Analysis of Supreme Court Judgement in M/s Simplex Infrastructure Ltd. vs. Union of India

Delay in filing application for setting aside arbitration award was not condonable, the application is liable to be dismissed.

The present appeal arises from the judgment of a learned Single Judge of the High Court of Calcutta by which the respondent’s application for condoning a delay of 514 days in filing an application under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (‘the 1996 Act’) was allowed.

The Apex Court observed that a plain reading of sub-section (3) along with the proviso to Section 34 of the 1996 Act, shows that the application for setting aside the award on the grounds mentioned in sub-section (2) of Section 34 could be made within three months and the period can only be extended for a further period of thirty days on showing sufficient cause and not thereafter. The use of the words “but not thereafter” in the proviso makes it clear that the extension cannot be beyond thirty days. Even if the benefit of Section 14 of the Limitation Act is given to the respondent, there will still be a delay of 131 days in filing the application. That is beyond the strict timelines prescribed in sub-section (3) read along with the proviso to Section 34 of the 1996 Act. The delay of 131 days cannot be condoned. To do so, as the High Court did, is to breach a clear statutory mandate.

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