The Supreme Court restores Limitation Extension & excludes Period From 15.03.2020 to 28.02.2022 From Limitation

Recently, a Miscellaneous Application was filed by the Supreme Court Advocates­ on ­Record Association in the context of the spread of the new variant of the COVID­19 and the drastic surge in the number of COVID cases across the country. Taking into consideration the arguments advanced by learned counsel and the impact of the surge of the virus on public health and adversities faced by litigants in the prevailing conditions, the Supreme court has made an imported directive.

Before going to that, some context: Earlier in March 2020, due to the outbreak of the COVID­19 pandemic, the Court took Suo Motu cognizance of the difficulties that might be faced by the litigants in filing petitions/ applications/ suits/ appeals/ all other quasi proceedings within the   period of   limitation   prescribed   under the general   law   of limitation or under any special laws (both Central and/or State)

Thus on 23.03.2020, this Court directed extension of the period of limitation in all proceedings before Courts/Tribunals including this Court w.e.f. 15.03.2020 till further orders. On 08.03.2021, the order dated 23.03.2020 was brought to an end, permitting the relaxation of a 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.

Thereafter, due to a second surge in COVID­19 cases, the Supreme Court Advocates on   Record   Association (SCAORA) intervened in the Suo Motu proceedings by filing Miscellaneous Application No.  665 of 2021 seeking restoration of the order dated   23.03.2020   relaxing limitation.   The aforesaid Miscellaneous Application No.665 of 2021 was disposed of by this   Court vide Order dated   23.09.2021,   wherein this Court extended the period of limitation in all proceedings before the Courts/Tribunals including this Court w.e.f   15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021.

Therefore, the new directive essentially means the above-mentioned 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’s also 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.

Taking into consideration the arguments advanced by learned counsel and the impact of the surge of the virus on public health and adversities faced by litigants in the prevailing conditions, the course deemed it appropriate to dispose of the M.A. No. 21 of 2022 with the following directions:

  1. 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.
  1. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as of 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.
  1. It is 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.

By

Mrudula Manappatt