Extension of limitation period prescribed under various laws (specifically VAT laws) qua litigation proceedings
Considering COVID-19 pandemic, the Central Government passed the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation of Certain Provisions) Ordinance, 2020 (‘Ordinance’) on March 31, 2020. The Ordinance has extended the due dates prescribed under various Central Indirect Tax laws namely the Central Excise Act, 1944, the Customs Act, 1962, the Customs Tariff Act, 1975, the Finance Act, 1994 and the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
Regarding litigation proceedings i.e. filing of any appeal, application, etc., the Ordinance provided that if due date falls between March 20, 2020 to June 29, 2020, then the same shall be extended to June 30, 2020. Notably, the Ordinance extending limitation period qua litigation proceedings, was applicable only to Central Indirect Tax laws.
No similar ordinance / amendment / order was passed to extend the due dates for litigation proceedings in relation to the State enactments like the State VAT Acts. Thus, there was no legislative extension of limitation period prescribed under the various State VAT Acts qua litigation proceedings.
In this context, it is important to note Order dated March 23, 2020 passed by the Supreme Court in suo-moto Writ Petition (Civil) No. 03/2020 (‘Order’). This Order was passed in terms of the powers granted to the Supreme Court under Article 141 read with Article 142 of the Constitution of India. Vide this Order, Supreme Court took suo-moto cognizance of difficulties faced by litigants due to the prevalent COVID-19 pandemic and directed as under:
- The time period prescribed for filing any appeal / petition / application / suit / all other proceedings is extended (‘litigation proceedings’);
- The extension will apply to all the laws prevalent in India; and
- The extension shall apply e.f. March 15, 2020 till further orders of the Apex Court.
Hence, the time period prescribed for all litigation proceedings has been extended w.e.f. March 15, 2020 till further orders of the Apex Court. This shall apply in relation to all the laws and for any proceedings before any Courts, Tribunals, Appellate and Adjudicating authorities across India.
Post this Order, there is no requirement for any such specific extension under any of the State enactments which were not covered under the Ordinance.
This extension shall apply only for the remaining time period as on March 14, 2020.
Notably, the Order and the Ordinance need to be read conjunctively and the later date (as per the Order or the Ordinance) will be considered as the expiry of limitation period qua the litigation proceedings.