Courts Update Supreme Court dismisses SCAORA plea with directions regarding the...

Supreme Court dismisses SCAORA plea with directions regarding the period of limitation in all proceedings before courts/Tribunals

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New Delhi Sept 25(ILNS): The Supreme Court on September 23, while recalling its suo motu order dated April 27, 2021, disposed of the application of Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) with certain directions regarding the period of limitation.

The bench of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justice L. Nageswara Rao, and Justice Surya Kant passed these directions during the hearing of the suo motu case In Re Cognizance For Extension of Limitation in which the SCAORA intervened, seeking restoration of the order dated 23.03.2020 whereby the Court directed extension of the period of limitation in all proceedings before the Courts/Tribunals w.e.f. 15.03.2020 till further orders.

The Supreme Court had on April 27 this year, 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. The Bench had 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 of the difficulties faced by the litigants in approaching the Courts amidst the Covid-19 pandemic Suo Motu, and directed the suspension of limitation periods. Thereafter, while noting that the country was returning to normalcy, the Top Court by order dated March 8, 2021 brought to an end the extension of limitation.

During the hearing in the Top Court Senior Advocate  Vikas Singh contended that  the order dated 08.03.2021 can be restored, subject to a modification. He further  submitted that order dated 08.03.2021 provides that the limitation period of 90 days will start from 15.03.2021 notwithstanding the actual balance of period of limitation in cases where limitation has expired between 15.03.2020 and 14.03.2021. According to him, the period of limitation prior to 15.03.2020 has to be taken into account and only the balance period of limitation should be made available for the purpose of filing cases.

The Court observed that “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 the 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, we are not inclined to modify the conditions contained in the order dated 08.03.2021.”

Therefore the Court disposed the SCAORA application with the following directions :-

I. In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 15.03.2021, if any, shall become available with effect from 03.10.2021. 
II. In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 03.10.2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 03.10.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply. 
III. The period from 15.03.2020 till 02.10.2021 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 tribunal 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.”/ILNS/SS/SNG

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