One man presides over most, if not all, of the corporate insolvency resolution cases in the country ever since the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code came into force in 2016.
Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya, a 69-year-old retired Supreme Court judge, has headed the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal since its inception in June 2016 and all important cases under the IBC pass through his court, especially if there is a point of law to be considered. He is often seen to be coming down hard on stuff that delays resolution processes.
On June 26, the NCLAT bench he presided over with Justice Bansi Lal Bhatt came down strongly on lenders of Amtek Auto for issuing a fresh expression of interest after Liberty House withdrew its winning bid of Rs 4,119 crore. The bench had told the lenders to approach the second-highest bidder — Deccan Value Investor LP — and see if they can improve their Rs 3,150 crore bid and rebuked them from trying to start fresh bidding.
Similarly, on June 23, the bench dismissed a plea by customs authorities for auctioning confined goods of Ram Sarup Industries in Kolkata. It ruled that assets of a company cannot be sold while a resolution process is on. Each of these pronouncements of the NCLAT are important as they set up precedents — either on points of law or procedure or on the merits of the case.
Justice Mukhopadhaya, as the chief of NCLAT, and the only former Supreme Court judge on the tribunal, usually presides over all crucial or high-profile cases. “He likes his cases to be put to him in short notes along with the point of laws and cases to support them. But then he reads everything and does his own research,” says a law firm’s litigation partner, who appeared at the NCLAT for a case involving one of the first 12 companies referred to the IBC by the Reserve Bank of India. “Justice Mukhopadhaya always prefers resolution over liquidation and for that, he has always given hearings to parties who have come to NCLAT with the right intent and revival plan,” the person says.
Several advocates, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says the judge is quick to gauge the issue at hand, is vocal about his opinion and expresses his views in detail. “If he sees that counsels are unnecessarily trying to delay the case, he will quickly decide the matter on merit,” says lawyer from Delhi who has appeared before Justice Mukhopadhaya.
He is also well-know n for his rustic humour, which he often brings into play if senior advocates get embroiled in heated arguments in his court. He is also seen to encourage young lawyers, and recently encouraged a young advocate to argue a case in the absence of his senior.
A second generation lawyer, Justice Mukhopadhaya did his schooling and college from Bihar and practised at Patna and Ranchi Bench of Patna High Court before being appointed as a judge in the Patna High Court in 1994. He served at different high courts across the country before becoming chief justice of the Gujarat High Court and then being elevated to the Supreme Court in 2011.
His judicial legacy includes the 2013 Supreme Court judgement along with Justice GS Singhvi that recriminalised homosexuality by setting aside a High Court decision. This view was later overturned by a larger bench of the apex court. At the Patna High Court, Justice Mukhopadhaya had pronounced a landmark judgement on the applicability of the 50% cap on reservation on the post of mukhiyas in panchayats, something later upheld by the Supreme Court. It is now certain that the lasting legacy of this former Supreme Court judge will surely be his pronouncements and views expressed at the NCLAT.
Source- Economic Times.