The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered that the limitation period under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings in the country shall stand extended until further orders.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna passed the order in view of the COVID-19 situation after a plea was moved in this regard by the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA).
“The steep rise in COVID-19 cases is not limited to Delhi alone but it has engulfed the entire nation. The extraordinary situation caused by the sudden and second outburst of COVID-19 Virus, thus, requires extraordinary measures to minimize the hardship of litigant–public in all the states,” the Court observed.
The Bench ordered that a similar order passed on March 23 last year shall be restored. In March 2020, the top court had taken up the issue suo motu, and directed the suspension of limitation periods in view of the difficulties faced by the litigants in approaching the courts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the said order was recalled in March 8 this year after a dip in COVID cases.
The SCAORA had then approached the Supreme Court seeking suspension of limitation periods in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country.
“We, therefore, restore the order dated 23rd March, 2020 and in continuation of the order dated March 8, 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 orders,” the order passed on Tuesday said.
The Court further clarified that the period from March 14, 2021 till further orders 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.
The Court said that the order may be brought to the notice of all High Courts for being communicated to all subordinate courts/tribunals within their respective jurisdiction.
“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 Court clarified.