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Singapore Court of Appeal: Grounds for Curial Intervention in Arbitration Proceedings are Narrowly Circumscribed

In Singapore, the grounds on which the seat court can set aside an arbitral award are exhaustively prescribed in s 24 of the International Arbitration Act 1994 (2020 Rev Ed) and Article 34 of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, as adopted in Singapore by virtue of s 3(1) read together with the First Schedule of the IAA.

In COT v COU and others and other appeals [2023] SGCA 31, the Court of Appeal held that where a party applies to the court to set aside an arbitral award premised on the absence of a binding contract, the court need only concern itself with whether such a contract existed.

In cases where the party seeking the setting aside remedy alleges that no contract was concluded between the parties, it is well-established that the seat court undertakes a de novo review.

In determining whether a binding contract was concluded between the parties, the court adopted an objective approach towards the question of contractual formation. The court will consider the entire course of negotiations to determine whether there was a single point in time when the requisite consensus ad idem was reached.

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