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签署行为非达成协议的必要条件(印度案例)

2019528日,在Himalayan Heli Adventures Private Limited vs Utair India Private Limited & Ors., O.M.P. (I) (COMM) 21/2019 & I.A. No.6725/2019一案中,印度新德里高等法院裁定,虽然当事人之间没有签署正式协议,但根据案件具体情况,当事人之间的协议(包括仲裁协议)已经达成。另外,对于申请人提出的寻求临时保护措施的救济,法院认为,当事人之间的仲裁程序尚未开始,本案不适合授予此种实际上等同于裁判前的扣押令的命令,要获得此种命令,申请人必须提供更强有力的理由且还须证明,即使仲裁庭作出了对其有利的裁决,被申请人也不会遵守。法院认为,在本案中,申请人未提供这样强有力的理由,故驳回其提出的寻求临时保护措施的请求。

一、案情介绍

201795日,申请人与第四、第五被申请人会面,协商租用第一被申请人所拥有的两架直升机的条件。据进一步证实,当事人曾多次签署类似协议。2017918日,被申请人(各个被申请人的统称)通过邮件与申请人沟通财务条款,包括费率、合同期限、燃油费等事项,并要求申请人支付预付款。随后,申请人根据该邮件支付了预付款。2018213日,被申请人向申请人发送了草案《协议》,并称草案《协议》中的某些变更已被“决定”。2018215日,申请人向被申请人发送了《协议》副本,该副本所作的变更事实上只是被申请人在2018213日发送的邮件中所称的已被“决定”的变更。2018217日,第一被申请人发送短信称,想与申请人“敲定(finalise)”协议。

2018220日,被申请人供应了第一架直升机。此后,申请人多次试图与第一申请人联系供应第二架直升机。201838日,被申请人供应了第二架直升机。由于第二架直升机迟延供应,申请人称遭受了损害,并试图提起仲裁程序。但是被申请人正在办理直升机的所有权注销和变更手续,申请人认为即使仲裁庭作出对其有利的裁决,其可能也无法获得金钱损害赔偿。

因此,申请人根据1996年《仲裁与调解法》(以下简称“《法案》”)第9条请求新德里法院授予以下救济:(1)根据《法案》第9 (ii) (b)条,通过一项有利于申请人的临时保护措施,指示被申请人向法院交存21,757,100卢比的担保,直到仲裁庭解决争议为止。(2)根据《法案》第9 (ii) (c)/(d)条通过一项临时保护措施,指示或限制被申请人不得注销、变更直升机的所有权,和/或不得将直升机出口到国外,直到仲裁庭解决争议为止。针对申请人所请求的这两项救济,法院作出如下认定。

二、法院认定

首先,法院表示,当事人之间的主要争议涉及通过上述通过邮件往来是否已达成仲裁协议。申请人认为存在这样一项协定,但被申请人予以否认。被申请人坚持认为,《协议》未经申请人签署,这些电子邮件/短信不能被解读为接受该协议的条款,因此当事人之间未达成任何仲裁协议。(As recorded above, the main disputes between the parties pertain to existence of the Arbitration Agreement with the exchange of emails as mentioned hereinabove. While it is the case of the petitioner that such an Agreement came into existence, this is denied by the respondents. The respondents insisted that as the Agreement was not signed by the petitioner, the emails/SMS messages cannot be read as acceptance of the terms of the Agreement and as such no Arbitration Agreement came into being between the parties.)申请人则表示,当事人以往的协议中均包含条款相同的仲裁协议,在协商涉案《协议》时,当事人对于包含仲裁协议的条款没有任何分歧,被申请人在其2018213日的邮件中也未建议对上述条款进行任何修改。

法院认为,申请人不仅向被申请人支付了超过350万卢比,而且在其2018215日发送的《协议》副本中已包含被申请人在2018213日的电子邮件中所建议的所有修改。被申请人分别于2018220日和201838日向申请人供应了第一和第二架直升机。此后,申请人已按照《协议》向被申请人作出进一步支付。法院认为,鉴于这种行为,被申请人认为当事人之间未达成《协议》(特别是仲裁协议)的论点无法接受。(In view of this conduct, it is not possible to accept the contention of the respondents that no Agreement came into being between the parties, especially an Arbitration Agreement.)为此,法院从《法案》的规定和判例法的裁定两个方面进行分析。

《法案》第74)条规定:“仲裁协议应为书面形式,如果该仲裁协议包含在:(1)当事人前述的文件中;(2)交换信件、电传、电报或其他电信手段,包括通过提供协议记录的电子手段进行的通信;或(3)陈述书或答辩书的交换,一方当事人在该文件中主张存在仲裁协议而另一方当事人未予否认。”(Arbitration agreement.--xxxx (4) An arbitration agreement is in writing if it is contained in--(a) a document signed by the parties; (b) an exchange of letters, telex, telegrams or other means of telecommunication including communication through electronic means which provide a record of the agreement; or (c) an exchange of statements of claim and defence in which the existence of the agreement is alleged by one party and not denied by the other.

除上述规定外,法院还援引了Trimex International FZE Ltd., Dubai v. Vedanta Aluminium Ltd, India (2010)3 SCC 1案,Smita Conductors Ltd. v. Euro Alloys Ltd.案和Shakti Bhog Foods Ltd. v. Kola Shipping Ltd.案的观点表示,显然,在当事人没有签署协议的情况下,可以从当事人之间通过电子邮件、信件、电传、电报和其他电信手段交换的经认可和签署的各种文件中作出推断。(It is clear that in the absence of signed agreement between the parties, it would be possible to infer from various documents duly approved and signed by the parties in the form of exchange of e-mails, letter, telex, telegrams and other means of telecommunication.

被申请人辩称,在上述判例中协议条款已经被双方当事人明确接受,但本案中并非如此,在本案中,被申请人坚持要求申请人签署协议并回传。因此,被申请人认为,申请人从未签署或明确接受协议的条款,因此,不能认为当事人之间已达成任何协议。

针对被申请人的上述抗辩,法院表示申请人不仅接受了被申请人提出的相同条件,而且当事人此后也采取了相应行动,由被申请人提供直升飞机,并由申请人支付对应费用,故法院不能同意被申请人的上述意见。(I am unable to agree with the said submission of the counsel for the respondents. As noted hereinabove, the petitioner not only accepted the same terms as were offered by the respondents, the parties have thereafter acted on the same with the respondents supplying the helicopters and the petitioner making the payment for the same.)为支持其观点,法院援引了Govind Rubber Ltd. v. Louis Dreyfus Commodities Asia (P) Ltd, (2015) 13 SCC 477案,和Unissi (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, MANU/SC/4495/2008案的裁定,在这两个案件中,虽然当事人之间没有签署正式协议,但根据案件具体情况,最高法院认为仲裁协议已经生效。此外,对于被申请人所援引的PSA Mumbai Investments PTE Ltd. v. Board of Trustees of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Anr., (2018) 10 SCC 525案,法院在简要陈述该案事实后表示该案的裁定不适用于本案情况。

此外,被申请人认为,直升机的供应并非基于《协议》,而是基于当事人之间的口头理解。对此法院认为,被申请人坚持在供应直升飞机之前先敲定《协议》,在收到申请人2018215日的电子邮件后提供直升机,在此后未就申请人发送的多次信函作出答复,包括那些提及《协议》的信函,上述事实无法支持被申请人的论点。(In my opinion, the very fact that the respondents were insisting on the Agreement to be first finalized before supply of the helicopters; supplied helicopters on the receipt of email dated 15.02.2018 from the petitioner; and did not respond to the repeated correspondences thereafter addressed by the petitioner to the respondents, including those making reference to this Agreement, does not support the contention of the counsel for the respondents.)类似地,被申请人基于2018217日的短信(即想与申请人“敲定”《协议》)认为当事人未达成协议的观点没有根据,该短信不妨碍已经达成的仲裁协议。(Similarly, reliance of the learned counsel for the respondents on the SMS message dated 17.02.2018 is also ill-founded. The said message does not denude from the already concluded Arbitration Agreement between the parties.

综上所述,法院毫不犹豫地认为当事人之间存在仲裁协议,该协议包含在最初由被申请人发送并由申请人正式接受的草案《协议》中。(In view of the above, I have no hesitation in holding that there is an Arbitration Agreement between the parties as contained in the draft Agreement circulated by the respondents first and duly accepted by the petitioner.

至于申请人所请求的救济,法院表示,当事人之间的争议涉及直升机的迟延供应,申请人的请求是一种损害赔偿请求。因当事人之间的仲裁程序尚未开始,据此,法院认为本案不适合授予此种实际上等同于裁判前的扣押令的命令。要获得此种命令,申请人必须提供更强有力的理由且还须证明,即使仲裁庭作出了对其有利的裁决,被申请人也不会遵守该裁决。法院认为,在本案中,申请人未提出这样强有力的理由。(As far as the relief claimed by the petitioner, the disputes between the parties are in relation to the supply of helicopters in the year 2018 which in the submission of the petitioner was to be made by February, 2018. The claim of the petitioner is one of damages. Admittedly, the arbitration proceedings are yet to be commenced between the parties. In view of the above, I do not deem this to be a fit case for grant of an order which would infact amount to an attachment before judgment. For such an order, the petitioner has to make a stronger than prima facie case and has to also prove that in case the Award is made in its favour, the respondents would not be in a position to honour the same. I do not find such a case to have been made out by the petitioner.

综上所述,法院驳回了申请人的请求,并表示本案中提出的任何意见不应影响仲裁员对争议的审理。(In view of the above, the petitionis dismissed, however, any observation made in the present order shall not influence the Arbitrator while adjudicating the disputes. There shall be no order as to cost.

三、评论

在本案中,虽然当事人之间没有签署正式协议,但根据案件具体情况,印度新德里高等法院认为,当事人之间的协议(包括仲裁协议)已经达成。签署行为并非达成协议的必要条件,若当事人之间没有签署正式协议,协议是否已经达成需要根据案件具体情况确定,在这种情况下,协议达成与否具有更大的不确定。有意向签订协议的当事人最好通过签署行为将协议条款固定下来,以免产生争议。

另外,对于申请人提出的寻求临时保护措施的救济,法院认为,当事人之间的仲裁程序尚未开始,本案不适合授予此种实际上等同于裁判前的扣押令的命令,要获得此种命令,申请人必须提供更强有力的理由且还须证明,即使仲裁庭作出了对其有利的裁决,被申请人也不会遵守。由此可见,寻求临时保护措施的救济要满足相对高的标准,需要证明即使裁决对寻求救济的一方有利,另一方也不会遵守该裁决。