Analysis of SC case on Time limit Limitation on Proceedings During Covid-19 pandemic

Limitation During Covid-19 pandemic

Due to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, The Hon’ble Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the situation arising from difficulties that might be 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 23.3.2020: (2020) 33 J.K.Jain’s GST & VR 41, thes Supreme Court extended the period of limitation prescribed under the general law or special laws whether compoundable or not w.e.f. 15.3.2020 till further orders. The order dated 23.3.2020 was extended from time to time. The Supreme Court observed that though they 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 Supreme Court is of the opinion that the order dated 23.3.2020 has served its purpose and in view of the changing scenario relating to the pandemic, the extension of limitation should come to an end.

In the judgment dated 8.3.2021 Re: Cognizance For Extension of Limitation (Supreme Court of India), the Supreme Court has issued the following directions:–

1. In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from 15.3.2020 till 14.3.2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 15.3.2020, if any, shall become available with effect from 15.3.2021.

2. In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.3.2020 till 14.3.2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 15.3.2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 15.3.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.

3. The period from 15.3.2020 till 14.3.2021 shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed u/s 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.

4. The Govt. of India shall amend the guidelines for containment zones;

“Regulated movement will be allowed for medical emergencies, provision of essential goods and services, and other necessary functions, such as, time bound applications, including for legal purposes, and educational and job-related requirements. 

Analysis.─

1) In computing the period of limitation, the following types of various proceedings have been included;

i) any suit,

ii) appeal,

iii) application

iv) proceeding,

In the above types of proceedings the period from 15.3.2020 till 14.3.2021 has been excluded.

2) All persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 15.3.2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 15.3.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.

3) Containment zones.─In the judgment, the Supreme Court has directed that;

 The Government of India shall amend the guidelines for containment zones as under;

“Regulated movement will be allowed for medical emergencies, provision of essential goods and services, and other necessary functions, such as, time bound applications, including for legal purposes, and educational and job-related requirements.”

4) The judgment is silent in regard to various due dates of return filing notified by the Govt., from time to time during the period from 15.3.2020 to 14.3.2021.

In my view, due dates of return filing will also be deferred looking to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic and various measures taken by the Govt. from time to time and difficulties faced by various persons of the country, it should be covered by the term “application/proceedings.

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