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Supreme Court: Delay in Filing Arbitration Appeals to Be justified under exceptional circumstances

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Published on: December 03, 2023 at 16:08 IST

The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that a delay in filing an appeal under Section 37 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 should be justified under exceptional circumstances. 

This guidance was based on the precedent set in the case of ‘Government of Maharashtra (Water Resources Department) vs. Borse Brothers Engineers and Contractors Private Limited.

The Court underscored that for appeals governed by Articles 116 and 117 of the Limitation Act or section 13(1A) of the Commercial Courts Act, a delay beyond specified time frames should only be excused under extraordinary conditions, not as a general rule. It stressed that delays should be condoned sparingly and not as a standard practice.

A Bench comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal addressed a Special Leave Petition contesting a Delhi High Court order that refused to condone a 244-day delay in filing an appeal under Section 37 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.

The appellant sought leniency due to health issues, including mild disc osteophyte complexes and heart ailments. Despite this, the High Court declined, emphasizing the ease of accessing information and services through the internet, especially during the COVID-19 period.

Challenging this decision, the appellant approached the Supreme Court, citing the exceptional circumstances regarding the delay.

The Bench, considering its earlier ruling, emphasized that delay concessions should remain an exception, not a standard practice, referring to paragraph 63 of the previous judgment. They highlighted sufficient cause to excuse the delay, setting aside the previous order and condoning the delay in filing the appeal.

Furthermore, the Court remanded the appeal to the High Court for a fresh decision.
Case Title: M/S Jaitley Construction Co. v. Union Of India