By an order passed on Thursday in the matter of 'In Re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation', the three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Chief Justice N. V. Ramana, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Surya Kant have ended the extension of limitation that was put in place by its order of 23rd March, 2020.
On 23rd March, 2020, the Court had directed extension of the period of limitation in all proceedings before all Courts and Tribunals w.e.f. 15th March, 2020, untill further orders. This was ended on account of the reduction of Covid-19 cases, by an order passed on 8th March, 2021, whereby period from 15th March, 2020 to 14th March, 2021 was excluded.
However, the order of 23rd March, 2020 was restored on 27th April, 2021, on account of the second wave of the pandemic.
Now the Supreme Court has ended the extension of limitation by excluding the period of 15th March, 2020 to 2nd October, 2021 from computation of limitation. The balance days of limitation remaining on 15th March, 2020, if any, will be available from 3rd October.
As per the latest order, if the limitation expires during the excluded period, all persons will get 90 days from 3rd October, 2021 or the actual balance period, whichever is greater.
Following is the operative portion of the latest order:-
"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."
The Bench has noted in the order that there was consensus among the Attorney General for India, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who was appearing for the Election Commission of India, Shivaji Jadhav, who was appearing for the SCAORA and other counsel, that the relaxation of the period of limitation need not be continued any further.
The Bench also took note of the submission of the Attorney General that there are containment zones in some states even today.
The Bench noted that, "In spite of all the uncertainties about another wave of the deadly COVID-19 virus, it is imminent that the order dated 08.03.2021 is restored as the situation is near normal."