Case: – M/S North Eastern Chemicals Industries (P) Ltd. Vs. M/S Ashok Paper Mill (Assam) Ltd. and another; Civil Appeal No. 2669 of 2013
In a recent landmark judgment, the Hon’ble Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle that appeals filed without a prescribed limitation period must be brought within a “reasonable time”. The Apex Court emphasized that the determination of what constitutes a reasonable time is contingent upon the specific facts and circumstances of each case.
The case involved M/S North Eastern Chemicals Industries (P) Ltd. (“Appellant”) supplying goods to M/S Ashok Paper Mill (Assam) Ltd. and another (“Respondents”). After partial payment, the Respondents were declared a “sick company” under the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1935, leading to the promulgation of the Jogighopa (Assam) Unit of Ashok Paper Mills Limited (Acquisition Transfer of Undertaking) Act, 1990 (“Jogighopa Act”).
The Appellant filed a claim under Section 16 of the Jogighopa Act, seeking payment with interest. The Commissioner of Payments awarded the principal sum but denied interest. The subsequent legal journey saw the High Court determining interest accrual from 23.09.1992, and the Commissioner, in 2005, ruling no further funds were payable to the Appellants.
The Appellants, filing an appeal under Section 22(8) of the Jogighopa Act, faced a challenge when the High Court allowed a Civil Review filed by the Respondents, contending the appeal was erroneously admitted and time-barred.
The Supreme Court, citing Ajaib Singh v/s Sirhind Coop. Marketing-cum-Processing Service Society Ltd. and Purohit & Co. v/s Khatoonbee, held that courts should exercise caution when prescribing a specific period of limitation absent legislative guidance. In the absence of a prescribed limitation, the court stressed the need for a holistic assessment, considering factors such as the conduct of parties, nature of the proceeding, length of delay, possibility of prejudice, and the statutory scheme.
The Apex Court clarified that parties cannot litigate issues decades later when no explicit limitation is provided, but shorter delays would not attract delay and laches. The bench allowed the appeal, emphasizing that neither the general nor the specific statute provided a timeframe for filing the appeal.

Author of this article:

Adv. Ravish Bhatt,
Partner, R&D Law Chambers,
Dual Qualified Lawyer Solicitor | International Tax Affiliate

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