Supreme Court allows sending notices or summons by Whatsapp, email or fax
The economic impact of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in India has been largely disruptive. The lockdown though necessary has led to a disastrous impact on the economy. The Covid-19 pandemic has also severely impacted courtroom procedures and the conduct of litigation around the world. The Government of India announced a variety of measures to tackle the situation, from food security and extra funds for healthcare and for the states, to sector related incentives and tax deadline extensions. In a move to ease the service of summons and notices amidst the coronavirus background, the Supreme Court on 10th July, 2020 decided to use technology in their judicial proceedings.
During an earlier hearing on the matter on July 7, the Attorney General contended before the top court that the Centre had some reservations in connection with the utilization of mobile applications like WhatsApp and other apps for service of summons. The Centre`s top law officer informed the apex court that these apps claimed to be encrypted, and they were not trustworthy.
A bench was headed by Chief Justice and it was observed that it had been brought to the notice of the court that it was not feasible to visit post offices for service of notices, summons, and pleadings.
How are notices and summons currently issued?
Where any Act requires a notice, summon or other document to be issued, such notice or other document shall be issued in paper form or communicated in electronic form by that authority in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed.
What would sending/receiving notices by Whatsapp entail?
- The Apex Court allowed the service of summons and notices, a necessity in almost all legal proceedings, through instant messenger like WhatsApp as well as by e-mail and fax.
- Notices and summons should be sent through e-mail on the same day along with instant message through WhatsApp and other phone messenger services.
- All methods should be deployed for a valid service on the party.
- Two blue ticks would convey that the receiver has seen the notice. The “blue ticks” would prove the service of the court’s notices under the Evidence Act and if the application is deactivated then it cannot be proven and hence such services can be used.
- The bench declined the request of the Attorney General for specifically naming WhatsApp as a mode of effectuating service.
- The Apex court noted that it would not be practical to specify only WhatsApp.
Extension of validity of cheques by RBI
- RBI counsel had contended before the top court that it was considering clarifying the validity of a cheque which has been reduced to 3 months from 6 months.
- On the extension of limitation period for filing of cheque dishonor cases under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, the SC said that it will not intervene into this and the time period can be extended by the RBI only.
- Supreme court also permitted RBI to extend the validity of cheques in the backdrop of lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
- Senior advocate representing RBI informed the bench that he had circulated the note regarding validity of a cheque as directions issued on the previous hearing.
- The bench noted that it will be in discretion of the RBI to issue orders which are suitable to alter the validity of the period of a cheque.
Benefit provided earlier by the SC by extending limitation period
The Supreme Court on 23rd of March, 2020 suo moto passed a writ petition on extension of the period of limitation. In a time where social distancing is being preached to mitigate the issue of the pandemic, litigants across the country were facing problems in filing their petitions/applications/suits/appeals/all other proceedings within the period of limitation prescribed under the general law of limitation or under Special Laws (both Central and/or State). To eliminate such difficulties and to ensure that lawyers/litigants do not have to come physically to file such proceedings in respective Courts/Tribunals across the country, the period of limitation in all such proceedings, was extended w.e.f. 15th March 2020 by the apex court.