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SICC Upholds Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”) Award Which Was Alleged To Be Illegal

In the recent case of Gokul Patnaik v Nine Rivers Capital Limited [2020] SGHC(I) 23 the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”) dismissed the Plaintiff’s application to set aside an SIAC arbitration award (“Award”). In reaching its decision, the SICC held that:

1.    The Award did not contain decisions beyond the scope of submission to arbitration;
2.    There was no breach of natural justice in connection with making of the Award; and  
3.    The Award was not contrary to the public policy of Singapore. The Court also struck out an expert affidavit
       on Indian law filed by the Plaintiff alleging that the Award was illegal under Indian law.

This SICC’s decision reiterates the pro-arbitration stance that the Singapore courts have consistently adopted in affirming arbitral awards in the face of allegations of breaches of public policy and law. The court emphasied the entrenched principle that the ground for setting aside on the basis of a breach of public policy is a narrow one. To successfully invoke the public policy ground, the applicant must demonstrate “egregious circumstances” which would “violate the most basic notions of morality and justice”. In this regard, a mere breach of foreign law would not cross such a high threshold.

In other words, parties who agree to arbitrate their dispute cannot expect that errors of fact and/or law made by the arbitrator, can be the basis for successfully setting aside an arbitral award as the courts favour the public policy of sustaining international arbitral awards. Moreover, an applicant seeking to introduce additional evidence at the setting aside stage, even if it is evidence on foreign law, is also likely to fail in the Singapore courts.

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