The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India vide order dated 13.07.2020 extended the time limit to pass an arbitral award as well as for the completion of the statement of claim and defence under Section 29A and 23(4) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 respectively.
The time limit was also extended for an additional period of 45 days after the lockdown is uplifted, for completing the process of compulsory pre-litigation, mediation and settlement under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
The said order was passed in a suo moto writ petition (Suo Moto Writ Petition (C) NO. 3/2020) issued by the Hon’ble Apex Court in reference to the extension of the limitation period for certain acts during the lockdown in view of COVID-19 or in case the time to perform such act was to expire during the lockdown.
Attorney General K.K Venugopal in reference to the Apex Court orders dated 23.03.2020 and 06.05.2020 for extension of all limitation periods under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 stated that Section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 did not prescribe a period of limitation but fixes a time to do certain acts.
The Coram comprising of Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice A.S. Bopanna in reference to the same, held that the former orders dated 23.03.2020 and 06.05.2020 shall also apply to the extension of time limit for passing arbitral award under Section 29A of the said Act. Also, the Hon’ble Bench extended the time limit for the completion of the statement of claim and defence.
The Apex Court then took the issue of the mode of service of all summons, exchange of pleadings and notices during the period of lockdown and thereby held that services of all the above may now be effected via e-mail, FAX, commonly used instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal etc. Additionally, the Coram stated that in case a party intended to effect service by means of said instant messaging services, it must also effect service of the same document/documents by e-mail, simultaneously on the same date.
Refusing to interfere with the period prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India for extension of validity of a cheque, the Hon’ble Supreme Court stated as follows, “the period of validity of a cheque be extended, we find that the said period has not been prescribed by any Statute but it is a period prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India under Section 35-A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. We do not consider it appropriate to interfere with the period prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India, particularly, since the entire banking system functions on the basis of the period so prescribed.”
The petition was accordingly disposed of.