REG: SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION(CIVIL) NO. 3 OF 2020

[IN RE-COGNIZANCE FOR EXTENSION OF LIMITATION]

In Suo Moto Writ Petition (C) No. 3/2020, by order dated 23.03.2020 and 06.05.2020, Apex Court ordered that all periods of limitation prescribed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 shall be extended w.e.f. 15.03.2020 till further orders. However, some modifications and new issues were raised by the parties before the Apex Court by filing various Intervention Applications, out of which it is also prayed before the Apex Court to extend the validity of a cheque due to Covid-19 virus and the difficulties faced by persons across the country.

However, the Apex Court vide its order dated 10.07.2020 has observed that it will not be appropriate to interfere with the period prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India, particularly, since the entire banking system functions on the basis of the period so prescribed. The Reserve Bank of India may in its discretion, alter such period as it thinks fit.

For the other issues, the Apex Court has modified its earlier orders dated 23.03.2020 and 06.05.2020 with the directions given in recent order dated 10.07.2020.

Now, we would like to mention brief history of all the orders passed by the Apex Court in Suo Moto Writ Petition (C) No. 3/2020 on different dates, along with the understating of limitation period, as under:

Understanding Limitation Period.

Limitation Act, 1963 defines ‘Period of limitation’ under Section 2 (j). It means a period of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application under the schedule to the Limitation Act, which covers a range of prescribed for any suit, appeal or application under the schedule to the Limitation Act, which covers a range of claims and their timelines.

Expiry of prescribed period when court is closed.

As per Section 4 of the Limitation Act, where the prescribed period for any suit, appeal or application expires on a day when the court is closed, the suit, appeal or application may be instituted, preferred or made on the day when the court re-opens. Further elaborate through explanation that a court shall be deemed to be closed on any day within the meaning of this section if during any part of its normal working hours it remains closed on that day.

Issue of Limitation Period due to Covid-19.

Due to Covid-19 virus, the difficulties may be faced litigants across the country in filing their petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation, therefore, the issue of limitation become necessary to address immediately.

The issue of limitation was first addressed by the High Court of Delhi in the office order dated March 23, 2020 wherein the following directions were passed:

 “Lockdown/Suspension of work of Court shall be treated as “Closure” within the meaning of Explanation appended to Section 4 of the Limitation Act, 1963 and other enabling provisions of the Act and other Statutes, as may be applied to court proceedings. Thus, the limitation of any court proceedings shall not run w.e.f. 23.03.2020 to 04.04.2020 subject to further orders.”

Supreme Court extends period of limitation till further notice.

Keeping in view the difficulties faced by lawyers and litigants across the country in filing petitions/applications/appeals etc due to the lockdown, the Supreme Court, on the very same day, in exercise of its powers under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India, passed an order in Suo motu Writ Petition(Civil) No. 3 of 2020 (in Re-Cognizance for Extension of Limitation)  that the 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. 15 March 2020 till further order/s are made by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in this regard. It was also declared that the said order is a binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all courts/tribunals and authorities.

The Apex Court passed an order in Suo motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 2020 (in Re-Cognizance for Extension of Limitation) on the issue of law of limitation by observing as follows:

“This Court has taken Suo Motu cognizance of the situation arising  out  of the challenge faced by the country on account of Covid-19 Virus and resultant difficulties that may be faced by litigants across the country in filing their petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under Special Laws (both Central and/or State).

To obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to le 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. 15 March 2020 till further order/s to be passed by this Court in present proceedings.

We are exercising this power under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India and declare that this order is a binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all Courts/Tribunals and authorities.

This order may be brought to the notice of all High Courts for being communicated to all subordinate Courts/Tribunals within their respective jurisdiction.”

Applicability of the Supreme Court’s Order dated 23.03.2020.

The Apex Court of the country has specified that the extension would apply to all such proceedings for example filing of petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the General law or Special Laws, whether condonable or not.

In Suo Moto Writ Petition (C) No. 3/2020, by order dated 23.03.2020, Apex Court ordered that the extension would apply to all such proceedings for example filing of petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the General law or Special Laws, whether condonable or not. However, for seeking appropriate direction in relation to section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and initiation of proceedings under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 Intervention Application was filed by the parties, which may be read as under: –

IA NO. 48411/2020 – FOR DIRECTIONS- IN WRIT PETITION(CIVIL) NO. 3 OF 2020 (IN RE-COGNIZANCE FOR EXTENSION OF LIMITATION)

An application was filed in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3/2020 with the following prayer:

 “To issue appropriate directions qua (i) arbitration proceedings in relation to section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and (ii) initiation of proceedings under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881;”

The Hon’ble Supreme Court further modified its earlier order (dated 23.03.2020) on 06.05.2020 directing that all periods of limitation prescribed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881 shall be extended with effect from 15.03.2020 till further orders.

The Hon’ble Court further clarified that in case the limitation expires after 15.03.2020, then the period from 15.03.2020 till the date on which the lockdown is lifted in the jurisdictional area where the dispute lies or where the cause of action arises, shall be extended for a period of 15 days after the lifting of lockdown.

In Suo Moto Writ Petition (C) No. 3/2020, by order dated 23.03.2020 and 06.05.2020, Apex Court ordered that all periods of limitation prescribed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 shall be extended w.e.f. 15.03.2020 till further orders. However, some modifications and new issues were raised by the parties before the Apex Court by filing various Intervention Applications, which may be read as under: –

IA NO. 49221/2020 – FOR DIRECTIONS- IN WRIT PETITION(CIVIL) NO. 3 OF 2020 (IN RE-COGNIZANCE FOR EXTENSION OF LIMITATION)

Parties have prayed to Apex Court for minor modification in the aforesaid orders by filing an Intervention application in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 2020.

The Apex Court has ordered dated 10.07.2020 with the following-

“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.”

Pre-Institution Mediation and Settlement under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.

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.

I.A. No. 48461/2020- Service of all notices, summons and exchange of pleadings

“Service of notices, summons and exchange of pleadings/documents, is a requirement of virtually every legal proceeding. 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.”

Extension of validity of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881-I.A. Nos. 48461 and 48672/2020 (IA. No. 48671/2020, 48673/2020)

 “With reference to the prayer, that the period of validity of a cheque be extended, we find that the said period has not been prescribed by any Statute but it is a period prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India under Section 35-A of the Banking Regulation Act,1949. We do not consider it appropriate to interfere with the period prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India, particularly, since the entire banking system functions on the basis of the period so prescribed. The Reserve Bank of India may in its discretion, alter such period as it thinks fit.”

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Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this document is to be construed as a legal opinion or view of either of the authors whatsoever and the content is to be used strictly for educative purposes only.

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