The Supreme Court has extended the period of limitation for filing appeals from courts or tribunals by litigants until further orders in view of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said the extraordinary situation caused by the sudden, second outburst of coronavirus requires extraordinary measures to minimise the hardship of litigant-public in all the states.
"We, therefore, restore the order dated March 23, 2020 and in continuation of the order dated March 8, 2021 direct that the period(s) of limitation, as prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, whether condonable or not, shall stand extended till further orders," the top court said.
The apex court said the period from March 14, 2021 till further orders 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.
"We have passed this order in exercise of our powers under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India.
"Hence it shall be a binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all Courts/Tribunals and Authorities. This order may be brought to the notice of all High Courts for being communicated to all subordinate courts/Tribunals within their respective jurisdiction," the bench said.
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and A S Bopanna, issued notice to all the Registrars General of the High Courts, returnable in six weeks.
The matter is posted the matters for hearing on July 19, 2021.
The top court on March 8 had noted that country was "returning to normalcy" and decided to end the extension of limitation period which was granted for filing appeals in March, 2020 to litigants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The apex court had on March 23 last year invoked its plenary power under Article 142 of the Constitution to extend the limitation period of appeals from courts or tribunals on account of the pandemic with effect from March 15, 2020.
The top court had been extending the limitation period by interim orders and finally decided to put an end to this keeping in mind the improved situation in the country and the fact that courts have started functioning.
The apex court had said its order would be applicable in cases including those under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the Commercial Courts Act and the cheque bounce cases under the Negotiable Instruments Act.
Due to the onset of pandemic, the top court had taken a suo motu cognizance of the situation arising from difficulties that might be faced by the litigants across the country in filing cases within the limitation period and had passed the order.