Supreme Court to lift suo moto extension of limitation period

On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court (“SC”) had taken suo moto cognizance of the situation having arisen due to COVID-19 pandemic. To obviate the difficulties being faced by lawyers who could not come physically to the courts to file proceedings, the SC exercised its extraordinary powers under Article 142 read with Article 141 of the Constitution of India, 1950 and thereby, had extended the period of limitation with effect from March 15, 2020, for filing petitions, applications, suits, appeals and all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under special laws in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020, i.e. cognizance for extension of limitation.

Further, on June 19, 2020 a three (3) judge bench of the SC comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah in Ansar v. State of UP; CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 452 of 2020, held that the aforementioned order could not be interpreted in a manner so as to amount to an extension of the period for filing charge-sheet under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

In furtherance of the same, the SC on March 8, 2021 ended the extension of limitation period under various laws such as the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and Commercial Court Act, 2015 granted in the aforementioned order. According to the order passed by a three (3) -judge bench of the SC, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justices L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat, the following directions were passed:

(i) In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on March 15, 2020, if any, shall become available with effect from March 15, 2021.

(ii) In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between March 15, 2020 till March 14, 2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of ninety (90) days from March 15, 2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from March 15, 2021, is greater than ninety (90) days, that longer period shall apply.

(iii) The period from March 15, 2020 till March 14, 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.

(iv) The SC directed the Government of India to amend the guidelines for containment zones and allow regulated movement 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.

This update is by Shambhavi Singh, Advocate & Associate at Agarwal Jetley & Co., Advocates & Solicitors. Contact: Email: or Mob: (+91) - 9650424966