The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in its recent judgment refused to condone delay of 28 (twenty-eight) days in filing a challenge for Arbitral Award on account of change of Counsel stating that it is not a sufficient cause for condonation of delay under Section 34(3) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996(hereinafter referred to as “Act”). The order was passed by the Hon’ble Justice Jyoti Singh while hearing the matter in M/S Chintels India Limited vs M/S Bhayana Builders Pvt. Ltd.
The Petitioner, viz. Chintel India Limited filed a petition under Section 34 of the Act challenging an Award dated 03.05.2019 passed by the Arbitral Tribunal. The Petitioner admitted in the application that the petition was filed beyond the initial 3 months limitation period under Section 34 (3) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The Counsel for the Petitioner asserted that the delay was not deliberate and was unavoidable on part of the Petitioner. The counsel further explained that the after the Arbitral Tribunal passed the Award, the Counsel appearing for the Petitioner before the Tribunal expressed his inability to continue further in the matter and returned the record. It is claimed that the present Counsel received the case records near the time when the three months deadline was about to expire, and in view of the voluminous record and complex nature of the issues, it was not possible to file petition immediately. There where perfunctory defects when petition filed on 30.08.2019 which were removed within the outer limit of 120 days available under Section 34(3) of the said Act.
The Hon’ble Delhi High Court observed that the Petitioner was unable to make out sufficient cause for the Court to exercise its discretion and condone the delay in respect to the Respondents argument. Taking note of the affidavit of Petitioner dated and verified on 01.11.2019, the Hon’ble Court observed that the affidavit is conspicuously silent on the explanation with respect to the date of 27.09.2019 appearing on the petition and application for condonation of delay. The Single Judge Bench observed that the petition is indeed filed on 30.08.2019 along with the application of condonation of delay but the e-filing record differs. Further, the Bench said that ‘the Petitioner has failed to showcase any sufficient cause for condonation of delay, therefore even assuming in favour of the Petitioner that the filing was not a non-est filing, Petitioner cannot succeed.’ Thus, the Bench dismissed the application for condonation of delay along with application seeking condonation of delay of 16 days in re-filing.