The Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association (SCAORA) has moved the Supreme Court seeking extension of limitation period for filing petitions, applications, suits and appeals under all general and special laws before the Courts and Tribunals in view of the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases across the Country.
The SCAORA seeks directions from the Court to restore its previous order dated March 23.03.2020, passed in a Suo-Motu writ by which it had extended the limitation period for filing of cases before the Courts and Tribunals across the nation.
The application has stated that,
“it is a well-known fact that the vaccination process and procedure has been limited to certain age group and each and every eight section of the society is yet to get back Senate it and considering the alarming rate at which there is a rise in the mortality rate due to Covid and also the rise in the new cases, it becomes necessary to restore the relaxation with regard to the period of limitation as had been considered earlier by this Hon’ble Court.”
The pleas said that,
“The Hon’ble Court had by order dated 23.03.2020 had taken Suo Motu cognizance of the situation arising out of the challenge faced by the country on account of Covid-19 Virus and resultant difficulties that may be faced by litigants across the country in filing their petitions/applications/suits/ appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under Special Laws (both Central and/or State).”
The Association said that the Hon’ble Court by its Order dated dated 08.03.2021, had finally disposed of the suo motu proceedings & finally observed as under:
“We have considered the suggestions of the learned Attorney General for India regarding the future course of action. We deem it appropriate to issue the following directions:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.”
The Lawyers Association has submitted that after the passing of the above order there has been a considerable and instrumental change in the circumstances all across the country with regard to the Covid cases and the same has taken a serious turn and has also affected the movement of the general public at large and in so far as the legal activities in the Delhi NCR region is concerned the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi had by way of emergent notification suspended all the physical hearings before itself and the courts subordinate to it used upon the daily surge in the Covid cases.
“That current covid-19 case growth rate of 6.8% in March 2021 has surpassed the previous record of 5.5% (June 2020). The country also reported 5.5% growth rate in daily covid-19 deaths in this period. While India was reporting about 97,000 daily new covid-19 cases at the peak of the pandemic in September 2020, the country has now reached the critical figure 81,000 daily new cases of coronavirus with 11 “states of grave concern” contributing to the maximum burden of the disease,” it said.
The Lawyers body has further submitted that it cannot be disputed that the public health is of utmost importance and therefore the issue of limitation which may arise in certain cases is required to be relaxed in the light of the present situation. Therefore, the association seeks to allow the present application by restoring the order dated 23.03.2020 passed by the Hon’ble Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition (C) NO. 3 of 2020.