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Covid Limitation

Supreme Court has once again decided on extended limitation owing to Covid guidelines in 2022. The Order dated 23.03.2020 was passed in view of the extraordinary health crisis. On 08.03.2021, the order dated 23.03.2020 was brought to an end, permitting the relaxation of period of limitation between 15.03.2020 and 14.03.2021. While doing so, it was made clear that the period of limitation would start from 15.03.2021. As the said order dated 08.03.2021 was only a one-time measure, in view of the pandemic, apex court was inclined to modify the conditions contained in the order dated 08.03.2021. The period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed  under Section 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 periods(s) of limitation for instituting proceedings, outer limits (within which the Court of Tribunal can condone delay) and termination of proceedings. Vide order dated 10.01.2022 in Misc. No. 21 and 29 of 2022, Supreme Court has ordered to revive limitation extension order in view of rising Covid cases. Accordingly, order dated 23.03.2020 is restored and it has been directed that in continuation of earlier orders dated 08.03.2021, 27.04.2021 and 23.09.2021. the period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 shall be excluded for the purpose of limitation as may be prescribed under any law – general laws or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi judicial proceedings [(2022) 1 TMI 385 (SC)].

Covid impacted Limitation Period

In Cognizance for Extension of Limitation v.  XXX (2021) 378 ELT 241; (2021) 54 GSTL 3 (SC), apex court has issued four directions in present order. Firstly, period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 shall stand excluded for computing period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding and balance period, if any, shall become available w.e.f. 03.10.2021. Secondly, if limitation period has expired between 15.03.2020 to 02.10.2021, then all persons would have 90 days period notwithstanding actual balance period of limitation remaining and if actual balance of limitation remaining on 13.10.2021 is higher than 90 days, then longer period would be available . Thirdly, in computing period under Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and any other laws, period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 also stand excluded. Fourthly, Government of India shall amend guidelines for containment zones to, inter alia, allow regulated movement for filing time bound application for legal purpose.

The following are the relevant extracts:

“(I) In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from 15-3-2020 till 2-10-2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 15-3-2021, if any, shall become available with effect from 3-10-2021.

(II) In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15-3-2020 till 2-10-2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 3-10-2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 3-10-2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.

(III) The period from 15-3-2020 till 2-10-2021 shall also stand 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 Trinunal can condone delay) and termination of proceedings.

(IV) The Government of India shall amend the guidelines for containment zones, to State.

“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.”

Supreme Court Order dated 10.01.2022 [(2022) 1 TMI 385 (SC)]

The Apex Court has further extended the limitation from 15.03.2022 till 28.02.2022. The court order that the order dated 23.03.2020 is restored and in continuation  of the subsequent orders dated 08.03.2021, 27.04.2021 and 23.09.2021, it is directed that the period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 shall stand excluded for the purposes of limitation as may be prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi judicial proceedings.

The Apex Court has further extended the limitation from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022. Supreme Court has ordered to revive limitation extension order in view of rising Covid cases. Accordingly, Order dated 23.03.2020 is restored and it has been directed that in continuation of earlier orders dated 08.03.2021, 27.04.2021 and 23.09.2021, the period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 shall be excluded for the purpose of limitation as may be prescribed under any law – general laws or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi judicial proceedings.

The court ordered that:

  • The order dated 23.03.2020 is restored and in continuation  of the subsequent orders dated 08.03.2021, 27.04.2021 and 23.09.2021, it is directed that the period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 shall stand excluded for the purposes of limitation as may be prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings.
  • Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 03.10.2021, if any, shall become available with effect from 01.03.2022.
  • In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 01.03.2022. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 01.03.2022 is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.
  • It has been further clarified that the period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 shall also stand 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.

Chronology of Covid Limitation Developments

Following is the chronology of events happening in Covid limitation

  • 23.03.2020 (Commencement of COVID pandemic) : SC extended limitation period w.e.f 15.03.2020 till further orders.
  • 06.05.2020 : SC extended the limitation period for statutory provisions under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act & the Arbitration & Conciliation Act with effect from March 15, 2020 until further orders.
  • 14.07.2020 : SC applied limitation extension to Section 29A and 23(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
  • 08.03.2021 (COVID wave reduced) : SC recalled limitation extension w.e.f 15.03.2021; excludes period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 from limitation.
  • 27.04.2021 (Surge of COVID second wave) : SC revived limitation extension by restoring order dated 23.03.2020; period from 14.03.2021 excluded from limitation until further orders
  • 23.09.2021 (Covid cases reduced) : SC recalled limitation extension w.e.f 02.10.2021; period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 excluded from Covid limitation.
  • 10.01.2022 (Commencement of COVID third wave) : SC restored limitation extension; excludes period from 15.03.2020 till 28.02.2022 from limitation.

SC extends limitation owing to Covid guidelines in 2022

Cestat hearings in physical mode / electronic mode

CESTAT had issued a notice No. 1/2021 dated 15.11.2021 w.r.t. procedure for opting for physical hearings before Cestat w.e.f. November 29, 2021. Accordingly,

  • Appeals may be heard in physical mode on requests made by appellant’s counsel.
  • The system of physical hearing of Appeals for Division Bench matters will take place on Mondays and Fridays for now and the other appeals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and is applicable to Principal Bench at Delhi only. On the remaining days matters would be heard by virtual hearing mode as is now being done.
  • Any party desirous of getting an appeal heard physically may send a request, as prescribed firm to the Registry by e mail. Request forms received from Monday to Thursday will be listed for hearing as per roster in the following week in order of seniority, subject to a maximum of six matters a day.
  • The appeal for which a request has been made for physical heanng, should otherwise be due for hearing m its normal turn or early hearing was allowed by separate order or as per the direction of higher courts.
  • This shall come into effect from 29 November 2021.

However, the aforesaid order has been kept in abeyance and online hearings restored due to increase in number of Covid cases vide order dated 31.12.2021. Further, vide office memorandum dated 09.01.2022, it has been directed that members posted at every bench may hear the cases from their residences at respective places for a period of two weeks from 10 January, 2022.

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