Suspension of limitation period during COVID-19

Following the World Health Organization (WHO) directive that classified the Coronovirus outbreak (‘COVID-19’) outbreak as a global pandemic, a lot of anxiety and concern stirred across the globe leading governments to take measures to “flatten the curve” and ensure utmost protection to its citizens. This period reflects a point in history when the entire world economies are grappling to stand upright and tackle this menace of COVID-19 that has consumed both lives and resources while governments and state machineries are working hand in hand to contain the pandemic and show light to its citizens. The Indian Government and its state machineries are no exception to this.

In view of these unprecedented circumstances the Indian Government declared a complete lockdown for 21 days on March 24, 2020 which severely curtailed the mobility of its citizens and adversely affected the functioning off the state machineries, including the various courts and tribunals.

In light of these circumstances, on March 23, 2020 Supreme Court of India directed the suspension of the limitation period under both general and special laws with effect from March 15, 2020. This was done in furtherance of their plenary powers under Article 142 read with Article 141 the Indian Constitution. The bench comprised of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices L N Rao and Surya Kant who stated that the Court had taken sou motu cognizance of the current situation which had made it difficult for litigants and lawyers to approach the respective courts and complete the filings within the period of limitation. In this regard, the order passed by the three- Judge Bench reads,

“To obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals across the country including this Court, it is hereby ordered that a period of limitation in all such proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the general law or Special Laws whether condonable or not shall stand extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 till further order/s to be passed by this Court in present proceedings.”

The Supreme Court further notified that this order was to be brought to the attention of all the High Courts, subordinate Courts and Tribunal. The decision by the Supreme Court is noteworthy and laudable and is bound to assure its citizens that justice is not uncertain at point of time where the entire country is battling this global pandemic.

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