In order to alleviate difficulties faced by litigants and lawyers owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown, the Supreme Court of India had passed an order on 23rd March 2020 in Suo Moto Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 2020, extending periods of limitation prescribed under general and special laws with effect from 15th March 2020 for filing petitions, applications, suits, appeals and other proceedings till further orders. The said order of the Supreme Court was extended from time to time.
On 8th March 2021, upon reviewing the situation, the Supreme Court was of the opinion that although the pandemic had not ended, there was considerable improvement in the circumstances and that the order dated 23rd March 2020 had served its purpose. Accordingly, the Supreme Court disposed off the Suo Moto Writ Petition vide its order dated 8th March 2021 with the following directions:
- In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 15.03.2020, if any, shall become available with effect from 15.03.2021;
- In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from 15.03.2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from 15.03.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply;
- The period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 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;
- The Government of India shall amend the guidelines for containment zones, to state. "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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