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2023 (9) TMI 821 - SUPREME COURT
Admission of application u/s 7 of the IBC after condoning the delay - time limitation - whether Respondent No.2 (SBI) would be entitled to the benefit of Section 18 of the Limitation Act and whether Section 5 of the Limitation Act thereof would also be applicable? - HELD THAT:- Section 3(1) of the Limitation Act creates bar for the institution of any suit, appeal, or application made after the prescribed period of limitation to be dismissed, even though limitation has not been set up as a defence - Section 5 of the Limitation Act provides for an extension for the prescribed period in certain cases where sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or where the application could not be made within the prescribed time.
Coming to the benefit available under Section 18 of the Limitation Act, the following sequence of events and the law thereon would be relevant. The State Bank of India declared the Corporate Debtor as an NPA on 28.06.2013. Therefore, the limitation period would be three years from the last date of the financial year previous to the declaration of NPA, which would be 31.03.2013, and would run up to 31.03.2016. If there were no further intervening circumstances or developments relating to acknowledgment, the contention raised by the appellant that the petition under Section 7 of IBC having been filed much beyond 31.03.2016, in 2020 to be specific on 22.01.2020, the petition would be clearly barred by limitation.
Whether the debt acknowledged in the balance sheet of the financial year would end on 31st March, 2015 and whether the three OTS proposals would give a fresh life of limitation of three years from each of the respective dates? - HELD THAT:- The documents relating to acknowledgement claiming benefit of Section 18 were introduced at appellate stage, and such documents being balance sheets and settlement offers. It was held that the same could be accepted even at the appellate stage and a settlement offer akin to an OTS proposal would be an acknowledgment of debt for the purpose of Section 18 of Limitation Act. The only caveat was that such acknowledgments should be before the expiry of limitation prescribed under law - A balance sheet acknowledging debt is also a document relevant for calculating the limitation. This has already been held in case of Asset reconstruction Company India Ltd. [2021 (4) TMI 753 - SUPREME COURT].
Another argument raised by the counsel for the appellant was with respect to the genuineness of the OTS proposals giving several reasons to discard the same. All the said reasons will be tested in the proceedings before the Adjudicating Authority as and when raised by the Corporate Debtor or any other party having locus to raise such plea. Presently in this appeal the said issue cannot be taken up for two reasons: firstly, the Adjudicating Authority as well as NCLAT have accepted the explanation of Respondent No.2 for the delay caused in filing the Section 7 IBC petition to be satisfactory and have condoned the same. Secondly, in view of the first and second OTS proposals by the Corporate Debtor being not questioned by the suspended Directors, there is no reason to disbelieve or to cast any doubt on the said documents at the instance of the appellant.
There are no merit in the appeal. The same is accordingly dismissed.