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Covid surge: SC restores limitation extension, March 15, 2020- Feb 28, 2022 excluded (Lead)

New Delhi, Jan 10 (IANS) Against the backdrop of a surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the extension of limitation period for filing of cases and applications in courts and tribunals.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant, in its order, said: "The order dated March 23, 2020, is restored and in continuation of the subsequent orders dated March 8, 2021, April 27, 2021, and September 23, 2021, it is directed that the period from March 15, 2020 till February 28, 2022 shall stand excluded for the purposes of limitation as may be prescribed under any general or special laws in respect of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings."

The bench added that consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on October 3, 2021, if any, shall become available with effect from March 1, 2022. "In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between March 15, 2020 till February 28, 2022, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from March 1, 2022. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from March 1, 2022 is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply," added the bench.

The top court clarified that the period from March 15, 2020 till February 28, 2022 would "also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections 23 (4) and 29 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, Section 12 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 Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) had moved the top court seeking restoration of a March 2020 order through which the court had directed the suspension of the limitation period against the backdrop of difficulties faced by the litigants amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

SCAORA President, advocate Shivaji Jadhav submitted that Covid cases have been increasing across the country over the past few days and urged the court to restore the limitation extension orders. Attorney General K.K. Venugopal supported the SCAORA plea.

The SCAORA's application contended that there has been a drastic change in the Covid pandemic situation, in the view of a new variant, more particularly Omicron. The plea added that considering the alarming rise in the Covid cases, it becomes necessary to restore the relaxation with regard to the period of limitation.