made significant progress, there is still room for improvement. Further reforms are required to ensure arbitration’s effectiveness as a method of dispute resolution. These include establishing clear guidelines on the application of curative jurisdiction in arbitration cases, further limiting judicial intervention to ensure arbitration autonomy, and improving the infrastructure and expertise for arbitration. Thus, the journey towards a robust arbitration regime continues, guided by the principles of justice, fairness, and respect for party autonomy.

Legal Remedies

In the realm of arbitration, the parties involved often encounter challenges related to excessive judicial intervention or a lack of curative jurisdiction. To address these issues, several legal remedies are available.

One such remedy is to set aside the award under Section 34 of the ACA. This provision allows a party to challenge the award’s validity based on procedural irregularities, lack of jurisdiction, or a violation of public policy. The aggrieved party may file an application with the relevant court to set aside the award, thereby ensuring its validity.

Another option is to file an appeal against the refusal to recognize and enforce a foreign award. The ACA provides for this appeal, ensuring that parties have recourse when their foreign awards face obstacles during enforcement. If a court refuses to recognize or enforce a foreign award, the aggrieved party may appeal the decision.

Despite challenges to an award, the judgment debtor may seek a stay of enforcement. However, if the conditions of stay are not met, the awardee may proceed with enforcement. This remedy prevents undue delay in enforcing valid awards and allows the award holder to initiate enforcement proceedings even if the judgment debtor contests the award.

Section 33 of the ACA allows a party to request that the arbitral tribunal make an additional award on claims that were omitted from the original award. This remedy ensures the completeness and rectification of any omissions. If certain claims were inadvertently left out in the initial award, parties can seek an additional award to address those claims.

Parties can also appeal adverse enforcement decisions to higher courts. This remedy allows parties to seek review and correction of erroneous decisions. If a court’s decision adversely affects enforcement, parties can challenge it through the appellate process.

In essence, these legal remedies serve as a safety net for the parties involved in arbitration. They seek to strike a balance between respecting judicial authority and preserving the autonomy of the arbitral process, ensuring that non-enforcement due to judicial intervention or a lack of curative jurisdiction is effectively addressed.


The interplay between curative jurisdiction and the enforcement of arbitral awards is critical, requiring a delicate balance between arbitration tribunal autonomy and the role of national courts in enforcing arbitral awards. India’s current arbitration regime must be strengthened to minimize judicial interference while maintaining the enforceability of arbitral awards. The recent decisions of the Indian Supreme Court provide clarity on the enforceability of arbitration agreements contained in unstamped or inadequately stamped contracts. However, the DMRC case demonstrates that unusual judicial innovation may be required to correct a “grave miscarriage of justice” and broaden the scope of the court’s extraordinary powers.

By reviewing this context, plausible solutions is identified to achieve this delicate balance and ensure that India’s arbitration mechanism remains an effective tool for resolving cross-border trade disputes. The flaws in India’s current arbitration regime, which have led to excessive delays caused by court intrusion at every stage, must be addressed to strengthen India’s arbitration law and minimize judicial interference.

Therefore, the Indian government should take proactive steps to strengthen India’s arbitration regime, including enacting reforms to minimize curative jurisdiction and promote the autonomy of arbitration tribunals. By doing so, India can ensure that its arbitration mechanism remains an efficient and effective tool for resolving disputes, resolving issues efficiently, promoting foreign investment, and enhancing its position as a global economic power.

By Vidya Bharti

BALLB (2022-27)

Lloyd Law College