[Story updated with order]
The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended limitation period for the filing of cases in courts and tribunals with effect from 14.03.2021 until further orders in view of the second wave of the COVID19 pandemic.
The Court said the COVID19 second wave has created an "alarming situation" and has put the litigants in a "difficult situation".
The bench extended all periods of limitation ending on 14.03.2021 until further orders, by restoring the order passed on March 23, 2020, which had extended the limitation period.
The period from 14.03.2021 will stand excluded from computing the limitation period under all special and general laws.
The bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna passed the order in the suo moto case In Re Cognizance for Extension of Limitation.
The order said :
"We, therefore, restore the order dated 23rd March, 2020 and in continuation of the order dated 8th March, 2021 direct 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 order"
"It is further clarified that the period from 14th March,2021 till further orders shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections 23 (4) and 29Aof 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".
"We have passed this order in exercise of our powers under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India. Hence it shall be a binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all Courts/Tribunals and Authorities".
The Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association(SCAORA) had recently filed an application seeking the revival of the suo moto order passed by the Supreme Court on March 23, 2020, which had extended the limitation period with effect from March 15, 2020, until further orders.
The bench passed the order in this application filed by SCAORA. The bench has issued notice to all High Courts on the application, which is kept pending.
The bench initially proposed to extend the limitation period till July 15, 2021. However, the Attorney General for India KK Venugopal requested the bench to give the extension till until further orders.
Last month, on March 8, 2021, the Supreme Court ended the extension of limitation with effect from 14.03.2021 by closing the suo moto case, observing that the COVID-19 situation has improved.
Saying that there has been a deterioration of the COVID-19 situation since then, the SCAoRA seeks the revival of the limitation extension.
"...after the passing of the above order(of March 8) there has been a considerable and instrumental change in the circumstances all across the country with regard to the Covid cases and the same has taken a serious turn and has also affected the movement of the general public at large", the application says.
Later, in July 2020, the SC clarified that this order will apply to Section 29A and 23(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
The bench had passed an order in July last year in the suo moto proceedings allowing the service of notice through WhatsApp and other online messenger services.
While lifting the extension of limitation on March 8 this year, the Supreme Court said that the period from 15.03.2021 to 14.03.2021 will stand excluded from the limitation period.
In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.03.2020 till14.03.2021, the Court said that notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from15.03.2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from15.03.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.
The period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 was also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections 23 (4) and 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, Section 12Aof 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.
Title : In Re Cognizance of Extension of Limitation
Coram : CJI NV Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna
Citation : LL 2021 SC 230