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Merits Attack Masquerading up as Natural Justice
Care on Joinder of Parties
AKN v ALC [2015] SGCA 18

AKN v ALC [2015] SGCA 18

Natural justice

The Singapore Court of Appeal has warned courts and parties to beware of challenges to arbitration awards for breach of natural justice actually being attacks on the merits of the award, spelling out three common types of natural justice complaint which are usually merits challenges, namely that the tribunal:

(a) misunderstood the case presented and so did not apply its mind to the actual case of the aggrieved party;

(b) did not mention the arguments raised by the aggrieved party and so must have failed to consider its actual case; and

(c) must have overlooked a part of the aggrieved party’s case because it did not engage with the merits of that part of the case. The inference that the tribunal has not considered an important matter must be clear and virtually inescapable, and not consistent with any other reasonable possibility. A reviewable failure to consider an argument is to be distinguished from a non-reviewable failure to accept an argument, rightly or wrongly and whether or not as a result of a failure to comprehend the argument and so to appreciate its merits.

Status of joined parties

The Court also said that a tribunal does not have unlimited jurisdiction over a party joined to an arbitration and that the status of joined parties is determined by the purpose of the joinder and the extent of the party’s submission to the tribunal’s jurisdiction. Care must be taken when parties are joined to establish their status in the arbitration clearly.