On September 23, 2021, the Supreme Court withdrew the suspension of limitation that was in place since March 23, 2020, when COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country. In March 2020, the Hon’ble Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the difficulties that were being faced by the litigants in filing pleadings, suits, appeals etc., and suspended all limitation periods under all general and special laws. Although uncertainties about the third wave of the COVID-19 are still imminent, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that normalcy is getting restored in most of the places in India, prompting the withdrawal of the aforesaid measure taken in view of the pandemic.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its order dated September 23, 2021, passed the following directions:
- In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceedings, the period from March 15, 2020, till October 2, 2021, shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on March 15, 2021, if any, shall become available with effect from October 3, 2021.
- In cases where the limitation had expired during the period between March 15, 2020, to October 2, 2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from October 3, 2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from October 3, 2021, is greater than 90 days, the longer period shall apply.
- The period from March 15, 2020, till October 2, 2021, shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed inter alia under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 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.
In effect, the Hon’ble Supreme Court restored the application of limitation periods under all laws although the period from March 15, 2020, to October 2, 2021, will be discounted. Also, a grace period of 90 days has been granted as a breather for litigants to take steps to perform all acts which were withheld due to the pandemic. With a hope that the surge in COVID-19 cases does not return, this is a welcome move towards restoration of normalcy for the functioning of courts and other statutory bodies.