The Supreme Court Thursday fixed September 16 for consideration the suo motu case in which it had extended the period of limitation for filing appeals from courts or tribunals by litigants until further orders on April 27 keeping in mind the alarming situation that had emerged due to second wave of COVID-19. The direction on listing of the suo motu case on extension of limitation period for hearing on September 16 was issued by a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana when a plea of Election Commission came up for consideration.
The poll panel, in its plea, has sought fixing of the timeline for filing election petitions relating to the assembly polls of Assam, Kerala, Delhi, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, saying that the apex court's direction on extension of limitation period has led to a situation where it cannot order re-use of the EVMs and VVPAT machines in upcoming polls. Senior lawyer Vikas Singh, appearing for the poll panel, said the EVMs, and VVPAT machines are lying unused as they have to be preserved as evidence if any election petition is filed in connection with the assembly polls in six states as the limitation period is not running against the probable petitioners.
I think now the order (extending the limitation indefinitely) needs to be recalled now, Singh said, referring to the easing of COVID situation. We will take the call on all the matters, said the bench which also comprised justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose.
Heard Senior counsel/learned counsel appearing for the parties. The Registry is directed to list the main matter viz. Suo Motu Writ Petition… along with all the applications on Thursday, the 16th September, it said in the order. Taking note of the onset of the second COVID wave, the CJI-led bench, on April 27, 2021, had relaxed the statutory period for filing petitions, including the election petitions, under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Observing that resurgence of COVID-19 cases has put the litigants in a 'difficult situation, the bench had then extended all periods of limitation ending on March 14, 2021 until further orders. Prior to this, the top court on March 8 had noted that the country is "returning to normalcy and had decided to end the extension of the limitation period which was granted for filing appeals in March, 2020 to litigants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The apex court had on March 23 last year invoked its plenary power under Article 142 of the Constitution to extend the limitation period of appeals from courts or tribunals on account of the pandemic with effect from March 15, 2020. The top court had been extending the limitation period by interim orders and finally decided to put an end to this keeping in mind the improved situation in the country and the fact that courts have started functioning on March 8 this year.