May 07, 2020

SC extends period of limitation for arbitral proceedings and cheque bounce cases

[ by Legal Era News Network ]


The Supreme Court, taking into consideration the difficulty faced by lawyers and litigants during lockdown, extended the limitation period prescribed for initiating arbitral proceedings and the cheque bounce cases with effect from March 15 till further orders.

On March 23, the Top Court had invoked its plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, to extend the limitation period of appeals from High Courts or tribunals. This direction was passed after taking into consideration the outbreak of coronavirus in the country. The Court extended the same relief to litigants and lawyers for arbitral proceedings and cheque bounce cases.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Hrishikesh Roy said: “In view of this Court's earlier order dated March 23 passed in Suo Motu Writ Petition and taking into consideration the effect of the Covid-19 and resultant difficulties being faced by the lawyers and litigants and with a view to obviate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunal across the country including this court, it is hereby ordered that all periods of limitation prescribed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act 1881 shall be extended with effect from March 15, till further orders to be passed by this court in the present proceedings.”

The Apex Court observed that in case the limitation has expired after March 15, then the period from March 15 till the date on which the lockdown is lifted in the jurisdictional area where the dispute lies or where the cause of action arises, will be extended for a period of 15 days after the lifting of lockdown.

The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 provide fixed time periods to litigants to initiate arbitral proceedings and cheque dishonour cases. The proceedings become time-barred if filed after the statutory periods.

The Court took up the matter through video conferencing and issued notice on the plea that such a relief from filing cases within a particular statutory time period is extended to all legal proceedings. Earlier, the Supreme Court took suo-motu cognizance of the problems faced by lawyers and litigants due to the pandemic in filing appeals from high courts or tribunals within fixed time. The Court had extended the time by invoking its plenary powers under the Constitution.

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