The filing of a domestic arbitral award with the registrar of the first instance court at the place where the award was made is not a condition for its validity. The date of the award is essential for establishing that the award was issued within the period for which the arbitration agreement was in force.
A dispute arose between the owners of a plot and a developer regarding the design and construction of a multi-storey building in a residential area. The dispute was referred to domestic arbitration and an award was issued in favour of the developer. The owners filed a motion with the court of appeal to set aside the award on grounds relating to its validity – namely, that a formal requirement to file the award with the registrar of the first instance court had not been met and that the award did not have a date. The court dismissed the appeal.
The owners appealed to the Supreme Court, which also dismissed the appeal.(1) The court held that, although the law requires the arbitral tribunal to file the original award with the registrar of the first instance court at the place where the award was made, the violation of this particular provision is not grounds for setting aside the award, as it is not included in the provision that stipulates the (limited) grounds for setting aside a domestic arbitral award. Therefore, the court held that defective filing or even non-filing of the award did not constitute grounds for setting aside the award.
The court also held that the date of the award is essential as it is the only means by which to ascertain whether the award was issued within the period for which the arbitration agreement was in force (the expiry of the arbitration agreement is a specific ground for setting aside the award). Nevertheless, the court held that the date of the award may be evidenced anywhere in the text of the award (eg, the date of the deliberation during which the award was made), even from the date of its filing with the court's registrar.
The requirement for a domestic arbitral award to be filed with the registrar of the first instance court at the place where the award was made is set out in the Code of Civil Procedure (Article 893(2)) and applies to domestic arbitrations. Parties have the right to opt out from such an obligation in the arbitration agreement. The Supreme Court, reaffirming an older judgment of the Athens Court of Appeal,(2) rightly dismissed the motion to set aside the award on this ground, as the latter is not included in Article 897 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which sets out all grounds for setting aside an award.(3) This requirement does not apply to international arbitration awards made in Greece, as provided in Article 32(5) of Law 2735/1999 (through which Greece adopted the 1985 version of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration), unless such award is to be enforced in Greece or the parties themselves have agreed that it will apply (opt-in provision).
The time limit for the issuance of an arbitral award is set by the parties and not the arbitral tribunal (unless the parties or the arbitration rules - in case of an institutional arbitration - grant the arbitral tribunal the right to extend the time limit). It is a special agreement, which is not subject to a special form (unlike an arbitration agreement, which must be executed in writing). If no time limit is set, a reasonable time limit may be set by the single member first instance court of the place of the arbitration at the request of a party. If the time limit set by the parties expires, the arbitration agreement ceases to exist. The expiry of the arbitration agreement is a specific ground for setting aside the award as far as domestic awards issued in Greece are concerned (Article 897 of the Code of Civil Procedure). This ground is not stipulated in Article 34 of Law 2735/1999 for international awards issued in Greece. Nevertheless, the violation by a tribunal of a specific time limit set by the parties may trigger the application of Paragraph 2(a)(cc)(4) or (dd)(5) of the same article, which follows the wording of the corresponding provision in the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.
For further information on this topic please contact Antonios Tsavdaridis at IK Rokas & Partners by telephone (+30 210 361 6816), fax (+30 210 361 5425) or email ([email protected]).
(1) Supreme Court Judgment 662/2011.
(2) Athens Court of Appeal Judgment 73/1984.
(3) Supreme Court Judgment 1055/1972.
(4) An arbitral award may be set aside only if "the award…contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration".
(5) An arbitral award may be set aside only if "the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties".