NCLAT Rules 'Free of Cost' NCLT Order Copies Not Certified for Appeals

NCLAT Chennai bench rules 'free of cost' NCLT order copies not certified for appeals, emphasizing adherence to procedural requirements.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in Chennai recently made a significant ruling regarding the validity of a 'free of cost' copy of a final order issued by the registries of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The NCLAT clarified that such a copy cannot be considered a "certified copy" for the purpose of filing an appeal before the NCLAT.

The order, issued on March 15 by a bench consisting of judicial members Justices M Venugopal and Sharad Kumar Sharma, along with technical member Jatindranath Swain, emphasized that the provision of a 'free of cost' copy of a final order by the NCLT registry, as per NCLT Rules, does not fulfill the requirement of a 'certified copy' necessary for filing an appeal.

The NCLAT stated, "A mere running of the eye over the rule 50 of the National Company Law Tribunal Rules, 2016 clearly points out that the Application of the Petitioner/Appellant to comply with a certified copy by paying the schedule of fees cannot be dispensed with." Additionally, the tribunal highlighted that the receipt of a free copy does not serve as a substitute for a certified copy as mandated by Rule 22(2) of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal Rules, 2016.

This ruling came during the hearing of an appeal filed by Munagala Roja Harsha Vardhini against an order of the NCLT dated November 2022. The appellant asserted that they received a 'free of cost' certified copy of the NCLT order on December 7, 2022, and subsequently filed an appeal before the NCLAT Chennai on January 19, 2023, along with an application for condonation of delay under Section 61(2) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

Section 61(2) of the IBC provides a 30-day period for filing an appeal against an NCLT order, with a provision for an additional fifteen days on demonstrating sufficient cause for the delay. The appellant argued that the limitation period for filing the appeal should be calculated from the date of receiving the certified copy, which would make their appeal within the condonable limit of 45 days.

However, the NCLAT noted that the appellant did not apply for the certified copy by paying fees as required by Rule 50 of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal Rules, 2016. The tribunal emphasized that the obligation to obtain a certified copy cannot be waived, regardless of whether a free copy was received.

The NCLAT further clarified that the date of pronouncement of the order, i.e., November 24, should be considered for calculating the limitation period, rather than the date of receiving the free copy. As a result, the tribunal found a delay of 26 days in filing the appeal, exceeding the condonable period.

Advocates TK Bhaskar, Mayan H Jain, Pranav Gopalakrishnan, and Niveditha Narayanan represented the appellant, while Advocates Chandra Mouli Prabhakar and Vandhana Prabhu appeared for the respondent.

In summary, this ruling underscores the importance of obtaining a certified copy of an order for filing appeals before the NCLAT, regardless of any free copies received, and reaffirms the significance of adhering to procedural requirements outlined in the relevant rules and statutes.