The Supreme Court has applied its suo moto order extending limitation for filing of cases to Section 29A and 23(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
The order passed by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India on July 10 (but released on July 14) stated :
"Section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 does not prescribe a period of limitation but fixes a time to do certain acts, i.e. making an arbitral award within a prescribed time. We, accordingly, direct that the aforesaid orders shall also apply for extension of time limit for passing arbitral award under Section 29A of the said Act. Similarly, Section 23(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 provides for a time period of 6 months for the completion of the statement of claim and defence. We, accordingly, direct that the aforesaid orders shall also apply for extension of the time limit prescribed under Section 23(4) of the said Act".
As regards Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, the Court said :
"Under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, time is prescribed for completing the process of compulsory pre-litigation, mediation and settlement. The said time is also liable to be extended. We, accordingly, direct that the said time shall stand extended from the time when the lockdown is lifted plus 45 days thereafter. That is to say that if the above period, i.e. the period of lockdown plus 45 days has expired, no further period shall be liable to be excluded".
The order was passed in applications filed in the suo moto case.
E-service of notice allowed
The bench, also including Justices R Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna, has also allowed the use of electronic means such as e-mail, messenger services (like Whatsapp) for service of notice.
"Service of notices, summons and pleadings etc. have not been possible during the period of lockdown because this involves visits to post offices, courier companies or physical delivery of notices, summons and pleadings. We, therefore, consider it appropriate to direct that such services of all the above may be effected by e-mail, FAX, commonly used instant messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal etc. However, if a party intends to effect service by means of said instant messaging services, we direct that in addition thereto, the party must also effect service of the same document/documents by e-mail, simultaneously on the same date".
The bench has however declined to pass orders extending the validity period of cheque, saying that it was a matter for the Reserve Bank of India to decide by acting under Section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act.
It was on March 23 that the Supreme Court suo moto extended the limitation period for filing of cases in Courts/Tribunals with effect from March 15 until further orders. This was done taking note of the difficulties caused to lawyers and litigants by lockdown.
On April 6, the Court extended the application of the order to proceedings under Arbitration Act and Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.
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