Balance Sheets Entries Can Amount To Acknowledgement Of Debt U/s 18 Limitation Act: Supreme Court Sets Aside NCLAT Full Bench Ruling

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Case: Asset Reconstruction Company (India) Limited Vs. Bishal Jaiswal

Coram: Justices RF Nariman, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy

Case No: [CA .323 OF 2021]

Court Observation: “Importantly, this judgment holds that though the filing of a balance sheet is by compulsion of law, the acknowledgement of a debt is not necessarily so. In fact, it is not uncommon to have an entry in a balance sheet with notes annexed to or forming part of such balance sheet, or in the auditor’s report, which must be read along with the balance sheet, indicating that such entry would not amount to an acknowledgement of debt for reasons given in the said note.”

A perusal of the aforesaid Sections would show that there is no doubt that the filing of a balance sheet in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act is mandatory, any transgression of the same being punishable by law. However, what is of importance is that notes that are annexed to or forming part of such financial statements are expressly recognised by Section 134(7). Equally, the auditor’s report may also enter caveats with regard to acknowledgements made in the books of accounts including the balance sheet.

A perusal of the aforesaid would show that the statement of law contained in Bengal Silk Mills (supra), that there is a compulsion in law to prepare a balance sheet but no compulsion to make any particular admission, is correct in law as it would depend on the facts of each case as to whether an entry made in a balance sheet qua any particular creditor is unequivocal or has been entered into with caveats, which then has to be examined on a case by case basis to establish whether an acknowledgement of liability has, in fact, been made, thereby extending limitation under Section 18 of the Limitation Act.

“The minority judgment of Justice (Retd.) A.I.S. Cheema, Member (Judicial), after considering most of these judgments, has reached the correct conclusion. We, therefore, set aside the majority judgment of the Full Bench of the NCLAT dated 12.03.2020. The NCLAT, in the impugned judgment dated 22.12.2020, has, without reconsidering the majority decision of the Full Bench in V. Padmakumar (supra), rubber-stamped the same. We, therefore, set aside the aforesaid impugned judgment also.”, the court added.


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