The Bombay High Court in a judgment held that the mandatory timeline of 120 days for filing a written statement in a commercial suit would not apply to suits filed prior to the enactment of the Commercial Courts Act 2015. It was decided by one of the prolific judges of the Bombay High Court, Justice SJ Kathawalla that, a commercial court may hold case management hearings with regard to such suits that are also referred to as transferred suits. The case management hearings are prescribes under the newly-introduced Order XV-A of the Civil Procedure Code. The petition in question was filed by Colonial Life Insurance Company Limited in a commercial suit filed by Reliance General Insurance Company. The present suit was a transferred suit in which the defendant Colonial Life Insurance Company had failed to file a written statement within the prescribed period of 120 days as mandated under the said Act.
The Commercial Courts Act was aimed at the speedy disposal of the commercial disputes to reduce the pendency of the cases along with providing easy doing of business in the country.Chapter V, Section 15 of the Commercial Courts Act provides for the transfer of suits and applications relating to commercial disputes.
It was submitted by the Colonial Life Insurance's that Commercial Courts Act excludes the applicability of the strict timeline of 120 days to transferred suits and provides the high court with the necessary power to prescribe new timelines for filing a written statement in case of transferred suits. Reliance was laid on Chapter V, Section 15 of the Commercial Courts Act and stated that, Section 15(4) states that it empowers the Court to hold case management hearings for transferred suits for the prescription of new timelines. It was contended that, Section 15(4) of the Commercial Courts Act would come into play only if Writ of Summons is issued under Order V Rule 1. Lastly, if Section 15(4) of the Commercial Courts was to apply, it does not suspend the operation of the mandatory timeline of 120 days.
It was finally decided by the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay, that the mandatory timeline of 120 days for filing a written statement in a Commercial Suit is not applicable to suits which were filed prior to the enactment of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and subsequently transferred as Commercial Suits to be heard by a Commercial Division of this Court. The arguments of the plaintiff’s was rejected.