The Supreme Court on Monday ended the extension of period of limitation under general or special laws, which came into effect from March last year, in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat observed: “Though, we have not seen the end of the pandemic, there is considerable improvement. The lockdown has been lifted and the country is returning to normalcy. Almost all the Courts and Tribunals are functioning either physically or by virtual mode.” The bench added that it is of the opinion that the March 15 order has served its purpose and in view of the changing pandemic scenario, the extension of limitation should come to an end.
The top court gave a minimum 90 days’ time to all persons from March 15, 2021 to file their petitions or applications or suits or appeals.
“Notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from March 15, 2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from March 15, 2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply”, said the bench.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the top court last year took suo motu cognizance of the situation arising from difficulties faced by the litigants across the country in filing petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under any special laws (both Central or State). By an order dated March 27, the court extended the period of limitation prescribed under the general law or special laws whether compoundable or not with effect from March 15, 2020 till further orders. This order was extended from time-to-time.
The top court also took into consideration suggestions of the Attorney General K K Venugopal in connection with the future course of action and passed a few directions. “In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on March 15, 2020 if any, shall become available with effect from March 15, 2021”, said the top court.
It added that the period from March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021 also stands excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections 23 (4) and 29A of 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.