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End of Extension of Limitation Period during COVID-19- Supreme Court

March 11, 2021
Extension of Limitation Period

By Lucy Rana and Priya Adlakha

The whole world was put down to its knees due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the beginning of 2020. In the wake of such an extreme situation and the difficulties that might be faced by litigants in filing petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all other proceedings within the prescribed period of limitation, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on March 23, 2020, took suo moto cognizance of the situation and the challenges faced by the Country on account of Covid-19 pandemic and passed Order dated March 23, 2020 in Suo Moto Writ (Civil) No. 3 of 2020, titled as In Re : Cognizance For Extension Of Limitation, extending the period of limitation in all cases in proceedings in all Courts/Tribunals throughout the Country with effect from March 15, 2020 till further orders. The Hon’ble Supreme Court exercised this power under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India and declared that their order is a binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all Courts/Tribunals and authorities.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court finally disposed of the Suo Moto Writ (Civil) No. 3 of 2020 vide its order dated March 08, 2021 thereby ordered that the period from March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021 shall be excluded from computing the limitation period.

SC- Extension of Limitation Period should come to an end

In considering the fact that lockdown has been lifted and country is returning to normalcy and all the Courts and Tribunals are functioning either physically or by virtual mode, the Hon’ble Supreme Court issued the directions that its earlier Order passed on March 23, 2020 effective from March 15, 2020 has fulfilled its purpose and the extension of limitation period should come to an end. The Supreme Court in its Order dated March 08, 2021 issued the following the directions:

  • In computing the period of limitation for any suit, application, appeal or proceeding, the period from March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021 shall be excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on March 15, 2020, if any, shall become available with effect from March 15, 2021.
  • In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from March 15, 2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from March 15, 2021, is greater than ninety days, that longer period shall apply.
  • The period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Section 23(4) and 29A of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and provisos (b) and (c) of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and any other laws, which prescribe period(s) of limitation for instituting proceedings, outer limits (within which the Court or Tribunal can condone delay) and termination of proceedings.
  • The Government of India shall amend the guidelines for containment zones, to state.

“Regulated movement will be allowed for medical emergencies, provision of essential goods and services, and other necessary functions, such as, time bound applications, including for legal purposes, and educational and job-related requirements.”

CONCLUSION

In view of the aforesaid, the period between March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021 shall be excluded from calculating the period of limitation in all cases i.e. suits/appeals/petitions/all other proceedings in all Courts/Tribunals/Authorities. A further time period of 90 days from March 15, 2021 till June 12, 2021 shall be provided to all persons where limitation would have expired during the period between March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021. However, in cases where the balance period of limitation is more than 90 days from March 15, 2021, then the longer period of limitation will be applicable. The Hon’ble Supreme Court further directed the Government of India to amend the guidelines for containment zones and allow regulated movement for legal purposes as well.

The directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court issued under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India are binding on all Courts/Tribunals and authorities therefore, the filings/proceedings throughout the Country would now adhere to directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its Order dated March 08, 2021 in Suo Moto Writ (Civil) No. 3 of 2020.

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