Status as on- 20/09/2022
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of India reaffirmed that the statute of limitations for initiating an appeal challenging an NCLT order, as specified in Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“IBC”), must be carefully read.
In the case of Safire Technologies Pvt. Ltd. v. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner & Anr. – Civil Appeal No. 2212 of 2021, the Apex Court observed that an appeal against the order of NCLT shall be preferred within a time limit of 30 days from the date on which the order was passed by the NCLT and that the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has the competence to expand this period only by further 15 days. In addition, the Supreme Court dismissed the claim that the statute of limitations would begin to expire when information about the NCLT’s order became known.
Before NCLT, the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) against a company was commenced. The resolution plan was authorized by the Committee of Creditors, and consequently, the NCLT vide its order dated October 22, 2019, also accepted the same. Notwithstanding, a claim filed afterward by the Respondent before the Resolution Professional (RP) was not contemplated. Since the NCLT had previously authorized the resolution plan to vide its Order, the Respondent questioned the Order by way of an appeal before the NCLAT filed on December 12, 2020. The NCLAT issued a notice in the appeal. The Appellant/Safire Technologies Pvt. Ltd., discontented by the issue of notice by the NCLAT, filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.
- The Appellant argued before the court that Section 61 of the IBC proposes a maximum period of 45 days within which an appeal can be filed before the NCLAT against an Order of the NCLT. It was contended that the total period of limitation cannot surpass 45 days scenario from the date of order of the NCLT. Reliance was placed on the Kalpraj Dharamrishi & Anr. v. Kotak Investment Advisors Ltd. Anr. Civil Appeal No. 2943-2944 of 2020.
- The Respondent pleaded that the period of limitation would commence only from such date when the Respondent acquired knowledge of the Order of the NCLT. The Respondent placed reliance on the matter of Raja Harish Chandra Raj Singh v. Dy. Land Acquisition Officer AIR 1961 SC 1500for submitting that provisions relating to limitation have to be interpreted liberally by the Courts.
Whether in any condition, the total period of limitation (Section 61) can be extended from 45 days after the date of the order of the NCLT?
The Supreme Court observed, after considering the contentions raised by the Appellants and the Respondents, the Raja Harish (Supra) decision was relied upon by the Respondent dealt with Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act and not on Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
For the analysis of Section 61 of the IBC, reliance has to be taken on the Kalpraj Dharamshi (Supra) decision wherein it was categorically explained that an appeal against the order of NCLT shall be preferred within 30 days from the date on which the order was passed by the NCLT and that the Appellate Tribunal has the power to expand the period of limitation by the other 15 days.
The Supreme Court has always held the position that legislative limitation periods must be interpreted narrowly. The recent judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Safire Technologies (Supra) simply expands this explanation to Section 61 of the IBC and discards the contentions that the period for the limitation shall start running from the date of knowledge of the order. This interpretation also shows that the Supreme Court has a positive perspective on ensuring that insolvency procedures are concluded in a timely method by the objectives of IBC.
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