By Priya Adlakha and Ananyaa Banerjee
In light of the global pandemic and its subsequent impact, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had, vide its order dated March 23, 2020[i] and then again on April 27, 2021[ii], extended the period of limitation as prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, whether condonable or not, with effect from March 15, 2020 until further orders.[iii] The said order came as a much-needed relief to all the lawyers/litigants who were facing hardships in filing/prosecuting their cases due to the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases and lockdown in various parts of the country.
In the latest development, the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order dated September 23, 2021, has now issued directions for recalling its Order of April 27, 2021.
Supreme Court’s order of April 27, 2021
The Supreme Court had passed the order of April 27, 2021 restoring its order dated March 23, 2020[iv] and directed that the period(s) of limitation, as prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, whether condonable or not, shall stand extended till further orders.
The Apex Court had restored March 23, 2020 order in the wake of phenomenal rise in coronavirus cases during the second wave.
Supreme Court’s order dated September 23, 2021
Considering that the impact of COVID-19 virus is now on the decline and normalcy is being gradually restored, the Supreme Court, vide order dated September 23, 2021, has issued the following directions while recalling the suo motu order of April 27, 2021:[v]
- In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 15.03.2021, if any, shall become available with effect from 03.10.2021.
- In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 03.10.2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 03.10.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.
- The period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections 23 (4) and 29A of the Arbitration and 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.
This order of the Supreme Court comes as a breather to the rising pendency of cases and would help in the timely filing and prosecution of proceedings. The same may also help in expedition of cases wherein litigants were seeking an early relief.
In view of the order dated September 23, 2021 by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, the limitation period will expire after 90 days i.e. January 3, 2022, in such cases where limitation has already expired between March 15, 2021 to October 02, 2021.
[iv] In order of March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court had held that period of limitation in proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the general law or Special Laws whether condonable or not shall stand extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 till further order/s to be passed by this Court in present proceedings.