COVID-19 situation has put the world into chaos and has impacted our everyday life which has directly had an effect on the ability of individuals and corporates to effectively perform their regular activities and obligations. Therefore, the Central Government has announced a countrywide lockdown for a period of 21 days i.e. from 25th March 2020 till 14th April 2020 in order to control the spreading of the pandemic within the country. In such a situation, litigants have been apprehensive and anxious with regard to their matters pending before courts and the initiation of any other matters before courts and the applicability of the Limitation Act, 1963 in this regard.
B. MEANING OF LIMITATION:
Section 2(j) of the Limitation Act, 1963, defines period of limitation as “the period of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by the Schedule” and prescribed period “means the period of limitation computed in accordance with the provisions of this Act”.
C. SUPREME COURT ORDER:
The Supreme Court of India headed by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, as on 23rd March 2020 took suo moto cognizance of the matter concerning litigants with respect to the period of limitation. Considering the fact that litigants across the country might face difficulties and challenges in filing their petitions/applications/suits/appeals and continue with their other proceedings within the limitation period as prescribed under the general law of limitation or special laws (both Central and/or State), the Supreme Court ruled that:
“…….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…….”.
Further, the Hon’ble Supreme Court by exercising its power under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India, declared that the aforementioned order shall be binding on all courts/tribunals and authorities.
D. INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE, 2016 (“Code”):
Section 238A of the Code was introduced in the Insolvency And Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Act, 2018, which clearly states that “The provisions of the Limitation Act, 1963 (36 of 1963) shall, as far as may be, apply to the proceedings or appeals before the Adjudicating Authority, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, the Debt Recovery Tribunal or the Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal, as the case may be”.
In light of the aforesaid section, it can be said the Supreme Court’s ruling on the extension of the limitation period is applicable to matters pertaining to the Code.
This is an excellent step taken by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, considering the widespread pandemic and its adverse effects on society. This order of the Supreme Court has addressed the problems and difficulties which the litigants would face with regard to the timelines specified by the Limitation Act, 1963. This decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has relaxed the obligations of litigants across India during such difficult times. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court shall pass necessary orders as it deems fit after few weeks keeping in mind the conditions prevailing at the time due to the pandemic.
Author: Jaisis Srikrishna Das, Associate.
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Updated as on April 01, 2020
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