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Limitation and COVID19

Limitation during Covid 19 - What the Supreme court says

In this podcast we take up the various orders passed by the Apex court dealing with the extension of limitation wef 15.03.2020 on account of COVID 19. The orders under reference are Order dated 23.03.2020  [(2020-3)199 PLR 110 (SC), 2020 SCeJ 944],  Order dated 06.05.2020, [(2020-3)199 PLR 111 (SC), 2020 SCeJ 945], Order dated 10.07.2020 [(2020-4)200 PLR 102 (SC), 2020 SCeJ 1702] passed in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020 and Judgment dated 18.09.2020 reported as [(2020-4)200 PLR 102 (SC), 2020 SCeJ 1705]

 

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Judgment : 18.09.2020

Reported : 20.09.2020

Limitation - 

Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020, 

#2020 SCeJ 944, (2020-3)199 PLR 110 (SC)

 

 

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What was extended by the order of this Court dated 23.03.2020 passed in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020  (2020 SCeJ 944, (2020-3)199 PLR 110 (SC)) was only "the period of limitation" and not the period upto which delay can be condoned in exercise of discretion conferred by the statute – Copy taken on 19.12.2019 – 45 days to file the appeal under Section 421(3) of the Companies Act, 2013 expired on 02.02.2020 – Under proviso to section 421(3), Appellate Tribunal was empowered to condone the delay upto a period of 45 days -  This period of 45 days started running from 02.02.2020 and it expired on 18.03.2020 - The appellants did not file the appeal on or before 18.03.2020, but filed it on 20.07.2020 – Order in in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020  was passed on 23.03.2020 that “ 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”  - The above order passed by this Court was intended to benefit vigilant litigants who were prevented due to the pandemic and the lockdown, from initiating proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed by general or special law – What was extended by the above order of this Court was only "the period of limitation" and not the period upto which delay can be condoned in exercise of discretion (as prescribed in Proviso to Section 421(3) where discretion was given to the tribunal to entertain the appeal within an additional 45 days)  conferred by the statute.  (2020-4)200 Punjab Law Reporter  105 (SC)

 

Facts: It is true, that the period of limitation of 45 days prescribed in Section 421(3) of the Companies Act, 2013, would start running only from the date on which a copy of the order of the Tribunal is made available to the person aggrieved - Under Section 420(3) of the Companies Act read with Rule 50 of the National Company Law Tribunal Rules, 2016, the appellants were entitled to be furnished with a certified copy of the order free of cost -  If the appellants had chosen not to file a copy application, but to await the receipt of a free copy of the order in terms of Section 420(3) read with Rule 50, they would be perfectly justified in falling back on Section 421(3), for fixing the date from which limitation would start running -  But the appellants chose to apply for a certified copy after 27 days of the pronouncement of the order in their presence and they now fall back upon Section 421(3) -  Despite the above factual position, we do not want to hold against the appellants, the fact that they waited from 25.10.2019 (the date of the order of NCLT) upto 21.11.2019, to make a copy application -  But atleast from 19.12.2019, the date on which a certified copy was admittedly received by the counsel for the appellants, the period of limitation cannot be stopped from running -  From 19.12.2019, the date on which the counsel for the appellants received the copy of the order, the appellants had a period of 45 days to file an appeal. This period expired on 02.02.2020 - By virtue of the proviso to Section 421(3), the Appellate Tribunal was empowered to condone the delay upto a period of period of 45 days. This period of 45 days started running from 02.02.2020 and it expired on 18.03.2020 - The appellants did not file the appeal on or before 18.03.2020, but filed it on 20.07.2020 - It is relevant to note that the lock down was imposed only on 24.03.2020 and there was no impediment for the appellants to file the appeal on or before 18.03.2020.

 

 

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Limitation Act, 1877 (15 of 1877) Section 4 -  "prescribed period"  - In the order dated 23.03.2020 passed in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020 it was 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 “ - What was extended by the order of this Court dated 23.03.2020 was only "the period of limitation" and not the period upto which delay can be condoned in exercise of discretion conferred by the statute.   (2020-4)200 Punjab Law Reporter  105 (SC)

 

Limitation  - Law of limitation finds its root in two latin maxims, one of which is Vigilantibus Non Dormientibus Jura Subveniunt which means that the law will assist only those who are vigilant about their rights and not those who sleep over them.  (2020-4)200 Punjab Law Reporter  105 (SC)