5 Nov 2010

Guarantor cannot appear before arbitration of guarantee and lender: Supreme Court

In a recent decision the Supreme Court has declared that even though the guarantor  (or surety) may have an interest in the resolution of the dispute, it cannot appear before the arbitrator between the guarantee and third party. The Court in S.N. Prasad v. Monnet Finance Ltd. & Ors. [later reported as AIR 2011 SC 442] was dealing with the question as to"whether guarantor for a loan, who is not a party to the loan agreement containing the arbitration agreement executed between the lender and borrower, can be made a party to a reference to arbitration in regard to a dispute relating to repayment of such loan and subjected to the arbitration award". The Court answered in the

The Court declared the law inter alia as under;
16. The first respondent contended that the appellant having agreed to be a guarantor for the repayment of the loan, can not avoid arbitration by contending that he was not a signatory to the loan agreement containing the arbitration clause. It was submitted that the liability of the principal debtor and guarantors was joint and several and therefore there could be only one proceeding against all of them; and that if the contention of the appellant was accepted, it would necessitate two proceedings in regard to the same loan transaction and same cause of action, that is an arbitration proceedings against the borrower and one of its guarantors (respondents 2 and 3) and a separate suit against the other guarantor (appellant). It was further submitted that multiple proceedings may lead to divergent findings and results, leading to an anomalous situation. It was also submitted that the letter dated 27.10.1995 guaranteeing the loan of Rs.75 lakhs was written by the appellant, as a Director of the borrower company; and that as the appellant had already given a guarantee letter dated 27.10.1995, he was not required to execute the tripartite loan agreements containing the arbitration clause; that the appellant was aware of the terms of the loan and was further aware that loan agreements with arbitration clause had to be executed; and that therefore it should be deemed that the appellant had agreed to abide by the terms contained in the loan agreements, including the arbitration clause. We find no merit in these contentions.
17. When the appellant gave the guarantee letter dated 27.10.1995, he could not be imputed with the knowledge that the loan agreements which were to be executed in future (on 28.10.1995 and 6.11.1995) would contain an arbitration clause. Further, the appellant did not state in his letter dated 27.10.1995 that he would be bound by the terms of loan agreement/s that may be executed by the borrower. Therefore the question of appellant impliedly agreeing to the arbitration clause does not arise.
18. The apprehension of the first respondent that an anomalous situation may arise if there are two proceedings (one arbitration proceedings against the borrower and one guarantor and a suit against another guarantor), is not a relevant consideration as any such anomalous situation, if it arises, would be the own-making of the first respondent, as that is the consequence of its failure to require the appellant to join in the execution of the loan agreements. Having made only one of the guarantors to execute the loan agreements and having failed to get the appellant to execute the loan agreements, the first respondent cannot contend that the appellant who did not sign the loan agreements containing the arbitration clause should also be deemed to be a party to the arbitration and be bound by the awards. The issue is not one of convenience and expediency. The issue is whether there was an arbitration agreement with the appellant.
19. As there was no arbitration agreement between the parties (the first respondent and appellant), the impleading of appellant as a respondent in the arbitration proceedings and the award against the appellant in such arbitration cannot be sustained. As a consequence, both the arbitration awards, as against the appellant are liable to be set aside. If the first respondent wants to enforce the alleged guarantee of the appellant, it is open to the first respondent to do so in accordance with law.

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