You have 6 years from the date of your arbitration award to have it recognised and registered as a court judgment. Thereafter, you have another 12 years from the date of the arbitration award being registered, for it to be enforced against the judgment debtor.

The Federal Court in Christopher Martin Boyd v Deb Brata Das Gupta [2014] 4 CLJ 887 expounded on these principles as detailed below.

Brief Facts

The Appellant, Christopher Martin Boyd (“Christopher”), obtain an arbitration award in his favour against the Respondent, Deb Brata Das Gupta (“Deb Brata”) on 4 January 2000. Christopher registered the arbitration award as a judgment of the High Court on 19 January 2004.

On 14 March 2012, Christopher obtained leave from the Court to enforce the arbitration award, commenced bankruptcy proceedings against Deb Brata.

Deb Brata attempted to set aside the bankruptcy proceedings. He alleged that the proceedings were time barred, as they were commenced more than 6 years after the date of the arbitration award.

The High Court disagreed with Deb Brata but upon appeal, the Court of Appeal found in favour of Deb Brata. The Court of Appeal held that Christopher’s bankruptcy proceedings were time barred because the registration of the arbitration award was merely a procedure to enforce it.

As such, the time limit to enforce the award should be from the date of the arbitration award.

On appeal to the Federal Court, the main issue was whether the 6 years limitation period under Section 6(1)(c) of the Limitation Act 1953 applies to the enforcement of an arbitration award, or whether the 12 years limitation period under Section 6(3) of the Limitation Act 1953 applies.

The Federal Court’s Decision

The Federal Court drew a clear distinction between “registration of an arbitration award” and “enforcement of an arbitration award”.

An arbitration award needs to be registered as a court judgment first before being capable of enforcement.

The Federal Court interpreted the 6 years limitation period under Section 6(1)(c) to refer to the registration of the arbitration award, and not its enforcement. As such, Christopher was within the limitation period since he registered the award 4 years after it was issued.

Once the arbitration award is registered, it becomes recognised as a judgment of the court. In this connection, since the arbitral award was registered on 19 January 2004, Christopher had 12 years from the date of registration to enforce the said judgment. He was therefore within the limitation period when he was granted leave to enforce the judgment on 14 March 2012.

Key Takeaways

The judgment of the Federal Court solidifies the timeline for enforcing an arbitration award, providing the winning party with clear parameters. In essence, the winning party has a total of 6 years to register the award and an additional 12 years from the date of registration to enforce it. Despite this ample time period, a litigant should still actively pursue the enforcement of an arbitration award as promptly as possible to avoid unnecessary complications.

***

This article was written by Sean Ferdinand Ng (Associate) from Donovan & Ho’s dispute resolution practice.

Donovan & Ho is a law firm in Malaysia, and our employment practice group has built a reputation for providing strategic employment advice to local and global organisations.  Our team of employment lawyers provide advice on employment law and industrial relations including review of employment contracts, policies and handbooks, advising on workforce reductions, and managing dismissals of employees for poor performance or misconduct. We also represent clients in unfair dismissal claims and employment-related litigation. Have a question? Please contact us.

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