Bengal Chemist And Druggists … vs Kalyan Chowdhury on 2 February, 2018

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REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 684 OF 2018

BENGAL CHEMISTS DRUGGISTS ASSN. …APPELLANT

VERSUS

KALYAN CHOWDHURY …RESPONDENT

JUDGMENT

R.F. Nariman, J.

1) The present appeal is against an order of the National

Company Law Appellate Tribunal dated 31.07.2017 by which

the Appellate Tribunal, after setting out Section 421(3) of the

Companies Act, 2013, (for short ‘the Act’) has dismissed the

appeal as not maintainable, inasmuch as the appeal has been

Signature Not Verified filed 9 days after the period of limitation of 45 days has expired
Digitally signed by
VISHAL ANAND
Date: 2018.02.06
16:32:10 IST
Reason: and a further period of another 45 days has also expired.

2) Mr. Jayant Mehta, learned counsel appearing on behalf of

the appellant, has argued the matter persuasively before us.
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He points out that Section 421(3) of the Act does not contain

the language of Section 34(3) proviso of the Arbitration Act,

1996 which contains the words “but not thereafter” which Union

of India vs. Popular Construction Co. (2001) 8 SCC 470

considered. He further points out that, in any case, under

Section 433 of the Act, the provisions of the Limitation Act, 1963

shall, as far as may be, apply to Appeals before the Appellate

Tribunal and that therefore, Section 5 would be applicable to

condone the delay beyond the period of 90 days. He has

buttressed his submission by referring to various decisions of

this Court.

3) Before coming to the judgments of this Court, it is

important to first set out Section 421(3) and Section 433 of the

Act. These provisions read as follows:

“421. Appeal from orders of Tribunal.-

**** **** ****
(3) Every appeal under sub-section (1) shall be
filed within a period of forty-five days from the
date on which a copy of the order of the
Tribunal is made available to the person
aggrieved and shall be in such form, and
accompanied by such fees, as may be
prescribed:

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Provided that the Appellate Tribunal may
entertain an appeal after the expiry of the said
period of forty-five days from the date aforesaid,
but within a further period not exceeding
forty-five days, if it is satisfied that the appellant
was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the
appeal within that period.

433. Limitation.- The provisions of the
Limitation Act, 1963 shall, as far as may be,
apply to proceedings or appeals before the
Tribunal or the Appellate Tribunal, as the case
may be.”

4) A cursory reading of Section 421(3) makes it clear that the

proviso provides a period of limitation different from that

provided in the Limitation Act, and also provides a further period

not exceeding 45 days only if it is satisfied that the appellant

was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal within

that period. Section 433 obviously cannot come to the aid of

the appellant because the provisions of the Limitation Act only

apply “as far as may be”. In a case like the present, where

there is a special provision contained in Section 421(3) proviso,

Section 5 of the Limitation Act obviously cannot apply.
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5) Another very important aspect of the case is that 45 days

is the period of limitation, and a further period not exceeding 45

days is provided only if sufficient cause is made out for filing the

appeal within the extended period. According to us, this is a

peremptory provision, which will otherwise be rendered

completely ineffective, if we were to accept the argument of

learned counsel for the appellant. If we were to accept such

argument, it would mean that notwithstanding that the further

period of 45 days had elapsed, the Appellate Tribunal may, if

the facts so warrant, condone the delay. This would be to

render otiose the second time limit of 45 days, which, as has

been pointed out by us above, is peremptory in nature.

6) We are fortified in this conclusion by the judgment of this

Court in Chhattisgarh SEB v. Central Electricity Regulatory

Commission, 2010 (5) SCC 23. The language of Section 125

of the Electricity Act, 2003, which is similar to the language

contained in Section 421 (3) of the Companies Act, 2013, came

up for consideration in the aforesaid decision. The issue that

arose before this Court was whether Section 5 of the Limitation

Act can be invoked for allowing the aggrieved person to file an

appeal beyond 60 days plus the further grace period of 60 days.
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This Court held that Section 5 cannot apply to Section 125 of

the Electricity Act in the following terms:

“25. Section 125 lays down that any person
aggrieved by any decision or order of the Tribunal
can file an appeal to this Court within 60 days from
the date of communication of the decision or order
of the Tribunal. Proviso to Section 125 empowers
this Court to entertain an appeal filed within a
further period of 60 days if it is satisfied that there
was sufficient cause for not filing appeal within the
initial period of 60 days. This shows that the period
of limitation prescribed for filing appeals under
Sections 111(2) and 125 is substantially different
from the period prescribed under the
Limitation Act
for filing suits, etc. The use of the expression
“within a further period not exceeding 60 days” in
the proviso to
Section 125 makes it clear that the
outer limit for filing an appeal is 120 days. There is
no provision in the Act under which this Court can
entertain an appeal filed against the decision or
order of the Tribunal after more than 120 days.”

The aforesaid judgment was reiterated and followed in ONGC

v. Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation Limited, 2017

(5) SCC 42 at Para 5.

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7) It now remains to deal with the decisions cited by learned

counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant. The first is the

judgment in Guda Vijayalakshmi vs. Guda Ramachandra

Sekhara Sastry, (1981) 2 SCC 646. In that case, a Transfer

Petition was filed under Section 25, CPC, 1908 in this Court. A

preliminary objection was taken stating that in view of Sections

21 and 21A of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 25 would

not be applicable. This was turned down by this Court stating

that Section 21 would not apply to substantive provisions of the

Code as apart from procedural provisions. Equally, Section 21A

of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 only dealt with transfers “in

certain cases”. This being so, the wide and plenary power

conferred on this Court to transfer any suit, appeal or other

proceedings from one High Court to another High Court or from

one Civil Court in one State to another Civil Court in any other

State was held not be entrenched upon by Sections 21 and 21A

of the Hindu Marriage Act. We fail to see how this judgment, in

any manner, furthers the proposition sought to be canvassed on

behalf of the appellant, which is that Section 5 of the Limitation

Act would continue to apply even after a second period of 45

days is peremptorily laid down. This judgment, therefore, does
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not carry the matter any further.

8) Reliance placed on Dr. Partap Singh and Another vs.

Director of Enforcement, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act

and Others, (1985) 3 SCC 72 is equally misplaced. In this

case, Section 37 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973

was involved. Section 37(2) provides that the provisions of the

Code relating to searches shall, so far as may be, apply to

searches directed under Section 37(1). This Court held that the

expression “so far as may be” has always been construed to

mean that those provisions may generally be followed to the

extent possible. In the fact scenario of that case, it was held

that to give full meaning to the expression ‘so far as may be’,

sub-section (2) of Section 37 should be interpreted to mean that

broadly the procedure relating to search as enacted in Section

165 shall be followed.

9) This case again does not take the matter any further. In

fact, the ratio of the judgment as far as this case is concerned is

that the expression “so far as may be” only means to the extent

possible. If not possible, obviously the Limitation Act would not

apply. We have already held that it is not possible for Section 5

of the Limitation Act to apply given the peremptory language of
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Section 421(3).

10) The third judgment is Mangu Ram vs. Municipal

Corporation of Delhi, (1976) 1 SCC 392. In this judgment,

Section 417 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 provided

for special leave to appeal from an order of acquittal. Section

417 (4) required that the application for special leave should be

made before the expiry period of 60 days from the date of the

order of acquittal. Applying Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act,

this Court held that Section 5 of the Limitation would not be

impliedly excluded in such case despite the mandatory and

peremptory language contained in Section 417(4) of the Cr.P.C.

This Court held that all periods of limitation are cast in such

mandatory and peremptory language and, therefore, Section 5

could not be said to be impliedly excluded.

11) This case again is wholly distinguishable. It applies only to

a period of limitation which is given beyond which nothing

further is stated as to whether delay may be condoned beyond

such period. In the present case, the Section 417(3) does not

merely contain the initial period of 45 days, in which case the

aforesaid judgment would have applied. Section 417(3) goes

on to state that another period of 45 days, being a grace period
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given by the legislature which cannot be exceeded, alone would

apply, provided sufficient cause is made out within the aforesaid

grace period. As has been held by us above, it is the second

period, which is a special inbuilt kind of Section 5 of the

Limitation Act in the special statute, which lays down that

beyond the second period of 45 days, there can be no further

condonation of delay. On this ground therefore, the aforesaid

judgment also stands distinguished.

12) One further thing remains – and that is that learned

counsel for the appellant pointed out the difference between the

expression used in the Arbitration Act as construed by Popular

Construction (supra) and its absence in the proviso in Section

421(3). For the reasons given above, we are of the view that

this would also make no difference in view of the language of

the proviso to Section 421(3) which contains mandatory or

peremptory negative language and speaks of a second period

not exceeding 45 days, which would have the same effect as

the expression “but not thereafter” used in Section 34(3) proviso

of the Arbitration Act, 1996.

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13) We, therefore, see no reason to interfere with the judgment

under appeal. The appeal is dismissed.

.…………………………J.

(R.F. Nariman)

………………………..…..J.

(Navin Sinha)
New Delhi;

February 02, 2018

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