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Indian Supreme Court’s response to COVID – 19: extends period of limitation for all!

March 30, 2020

Response to COVID-19

Last few weeks have been extraordinarily unpredictable for India due to the outbreak of Novel Corona Virus aka Covid-19.

“Social Distancing” is what is being preached across India to combat the everyday increasing threat of Covid-19. Everyone is taking strictest possible measures in their capacity to ensure that the battle against the virus is won. Infact on March 24, 2020 Indian Government took the much-needed measure and announced a 21 days complete lockdown in the country.

Indian judicial bodies are nowhere behind they have launched their act on virus by shutting down either partially or completely. However, it is pertinent to mention here that this development will definitely have a substantial impact on the Limitation Period prescribed under various statutes. This uncertainty about what will happen have a potential to affect negatively to people who were accessing their future liability, especially those for whom the clock is running in form of any type of litigation.

Understanding Limitation Period

Limitation Act, 1963 defines ‘Period of limitation’ under Section 2 (j). It means a period of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application under the schedule to the Limitation Act, which covers a range of claims and their timelines.

Supreme Court extends period of limitation till further notice  

The Hon’ble Supreme Court took account of Corona virus (COVID-19) and resultant difficulties that may be faced by litigants in filing their petition/ applications/ suits/ appeals etc., within the period of limitation prescribed under general law of limitation or under special laws (both Central and/ or State).

In order to obviate the above 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 Supreme Court, it was ordered by the Apex Court in the Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No(S). 3/2020 that period of limitation in all such proceedings, irrespective of the limitation prescribed under General or Special Laws, whether condonable or not shall stand extended w.e.f. March 15, 2020 till further order/s are made by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in this regard. It was also declared that the said order is a binding order within the meaning of Article 141 on all courts/ tribunals and authorities.

The Supreme Court directed that its order must be brought to the notice of all high courts, and through them, it should be communicated to all subordinate courts and tribunals in their respective jurisdictions.

Supreme Court’s order can be accessed here.

Applicability of the Supreme Court’s Order

The Apex Court of the country has specified that the extension would apply to all such proceedings for example filing of petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings irrespective of the limitation prescribed under the General law or Special Laws, whether condonable or not.

The order would have an overriding effect on all the legal regulations in the country, including IP Laws, as far as prescribed limitation period is concerned. This SC order has opened new avenues and thereby allowing legal extension to cases which are not statutorily available.

This step of the Supreme Court can be seen as an immediate relief to everyone who are due to make filings in various courts / tribunals and are unable to be physically present in court, or undertake any travel for these filings on account of the ‘lockdown’ measures.

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