Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016 – When will the clock for calculating the limitation period run for proceedings under the IBC; and (ii) is the annexation of a certified copy mandatory for an appeal to the NCLAT against an order passed under the IBC – must be based on a harmonious interpretation of the applicable legal regime, given that the IBC is a Code in itself and has overriding effect. Sections 61(1) and (2) of the IBC consciously omit the requirement of limitation being computed from when the “order is made available to the aggrieved party”, in contradistinction to Section 421(3) of the Companies Act. Owing to the special nature of the IBC, the aggrieved party is expected to exercise due diligence and apply for a certified copy upon pronouncement of the order it seeks to assail, in consonance with the requirements of Rule 22(2) of the NCLAT Rules. Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act allows for an exclusion of the time requisite for obtaining a copy of the decree or order appealed against. It is not open to a person aggrieved by an order under the IBC to await the receipt of a free certified copy under Section 420(3) of the Companies Act 2013 read with Rule 50 of the NCLT and prevent limitation from running. Accepting such a construction will upset the timely framework of the IBC. The litigant has to file its appeal within thirty days, which can be extended up to a period of fifteen days, and no more, upon showing sufficient cause. A sleight of interpretation of procedural rules cannot be used to defeat the substantive objective of a legislation that has an impact on the economic health of a nation.
National Company Law Appellate Tribunal Rules – Rule 22(2) of the NCLAT Rules mandates the certified copy being annexed to an appeal, which continues to bind litigants under PART D 29 the IBC. While it is true that the tribunals, and even this Court, may choose to exempt parties from compliance with this procedural requirement in the interest of substantial justice, as re-iterated in Rule 14 of the NCLAT Rules, the discretionary waiver does not act as an automatic exception where litigants make no efforts to pursue a timely resolution of their grievance. The appellant having failed to apply for a certified copy, rendered the appeal filed before the NCLAT as clearly barred by limitation.
The appellant was present before the NCLT on 31 December 2019 when interim relief was denied and the miscellaneous application was dismissed. The appellant has demonstrated no effort on his part to secure a certified copy of the said order and has relied on the date of the uploading of the order (12 March 2020) on the website. The period of limitation for filing an appeal under Section 61(1) against the order of the NCLT dated 31 December 2019, expired on 30 January 2020 in view of the thirty-day period prescribed under Section 61(2). Any scope for a condonation of delay expired on 14 February 2020, in view of the outer limit of fifteen days prescribed under the proviso to Section 61(2). The lockdown from 23 March 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic and the suo motu order of this Court has had no impact on the rights of the appellant to institute an appeal in this proceeding and the NCLAT has correctly dismissed the appeal on limitation. Accordingly, the present appeal under Section 62 of the IBC stands dismissed.