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COA found that arbitral tribunal did not exceed its scope of jurisdiction

In the case of CJA v CIZ [2022] SGCA 41 the Singapore’s Court of Appeal (“COA”) overturned the High Court’s judgment by ruling that the arbitral tribunal’s findings where within the scope of submission.

Facts / Background 
We have previously discussed the High Court’s case here 

The main issue in this appeal is whether the High Court’s judge had correctly held that the arbitral tribunal’s findings were within the scope of submission. Ultimately, the Court of Appeal was of the view that the judge below erred in characterising the appellant’s case in the arbitration as entirely run on the basis of a subsisting agreement.

In deciding so, the COA first set out a two-stage inquiry when assessing whether an arbitral award should be set aside for an excess of jurisdiction:

1.     The court must identify what matters were within the scope of submission to the arbitral tribunal;
2.     Whether the arbitral award involved such matters, or whether it involved a new difference outside
        the scope of the submission to arbitration and accordingly would have been irrelevant to the
        issues requiring determination

COA’s Decision  
The COA held that the tribunal’s findings did not involve a new difference outside the scope of the parties’ submission to arbitration. They were premised on the fundamental point raised by the appellant in its submissions that the respondent’s obligation to pay the success fee was not constrained by the term limits of the Consultancy Agreement or Amended Agreement.

Notably, the COA held that an arbitral tribunal is entitled to arrive at conclusions that are different from the views adopted by parties (regarding contractual interpretation, or otherwise as the case may be), provided that these conclusions are based on evidence that was before the tribunal and that it consults the parties where the conclusions may involve a dramatic departure from what has been presented to it.

Therefore, while the reasoning eventually adopted by the tribunal was not pleaded by the appellant in those precise terms, it is clear that the more general question of the interaction between the payment obligations and the expiry date under the Amended Agreement was canvassed before the tribunal.

Further, it was held that the respondent’s challenge to the tribunal’s interpretations of various provisions in the Amended Agreement are essentially an allegation of errors of law on the part of the tribunal. Thus, the COA allowed the appeal as neither an excess of jurisdiction nor a breach of natural justice has been made out.

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