Supreme Court: Deciding the question as to whether Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 can be invoked to condone the prescribed period of 30 days, under Section 30(1) of the Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act, 1993 (RDB Act) for preferring an appeal before the Tribunal, against an order of the Recovery officer, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi and AM Sapre and Navin Sinha, JJ held that the prescribed period of 30 days under Section 30(1) of the RDB Act for preferring an appeal against the order of the Recovery officer cannot be condoned by application of Section 5 of the Limitation Act.

Explaining the scope of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, the Court said that it provides that the appeal or application, with the exception of Order XXI, CPC may be admitted after the prescribed period, if the applicant satisfies the court that he has sufficient cause for not preferring the application within time. Considering this, the Court said that the pre-requisite, therefore, is the pendency of a proceeding before a court. The proceedings under the Act being before a statutory Tribunal, it cannot be placed at par with proceedings before a court. It was said:

“The fact that the Tribunal may be vested with some of the powers as a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, regarding summoning and enforcing attendance of witnesses, discovery and production of the documents, receiving evidence on affidavits, issuing commission for the examination of witnesses or documents, reviewing its decisions etc. does not vest in it the status of a Court.”

Stating that RDB Act is a special law where the proceedings are before a statutory Tribunal, the bench said

“the scheme of the Act manifestly provides that the Legislature has provided for application of the Limitation Act to original proceedings before the Tribunal under Section 19 only. The appellate tribunal has been conferred the power to condone delay beyond 45 days under Section 20(3) of the Act. The proceedings before the Recovery officer are not before a Tribunal. Section 24 is limited in its application to proceedings before the Tribunal originating under Section 19 only.”

It was explained that the exclusion of any provision for extension of time by the Tribunal in preferring an appeal under Section 30 of the Act makes it manifest that the legislative intent for exclusion was express. Hence, the application of Section 5 of the Limitation Act by resort to Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act, 1963 does not arise. [International Asset Reconstruction Company of India Ltd. v. Official Liquidator of Aldrich Pharmaceuticals Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1245, decided on 24.10.2017]

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