LEGAL UPDATE | EXTENSION OF LIMITATION PERIOD IN LIGHT OF THIRD WAVE OF PANDEMIC
The Supreme Court of India vide its Order dated 10 January 2022 has restored its earlier order for the exclusion of period starting from 15 March 2020 till 28 February 2022 for the purposes of computing limitation prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, in light of the spread of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Background: On 23 March 2020, the Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue of limitation running vis-a-vis the strict Covid-19 restrictions. By an Order , the period of limitation for filing of all proceedings, regardless of the limitations provided in general law or special laws, was extended with effect from 15 March 2020, until further orders of the Court. Although these provisions were temporarily relaxed due to the reduction in number of Covid-19 cases, on the advent of the second wave of the pandemic, the provisions with respect to extension of limitation were soon resorted back. Subsequently, a 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court heard the matter and noted that the pandemic situation had improved drastically. Thus, the Supreme Court, vide its Order dated 23 September 2021, laid down further directions to be followed moving forward in respect of extension of limitation period. By way of these directions, the Supreme Court had stated that the suo motu extension of limitation period will stand withdrawn with effect from 2 October 2021.
In light of the ongoing third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the drastic surge in the number of Covid cases across the country and increasing restrictions, the Supreme Court has heard the matter regarding a further extension of limitation period. The Supreme Court has directed that the previous orders in respect of extension of limitation are restored and accordingly, the period between 15 March 2020 till 28 February 2022 shall stand excluded for the purposes of limitation. Accordingly, any balance period of limitation remaining as on 3 October 2021 shall become available with effect from 1 March 2022.
Further, in cases where the limitation period is expiring between 15 March 2020 to 28 February 2022, such actual balance period of limitation remaining, the concerned parties shall be entitled to 90 days of extended limitation period from 1 March 2022. If the actual balance period of limitation remaining as on 1 March 2022 is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply in such cases.
Such period of exclusion from 15 March 2020 till 28 February 2022 shall also be applicable while computing 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 any period(s) of limitation for instituting proceedings and outer limits (within which the court or tribunal can condone delay).
The directions of the Supreme Court vide Order dated 10 January 2022 and providing an additional buffer period of 90 days comes at a time when various states are imposing restrictions and courts are functioning in a limited manner. This will provide much needed relief to litigants in these excruciating circumstances
This update was released on 13 January 2022.
Legal Update Team
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