The Supreme Court bench comprising of CJI N. V. Ramana and Justices L. Nageswara and Surya Kant was hearing a Miscellaneous Application with the Suo Moto Writ Petition on Monday. The Bench considered the drastic surge in the COVID cases across the country and the adversities faced by litigants in the prevailing conditions and extended the limitation period up to 28th February 2022.
The present Miscellaneous Application has been 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 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 directed as under:
"That 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 was 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."
"Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 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 was greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply."
"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."
In March 2020, the Supreme 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) due to the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic.
On 23.03.2020, the Apex 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.