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Limitation Extension Orders Passed By SC During Covid-19 Apply To Petitions Moved Under Representation Of People Act: Kerala HC

Athira Prasad
24 Nov 2022 10:14 AM GMT
Kerala High Court
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The Kerala High Court has held that the petitions filed under the Representation of People Act, 1951 come within the ambit of orders passed by the Apex Court extending the period of limitation in the wake of the widespread COVID-19 pandemic.

Justice C. Jayachandran observed:

The expression "all other proceedings" as employed in the original order dated 23.03.2020 and "any other laws which prescribed period(s) of limitation for instituting proceedings" as employed in orders dated 08.03.2022, 27.04.2021, 23.09.2021 and 10.01.2022 leaves no room for any doubt that the Supreme Court intends to extend the period of limitation/outer limit fixed under any enactment. This Court, therefore, finds little merit in the contention of the petitioner that the benefit of the orders extending limitation is not applicable to a proceeding under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

The Election Petition was moved challenging the election of Mani C Kappen from Pala Assembly Constituency alleging that the election was vitiated by undue influence and corrupt practices as defined in the Representation of People Act, 1951.

The present interlocutory application was moved by Kappen (first respondent in the Election Petition) seeking rejection of the petition as being barred by limitation. He contended that the petition was preferred beyond 45 days outer limit (from the date of election of the returned candidate) stipulated in Section 81 of the Act.

Kappen (addressed as the Petitioner in the IA) further contended that the orders passed by the Supreme Court extending the period of limitation in the wake of the widespread COVID-19 pandemic will not apply to a proceeding under the Representation of People Act. He submitted that special Acts to which the benefit of Supreme Court orders extend are those, where there is no provision to condone the delay.

The Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner contended that the benefit of the SC's order was extended to matters coming under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Pre-Institution Mediation and Settlement under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, the Negotiable Instruments Act. However, no such direction was passed qua the Representation of People Act and thus, it is not within the province of the High Court to extend the benefit.

In the Counter Affidavit filed by the first respondent (petitioner in the Election Petition) it was contended that the order of the Supreme Court in the matter of "In Re: cognizance for extension of limitation" applies to all suits, petitions, applications which takes within its sweep a proceeding under the Representation of the People Act as well.

The Senior Counsel appearing for the respondent contended that merely because the Supreme Court had no occasion to consider the situation of extending the period of limitation under the Representation of Peoples Act, it cannot be said that the benefit of the orders is not available to the petitions under that Act.

The Court after considering the contentions raised by both the Counsels and perusing the orders passed by the Supreme Court in this regard, observed that from the language employed by the Supreme Court of the orders dated 20-3-2020, the scope and applicability of the order are very clear. The order reads that 'all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under special laws (both Central and/or State)'.

The expression "all other proceedings", where a period of limitation is prescribed under the general law of limitation or under the special laws is more than sufficient to understand that the Honourable Supreme Court intends to include all proceedings to come within the sweep of its order in the matter of extension of limitation, the Court added.

The Court observed that by virtue of the subsequent order passed by the Apex Court, the benefits of the order dated 23.03.2022 is specifically seen to extend to the proceedings under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Commercial Courts Act and the Negotiable Instruments Act. However, the same does not seek to exclude proceedings under such other enactments, which contains an outer limit within which such proceedings are to be initiated, as in the case of the Representation of the People Act, by virtue of Section 81 of the Act.

Further, the Court added that if the contentions of the petitioners are accepted, it would invite the wrath of hostile discrimination between two sets of litigants, one enjoying the benefit of orders extending the period of limitation and the other, being deprived of the same, without there being any intelligible differentia.

The Court thereby dismissed the interlocutory Application.

Senior Advocate Krishnanunni instructed by Advocate Deepu Thankan appeared for the petitioner.

Senior Advocate P. Viswanathan, instructed by Advocate Shibu Joseph appeared for the first respondent.

Case Title: Mani C Kappen v. Sunny Joseph & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 603

Click Here To Read/Download The Order



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