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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued notice in a petition which raised the question of whether there can be an outer limit of 120 days for filing of appeals under Section 37 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
On September 22, the Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy agreed to examine the question and issued notice in the petition filed by National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC).
NTPC had assailed the judgment of the Delhi High Court which dismissed its appeal under Section 37 on grounds of delay. The appeal, the High Court had noted, was filed after 128 days, whereas the precedents of the Supreme Court stipulate an outer limit of 120 days for filing of such appeals.
"The holding of the Court in these two judgments is that no appeal under the said section can be entertained by the Court beyond a maximum period of 120 days."
Solicitor General for India Tushar Mehta argued before the Court that these judgments needed to be reconsidered taking into view that the provision in the Act itself does not lay down any limitation for filing of appeals. As such, the judgments could not have set out an outer limit for this exercise, he submitted.
Senior Counsel Harish Salve, representing the respondent Voith Hydro Joint Venture, opposed Mehta's contention and argued that the Court must not exercise its discretion to entertain the matter. The petitioner here, NTPC, had breached the limitation period set out and had not furnished any valid reason for the same, Salve argued. He also said that the arbitral award sought to be challenged through the appeal was itself detailed and well-reasoned.
While the Court refused to interfere with the order of the High Court in the instant matter, it opined that the larger legal question pertaining to the limitation period needs to be considered. The Court said,
The petitioner was represented by SG Tushar Mehta along with Advocates Shailesh Madiyal, Sudhanshu Prakash, Kanu Agrawal, and Sarthak Bhardwaj.
The Respondent was represented by Senior Counsel Harish Salve with Senior Advocates KV Vishwanathan and Rajiv Nayar with Advocates Omar Ahmad, Ishan Gaur, Vikram Shah for M/S. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.