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Arbitration Reference Not Maintainable If Filed After Admission Of Insolvency Resolution Petition U/s 7 IBC: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
26 March 2021 2:34 PM GMT
Arbitration Reference Not Maintainable If Filed After Admission Of Insolvency Resolution Petition U/s 7 IBC: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that in any proceeding which is pending before the Adjudicating Authority under Section 7 of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, if such petition is admitted upon the Adjudicating Authority recording the satisfaction with regard to the default and the debt being due from the corporate debtor, any application seeking reference to arbitration...

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The Supreme Court observed that in any proceeding which is pending before the Adjudicating Authority under Section 7 of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, if such petition is admitted upon the Adjudicating Authority recording the satisfaction with regard to the default and the debt being due from the corporate debtor, any application seeking reference to arbitration under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act made thereafter will not be maintainable.

"In a situation where the petition under Section 7 of IB Code is yet to be admitted and, in such proceedings, if an application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996 is filed, the Adjudicating Authority is duty bound to first decide the application under Section 7 of the IB Code by recording a satisfaction with regard to there being default or not, even if the application under Section 8 of Act, 1996 is kept along for consideration. In such event, the natural consequence of the consideration made therein on Section 7 of IB Code application would befall on the application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996.",   CJI SA Bobde led bench observed.

In this case, the appellant filed a petition under Section 7 of IB Code before the NCLT seeking appointment of Resolution Professional. In the said proceedings, the respondent, filed a Miscellaneous Application under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act seeking a direction to refer the parties to arbitration. NCLT allowed the said application and also dismissed the petition under Section 7 IBC observing that that there is no default.

Before the Apex Court, it was contended that the NCLT erred in entertaining an application under Section 8 of the Arbitration Act in the backdrop of the legal duty cast on NCLT to proceed strictly in  accordance with the procedure contemplated under Section 7 of IB Code.

IBC proceeding is to be considered in rem only after it is admitted

The court observed that a dispute will be non- arbitrable when a proceeding is in rem and a IB Code proceeding is to be considered in rem only after it is admitted it is seen that in the instant case the position is otherwise. The court, referring to IBC provisions, observed:

The reference to the triggering of a petition under Section 7 of the IB Code to consider the same as a proceedings in rem, it is necessary that the Adjudicating Authority ought to have applied its mind, recorded a finding of default and admitted the petition. On admission, third party right is created in all the creditors of the corporate debtors and will have erga omnes effect. The mere filing of the petition and its pendency before admission, therefore, cannot be construed as the triggering of a proceeding in rem. Hence, the admission of the petition for consideration of the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process is the relevant stage which would decide the status and the nature of the pendency of the proceedings and the mere filing cannot be taken as the triggering of the insolvency process.

The court observed that even if an application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996 is filed, the Adjudicating Authority has a duty to advert to contentions put forth on the application filed under Section 7 of IB Code, examine the material placed before it by the financial creditor and record a satisfaction as to whether there is default or not.

As noted, the issue which is posed for our consideration is arising in a petition filed under Section 7 of IB Code, before it is admitted and therefore not yet an action in rem. In such application, the course to be adopted by the Adjudicating Authority if an application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996 is filed seeking reference to arbitration is what requires consideration. The position of law that the IB Code shall override all other laws as provided under Section 238 of the IB Code needs no elaboration. In that view, notwithstanding the fact that the alleged corporate debtor filed an application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996, the independent consideration of the same dehors the application filed under Section 7 of IB Code and materials produced therewith will not arise. The Adjudicating Authority is duty bound to advert to the material available before him as made available along with the application under Section 7 of IB Code by the financial creditor to indicate default along with the version of the corporate debtor. This is for the reason that, keeping in perspective the scope of the proceedings under the IB Code and there being a timeline for the consideration to be made by the Adjudicating Authority, the process cannot be defeated by a corporate debtor by raising moonshine defence only to delay the process. In that view, even if an application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996 is filed, the Adjudicating Authority has a duty to advert to contentions put forth on the application filed under Section 7 of IB Code, examine the material placed before it by the financial creditor and record a satisfaction as to whether there is default or not. While doing so the contention put forth by the corporate debtor shall also be noted to determine as to whether there is substance in the defence and to arrive at the conclusion whether there is default. If the irresistible conclusion by the Adjudicating Authority is that there is default and the debt is payable, the bogey of arbitration to delay the process would not arise despite the position that the agreement between the parties indisputably contains an arbitration clause.
That apart if the conclusion is that there is default and the debt is payable, due to which the Adjudicating Authority proceeds to pass the order as contemplated under subsection 5(a) of Section 7 of IB Code to admit the application, the proceedings would then get itself transformed into a proceeding in rem having erga omnes effect due to which the question of arbitrability of the so­ called inter se dispute sought to be put forth would not arise. On the other hand, on such consideration made by the Adjudicating Authority if the satisfaction recorded is that there is no default committed by the company, the petition would stand  rejected as provided under sub­section 5(b) to Section 7 of IB Code, which would leave the field open for the parties to secure appointment of the Arbitral Tribunal in an appropriate proceedings as contemplated in law and the need for the NCLT to pass any orders on such application under Section 8 of Act, 1996 would not arise.

While upholding the NCLT order, the bench observed thus:

In that circumstance though in the operative portion of the order dated 09.06.2020 the application filed under Section 8 of the Act, 1996 is allowed and as a corollary the petition under Section 7 of the IB Code is dismissed; in the facts and circumstances of the present case it can be construed in the reverse. Hence, since the conclusion by the Adjudicating Authority is that there is no default, the dismissal of the petition under Section 7 of IB Code at this stage is justified. Though the application under Section 8 of the Act, 1996 is allowed, the same in any event will be 36 subject to the consideration of the petition filed under Section 11 of the Act, 1996 before this Court

The court then proceeded to allow the Arbitration Petition.

Case: Indus Biotech Private Limited vs. Kotak India Venture (Offshore) Fund [Arb. Petition (Civil) 48/2019]
Coram: CJI SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian
Citation: LL 2021 SC 187

Click here to Read/ Download Judgment









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