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SC terminates the extension of period of limitation under various laws granted due to COVID-19

In Re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, the Supreme Court terminated the extension of the limitation period for filing of cases under various laws on account of COVID-19 pandemic. The extension was initially granted in March 2020 for filing of cases before all courts and tribunals. In May 2020, it applied the extension to proceedings under Arbitration Act and Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and subsequently in July 2020, stated that this order will apply to Section 29A and 23(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. It observed that as the lockdown had been lifted and the country was returning to normalcy, the extension should be lifted.

The court issued the following directions:

  • The period from 15 March 2020 till 14 March 2021 shall stand excluded and any any balance period remaining as on 15 March 2020 shall become available with effect from 15 March 2021.

  • In cases wherein the limitation would have expired during the period between 15 March 2020 till 14 March 2021 (notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining) all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 15 March 2021. If the the actual balance period of limitation is remaining with effect from 15 March 2021 is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.

  • Further, the period between 15 March 2020 and 14 March 2021 shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections 23 (4) and 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, Section 12Aof 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.

  • Finally, the Supreme Court stated that the Government must amend the guidelines regarding containment zones to state the following: "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.

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