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[Suo Motu Extension Of Limitation] Have Reservations Against Whatsapp For Effectuating Summons/Service, Centre Tells SC

Sanya Talwar
7 July 2020 11:45 AM GMT
[Suo Motu Extension Of Limitation] Have Reservations Against Whatsapp For Effectuating Summons/Service, Centre Tells SC
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The Supreme Court on Monday took up its Suo Motu Case pertaining to the applicability of extension of of limitation period owing to the Coronavirus induced lockdown, effectuated from March 23.

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde took on record, a consolidated reply filed on behalf of the Union of India detailing its stand on several IA's with regard to limitations pertaining to Section 29A & 23(4)of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, Service of all notices, summons and exchanges of pleadings, Clarifications with regard to the earlier March 23 order & Extension of Limitation under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

The Attorney General appeared on behalf of the Union of India and stated that since the period of one year within which the Arbitral Award is to be delivered is not a period of limitation as such, it may be clarified that the times period under Section 29A is being extended until further orders on account of COVID19. 

On the issue of service of statutory notices, summons and pleadings through fax and emails, the AG submitted that the same be allowed until further orders.

The IA by HDFC which made a specific averment stating that if the limitation stands extended in regard to cases where limitation has already expired during lockdown or is about to expire, the bank has to undertake an enormous exercise of obtaining Letters of Acknowledgement of Debt (LAD) from thousands of borrowers, the Union stated that the entire period of lockdown should be excluded in all such cases.

AG KK Venugopal: "Regarding HDFC's plea, since 1000s of cases are involved, and they haven't been able to act during lockdown, they want the period of extension to be extended for the same period of the entire period. My suggestion is extend the period by 45 days. Since there have been different periods of lockdown in different places. There was no uniform period of lockdown everywhere wherein an extension of 45 days may be given to obtain Letters of acknowledgement of debt"

Further to this, the AG also added that with respect to the issue of service through other apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook, the Union had "reservations" as there are apprehensions of terrorist activities being carried out and pornographic content being circulated via these apps, even though the apps claimed to be encrypted.

Additionally, the union also added that the order passed in the matter or Harsh Nitin Gokhale V. RBI stipulated that the RBI was the appropriate body to deal with the issue with regard to extension of limitation under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

Bench noted that the union had asked RBI to decide on the period of extension under s. 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act.

At this juncture, Senior Advocate VV Giri appeared on behalf of RBI & submitted that the RBI was looking to clarify the validity of a cheque which has been reduced to 3 months from 6 months. Giri sought permission to respond in a one page note, on behalf of RBI, on the limited question of cheque validity. 

In this backdrop, the Court adjourned the matter to July 10 with permission to the AG and the RBI to submit a 1 page note on the issues mentioned herein above.

On June 19, the Supreme Court held that its suo motu order extending limitation and the lockdown restrictions of the government will not affect the right of an accused to seek default bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

On June 8, the Court had sought the response of Attorney General in an application seeking service of demand notice in "dishonour of cheque" cases through Email and Whatsapp under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

With the objective of reducing physical filings in courts and tribunals across the countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on March 23 had passed a general order extending the limitation, whether condonable or not, with effect from March 15, until further orders.

"To obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals across the country including this Court, it is hereby ordered that a period of limitation in all such 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", ordered the bench comprising CJI S A Bobde, Justices L Nageshwara Rao and Surya Kant.

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