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2021 (3) TMI 496 - SUPREME COURT
Power of NCLT - Corporate insolence resolution proceedings - Direction to the Government for extension of mining lease - time limitation - whether the provisions of Section 14 of the Limitation Act or the principles laid down therein would be available to KIAL for exclusion of the period during which it was prosecuting the writ petition before the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court? - HELD THAT:- When a certain period is excluded by applying the principles contained in Section 14, there is no delay to be attributed to the appellant and the limitation period provided by the statute concerned, continues to be the stated period and not more than the stated period. It was therefore held, that the principle of section 14, which is a principle based on advancing the cause of justice would certainly apply to exclude time taken in prosecuting proceedings which are bona fide and pursued with due diligence but which end without a decision on the merits of the case - Coming to the facts of the present case, immediately after NCLT pronounced its judgment on 28.11.2019 and even before the certified copy was made available on 18.12.2019, KIAL had filed writ petition before the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court on 11.12.2019 on the principal ground, that the procedure followed by NCLT was in breach of principles of natural justice. Such a ground could be legitimately pursued before a writ court. In that sense, it was not a proceeding before a wrong court, as such. Perusal of the judgment and order dated 28.1.2020, passed by the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court, which dismissed the writ petition on the ground of availability of alternate and equally efficacious remedy would reveal, that the said writ petition was hotly contested between the parties and by an order running into 32 pages, the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court dismissed the petition relegating the petitioner therein (i.e. KIAL) to avail of an alternate remedy available in law.
This Court found, that the petitioner therein had adopted tactics of taking chances by approaching High Court of Delhi, which had no territorial jurisdiction. As such, it was found, that neither the writ petition nor the appeal before the Delhi High Court could be construed to be a bona fide. It was further noticed, that there was an inordinate delay of 697 days. It is thus apparent, that the petitioner therein had not satisfied the necessary conditions for applicability of Section 14 - the petitioner was bona fide prosecuting his remedy before the High Court and that too with due diligence.
NCLT did not have jurisdiction to entertain an application against the Government of Karnataka for a direction to execute Supplemental Lease Deeds for the extension of the mining lease. Since NCLT chose to exercise a jurisdiction not vested in it in law, the High Court of Karnataka was justified in entertaining the writ petition, on the basis that NCLT was coram non judice - thus, KIAL was entitled to extension of the period during which it was bona fide prosecuting a remedy before the High Court with due diligence.
Whether there was waiver and acquiescence by KIAL, so as to estop it from challenging the participation of Kalpraj? - HELD THAT:- For constituting acquiescence or waiver it must be established, that though a party knows the material facts and is conscious of his legal rights in a given matter, but fails to assert its rights at the earliest possible opportunity, it creates an effective bar of waiver against him. Whereas, acquiescence would be a conduct where a party is sitting by, when another is invading his rights. The acquiescence must be such as to lead to the inference of a licence sufficient to create a new right in the defendant. Waiver is an intentional relinquishment of a right. It involves conscious abandonment of an existing legal right, advantage, benefit, claim or privilege. It is an agreement not to assert a right. There can be no waiver unless the person who is said to have waived, is fully informed as to his rights and with full knowledge about the same, he intentionally abandons them.
It is in dispute, as to whether RP had again directed KIAL and Kalpraj vide email dated 11.2.2019 to submit revised plan. It is asserted on behalf of the KIAL, that such email was received by it, whereas it is denied by RP. In any event, it is not in dispute, that both KIAL and Kalpraj submitted their revised plans on 12.2.2019 - On 13/14.2.2019, the resolution plan of Kalpraj was accepted by CoC. On 18.2.2019, RP filed M.A. No.691 of 2019 before NCLT for approval of the resolution plan of Kalpraj. KIAL filed its M.A. No. 1039 of 2019 on 14.3.2019 before the Adjudicating Authority objecting to the approval of resolution plan of Kalpraj.
KIAL had objected to participation of any other applicant submitting plan after the due date as per the last Form ‘G’ and also reiterated its objection, we are of the considered view, that it cannot be held, that having participated by submitting the revised plans, KIAL is estopped from challenging the process on the ground of acquiescence and waiver. Merely because, the revised plans are not submitted with the words “without prejudice”, in our view, would not make any difference - KIAL had no other option than to submit its revised plans in view of clause 11.2 of the Process Memorandum. Inasmuch as, had it not responded, it had to run the risk of being out of fray - thus, the conduct of the party is relevant for considering, whether it can be held, that a case is made out of waiver or acquiescence.
Whether NCLAT was right in law in interfering with the decision of CoC of accepting the resolution plan of Kalpraj? - HELD THAT:- The Committee was of the view, that for deciding key economic question in the bankruptcy process, the only one correct forum for evaluating such possibilities, and making a decision was, a creditors committee, wherein all financial creditors have votes in proportion to the magnitude of debt that they hold. The BLRC has observed, that laws in India in the past have brought arms of the Government (legislature, executive or judiciary) into the question of bankruptcy process. This has been strictly avoided by the Committee and it has been provided, that the decision with regard to appropriate disposition of a defaulting firm, which is a business decision, should only be made by the creditors - The Committee also expressed the opinion, that there should be freedom permitted to the overall market, to propose solutions on keeping the entity as a going concern. The Committee opined, that the details as to how the insolvency is to be resolved or as to how the entity is to be revived, or the debt is to be restructured will not be provided in the I&B Code but such a decision will come from the deliberations of CoC in response to the solutions proposed by the market.
This Court has held, that it is not open to the Adjudicating Authority or Appellate Authority to reckon any other factor other than specified in Sections 30(2) or 61(3) of the I&B Code. It has further been held, that the commercial wisdom of CoC has been given paramount status without any judicial intervention for ensuring completion of the stated processes within the timelines prescribed by the I&B Code. This Court thus, in unequivocal terms, held, that there is an intrinsic assumption, that financial creditors are fully informed about the viability of the corporate debtor and feasibility of the proposed resolution plan - It has been held, that the legislature has consciously not provided any ground to challenge the “commercial wisdom” of the individual financial creditors or their collective decision before the Adjudicating Authority and that the decision of CoC’s ‘commercial wisdom’ is made nonjusticiable.
The legislative scheme, as interpreted by various decisions of this Court, is unambiguous. The commercial wisdom of CoC is not to be interfered with, excepting the limited scope as provided under Sections 30 and 31 of the I&B Code.
Appeal disposed off.