The Supreme Court of India, vide its order dated March 8, 2021, modified the operation of its earlier order dated March 23, 2020 (passed in the suo motu writ petition bearing reference no. 3/2020) to the extent of ceasing the extension of limitation period for filing of petitions/applications/suits/appeals w.e.f. March 15, 2020 in view of the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Supreme Court observed had in March of 2020, under exercise of its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India taken suo motu cognizance of the situation arising due to COVID-19 and the subsequent imposition of the lockdown by extending the period of limitation prescribed under various statutes for filing of proceedings before the various courts and tribunals across the country. The said measure was taken to ensure, the litigants are not prejudiced and precluded from exercising their rights due to reasons beyond their control i.e. physical shutting of the Courts during the pandemic.
That vide the current order, the Court has noted there has been considerable improvement in the COVID situation and the country is on the path towards normalcy. It accordingly held that the period between March 15, 2020 and March 14, 2021 shall be excluded from computation of limitation period and that the limitation period would now start computing from March 15, 2021.
Therefore, for cases where there was a balance period of limitation remaining as on March 15, 2021, would now continue w.e.f March 15, 2021. It was also held that despite the availability of the balance period, in the event the limitation period expired between March 15, 2020 and March 14, 2021, the litigant would still be entitled to an extension of 90 days (unless the balance period is higher than 90 days, in which case, the balance period would apply).
While passing the order, the Court clarified that the same would also apply to the proceedings under the following provisions/statutes:
1. Section 23(4) and Section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996;
2. Section 12 of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015;
3. Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881; &
4. Any other law which prescribes a period of limitation.
The judgments means that limitation period for all proceedings, where applicable, shall now resume w.e.f. March 15, 2021. The litigants and lawyers would now have to be more vigilant in ensuring that proceedings are filed in a timely manner so as avoid the same being rendered barred by time.
By - Arush Khanna