No Court can grant any extension of limitation against the provisions of the act: High Court of Chhattisgarh

Any extension cannot be granted by the court beyond the time period mentioned as a limitation in the enactment. This is to ensure that the cases do not get piled on and an justice is delivered efficiently. This was decreed by the Hon’ble Justice Shri Rajendra Chandra Singh Samant in the case of Prakash Corporates Vs. Dee Vee Projects Limited [W.P.(227) No.312 of 2021] on the 09th of July 2021 before the Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur.

The brief facts of the case are, the respondent has filed a Civil Suit before the criminal court. The petitioner/defendant received the summons on 6th January, 2021. The time for filing written statement was extended for 120 days which got expired on 06.05.2021. The case was listed on 15.04.2021 and on that date the case was fixed for arguments on the application under Section 10 read with Section 151 of C.P.C. and application under Order 38 Rule 5 read with Section 151 of C.P.C., on 22.06.2021. No last opportunity was given by the Commercial Court to the petitioner for filing of written statement and on 06.05.2021, the Court was closed due to the imposition of lock-down in corona pandemic control measure. In the impugned order, the learned Commercial Court has held that according to the proviso under Order VIII Rule 1 of C.P.C. incorporated in Commercial Courts Act, after the expiry of 120 days from the date of service of summons, the right of defendants to file written statement stands forfeited and therefore, the opportunity of filing written statement by the petitioner was closed. This petition under Article 227 of Constitution of India has been brought being aggrieved by the order dated 22.06.2021 passed in Civil Suit by which the opportunity of the petitioner/defendants for filing written statement was closed.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the trial court in its order was erroneous since, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has in Suo-moto Writ (Civil) No.-03 of 2020 has ordered that while computing the period of limitation prescribed in general law and special Acts, the period between 15.03.2020 to 14.03.2021 shall stand excluded. On 27.04.2021, the suspension of limitation under general or special laws was further extended and the matter was listed for 19.07.2021. Hence, on the basis of this order of the Supreme Court, the limitation that has been counted without taking into consideration of the period of lock-down.  The counsel for the respondent submitted that, the petitioner has still not filed any written statement. He also submitted that, the order in Sou-moto is only for the purpose of extension of period of limitation and not to condone the delay. The time provided for filing of reply is prescribed period and therefore, this has to be not a limitation, which is not covered under the order of Suo-moto Writ (Civil) No.03 of 2020. It is further submitted that the petitioner was granted sufficient time for filing of written statement and on the date fixed, the Courts was not closed. The grounds taken for non-submission of reply are baseless.

The learned judge heard the contentions of both the parties. The court relied on the judgement in Sagufa Ahmed & Ors. Vs. Upper Assam Polywood Products Private Limited & Ors. (2021) 2 SCC 317, Wherein, the court held, “But we do not think that the appellants can take refuge under the above order in Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, In re. 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 conferred by the statute. 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. It is needless to point out that the law of limitation finds its root in two latin maxims, one of which is vigilantibus et 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.”

Using this rationale, the court dismissed the petition and decreed that, “taking into consideration the view settled by the Supreme Court and the applicability of the order of Supreme Court in Suo-moto Writ (Civil) No.03 of 2020, the glaring fact present in this case is this, that the petitioners have till date not filed any written statement, the prescribed time for filing written statement and the time which can be extended by the Court both have expired. The case was fixed for hearing on 22.06.2021 even on that date, the petitioner was not ready and prepared to file the written statement, therefore, it appears to be a case in which the petitioner is making a prayer for extension of limitation. No Court can grant any extension of limitation against the provisions of the enactment under which the case is being considered and heard.”

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