Extension of Limitation period: A Logical Decision in the face of Pandemic by The Supreme Court of India

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In the case for “Cognizance for period of Limitation In re in Suo Motu Writ Petition No. 3 of 2020”, the Order dated March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court of India took the ‘suo-moto’ cognizance of the circumstances due to the Covid-19 Virus and its consequences faced by the petitioners across the nation. The limitation period for the order passed on March 23rd, 2020 was effective from March 15, 2020 up to March 14, 2021.

The Honorable Court issued an Order to extend the limitation period with certain restrictions, on March 8, 2021, The Indian Patent Office, abiding by the Order passed by the Honorable Court, extended the limitation period of all pending litigations along with certain norms, based on the observation that the country was slowly returning to normalcy. The Controller General of Patents, designs and Trademarks issued a notice elaborating that:

  • The cases whose limitation periods had expired during the period between March 15, 2020 and March 14, 2021, will have an extended period of 90 days. However, if the actual balance period is beyond 90 days, the longer period will apply.
  • Further the period from March 15, 2020 to March 14, 2021 shall remain excluded in computing the limitation period for the pending cases in the above mentioned time frame.

However, due to a sudden surge in the number of Covid patients and Covid related deaths in the country, a writ petition was filed April 22, 2021. Due to the unprecedented high intensity of the second wave of Covid in India, the Hon’ble Court took into consideration the difficulties encountered by the petitioners for filing petitions/suits/applications/appeals or completing any other proceedings within the limited period as prescribed under the Law, and extended the corresponding period of limitation. This petition was taken up Suo moto for hearing by the Supreme Court.

The Honorable Court reconsidered the order passed on March 08, 2021, and passed an Order on April 27, 2021. The Supreme Court took suo-moto cognizance of the second wave of COVID situation in the country, based on the provisions laid out in the article 141 and 142 of the Constitution of India. The Article 142(1) states: “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament.” (Emphasis added). The Article emphasizes that the Supreme Court has the power to issue orders to rectify the shortcomings in the statute based on the circumstances, so as to provide “complete justice” in any matter pending before it. And the Article 141 implies that the law declared by the Supreme Court is applicable to all courts in India until further orders are issued.

Accordingly, in the order dated April 27, 2021, in continuation to the order dated 8th March, 2021, the Supreme Court extended the limitation of all judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings until further orders. Further, the Honorable Court clarified that the period from 14th March, 2021 onwards shall be excluded for computing the periods for various proceedings, till further orders are issued.

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