While hearing the suo motu case on extending limitation of statutes due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, the Supreme Court today allowed for summons and notices to be served through email, fax and instant messaging applications.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices R Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna passed the order after hearing submissions by Attorney General KK Venugopal. The AG stated that the government was “not comfortable” with service of summons and notices through WhatsApp because it was “a completely encrypted platform”.
The Bench thus ordered that notices and summons, which are an “integral part of court proceedings”, can be served through email, fax and instant messaging application.
When Attorney General Venugopal urged the Bench to use the phrase “namely WhatsApp” to specify the messaging apps for summons in its order, the Bench refused, stating it would not commit the mistake that was done when a company name like ‘Xerox’ replaced the word “photo copying”.
After the Attorney General sought a minor modification in Section 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act with regard to limitation, the Apex Court has now ordered that “arbitral proceedings need to be completed within 12 months.”
Further, the Court said that the limitation fixed for pre-mediation settlement under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act would be extended to the date of lifting of lockdown plus 45 days. The Court stated,
“We state that this period will be extended till the lockdown is lifted plus 45 days. After the period has expired, no further extension will be granted.”
Regarding extending the limitation period for validity of cheques under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, the Court refused to intervene in the domain of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The Court thus stated,
“Under Section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act, we don’t consider appropriate to interfere in the deadline prescribed by RBI. If RBI considers to extend, then they can do it.”