The Suo Moto Cognizance of the Supreme Court Pertaining to Limitation Comes to an End

The Supreme Court of India, on 8th March 2021, lifted the limitation date for filing cases levied due to the coronavirus and national lockdown. Due to a novel Coronavirus, the Supreme Court of India took Suo Moto cognizance of the condition faced by litigants who could not physically come to the courts to file their petition/suit and all other proceedings throughout the nation and expanded the limitation period specified under the general law of limitations on 23rd March 2020.[1]. The Court extended the period from 15th March 2020 till further notice. The apex court took this decision by exercising its extraordinary powers under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Indian Constitution. The notice dated 06 May 2020, the limitation period prescribed under the Arbitration and conciliation Act, 1996 and under section 38 of Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881 was also extended w.e.f 15th March 2020 till further notice[2].

The bench consisting of Chief justice of India SA Bobde, Justice L Nageswara Rao, and S Ravindra Bhat took the decision on 8th March quoting:

“We are of the opinion that the order dated 15.03.2020 has served its purpose and in view of the changing scenario relating to the pandemic, the extension of limitation should come to an end”

The apex court also said “Though we have not seen the end of the pandemic, there is a considerable improvement. The lockdown has been lifted and the country is returning to normalcy” the court added[3].

The bench decided to dispose of the Suo moto plea, and has given the following directions on the suggestions of the learned Attorney General of India:

  1. “In computing, the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application, or proceeding, the period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as of 15.03.2020, if any, shall become available with effect from 15.03.2021”
  2. “In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 15.03.2021. In the event, the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 15.03.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply”
  3. “The period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 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 tribunal can condone delay) and termination of proceedings”

The Government shall amend the containment zone guidelines,” the court added, health emergencies, the procurement of vital goods and services, and other required activities, such as time-bound applications, including for legal reasons, and educational and job-related needs, shall be permitted under supervised movement.

Analysis

Due to the national lockdown, all of the country’s courts were operating on a simulated basis. The Supreme Court of India took Suo moto cognizance of the matter and extended the limitation period for effective filing of the suits from time to time, in order to help the litigants and monitor the spread of the virus. As the shutdown has been removed and the country is returning to normalcy, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition, granting the Attorney General of India’s request for a 90-day extension of the statute of limitations, which includes the periods specified under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, the Commercial Courts Act 2015, and the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881. The court also stated that the order dated 23.03.2020 served its purpose and that the extension of the limitation should be terminated due to the changing pandemic scenario.

Author: Himank Garg, the 3rd year of Maharashtra National Law University (Aurangabad), an intern at Khurana And Khurana, IP Attorney and Advocates.  In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at aishani@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1] Supreme Court order dated 23.03.2020.

[2] Supreme Court order dated 06.05.2020.

[3] Supreme court order dated 08.03.2021.

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