2.The defendants sought that the matter be referred to arbitration as agreed by the parties under article 31 of the 2nd defendant’s articles of association. They also sought that these proceedings be stayed pending the determination of the arbitral proceedings.
3.Alternatively, the defendants sought to have the plaint dated 23/8/2021 struck out for being an abuse of the court process.
4.The grounds for the application were that, the plaintiff filed this suit on 1/12/2021 seeking, inter alia, that the 1st defendant disclose all of the 2nd defendant’s audited accounts for each year from the year of its incorporation. He further sought that the 1st defendant remits dividends owed to him for every financial year subsisting from the date of incorporation.
5.That under the 2nd defendant’s articles of association, any differences on the affairs of the company are to be referred to an arbitrator to be appointed by the Association of Arbitrators Kenya Chapter. That the defendants have not taken any steps in these proceedings and that this matter should be referred to arbitration for determination of any issues that arise therefrom.
6.The plaintiff filed grounds of opposition in response to the application dated 21/2/202.
8.That raising substantive issues and/or questions of law are exempt from referral to arbitration. That the suit raises issues that were not contemplated in the arbitration clause as set out in in the 2nd defendant’s articles of association. That referring the same to arbitration will be ultra vires the arbitration clause and any arbitration panel constituted whereof will be deprived of the necessary jurisdiction.
9.The defendants lodged a supplementary affidavit sworn on 21/3/2021 by the 1st defendant in response to the plaintiff’s grounds of opposition.
10.The affidavit reiterated the contents of the defendant’s application. Further, it asserted that the plaintiff misinterpreted article 31 of the 2nd defendant’s articles of association by alleging that the dispute forming the basis of this matter is not covered under the subject article.
11.The court has considered the entire record including the submissions filed by the parties herein.
12.Jurisdiction is everything and without it, the court must down its tools.
14.What the court must answer is whether the suit before it ought to be referred to arbitration as claimed by the defendants. Article 31 of the 2nd defendant’s articles of association provides: -
15.Vide a plaint dated 23/8/2021, the plaintiff sought that the 1st defendant to disclose audited accounts of the 2nd defendant for each year from the date of incorporation and allow the plaintiff access to the said accounts. He further to compel the 1st defendant to remit dividends owed to him for every financial year from the date of the incorporation of the company.
16.The defendants claimed that the issues raised in the plaint ought to be referred to arbitration as stipulated in the aforementioned article 31. Conversely, the plaintiff contended that the suit does not raise issues as contemplated in the said article. That the suit raises issues of breach of statutory obligations on the part of the defendants.
17.My understanding of the said article 31 is that, disputes arising from the 2nd defendant’s affairs touching on the intention, construction or consequences of the articles of association shall be referred to an arbitrator.
18.The dispute as described in the plaint touches on the disclosure of audited accounts and payment of dividends to the shareholders by the 1st defendant as a director of the 2nd defendant. In my view, that falls squarely within article 31 as the distribution of dividends or generally the running of the affairs of the company is provided for in the articles of association and ought to be determined as stipulated therein.
20.I concur with the authority above. Articles of association are contractual in nature binding its shareholders, the company and its directors. The court will not rewrite its contents and has no discretion to determine the dispute arising in the plaint.
21.In this regard, I find merit in the application dated 24/1/2022 and grant prayers c) and d) therein. Costs in the arbitration.It is so ordered.