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Law No. 5 of 1985 of the Civil Code contains general rules in relation to limitation periods for filing a case in Dubai Courts. Whilst there are several statues containing specific limitation periods for different types of disputes, there is no single rule as to what triggers a limitation period. In some cases, such as employment disputes, the limitation period commences from the end of termination of the relevant contract.

Type of ClaimTime-Barred (Years) in DubaiTime-Barred (Years) in India
Contract Disputes1503
Commercial Contracts that are subject to the Commercial Code1003
Disputes relating to cheques0330 days to send a legal notice for cheque bounce (3 years for other cheque related disputes i.e. fraud)
Insurance disputes0303
Torts causing harm031 (3 if exceptional circumstances)
Building contracts (defects)1003
Carriage of goods by sea0101
Employment-related disputes0103

Unlike with the Civil Code of UAE, the Limitation Act of 1963 in India does not allow for such an expansive view. India appears to have a blanket provision of 3 years for most claims and a few exceptions here and there on a situational basis. While in the UAE, wherever a limitation period is not prescribed for a certain claim, the common view is that a claimant has 15 years to file, unless the courts have stipulated otherwise.

Did Covid-19 impact the limitation periods?

In Dubai, there have been little to no adverse effects on the law or how the courts run due to the Virus. In contrast India has suffered a significant blow due to the negative effects of the Virus in their society and their economy. Lawyers/litigants were unable to physically attend court to file proceedings and as a result Chief Justice S.A. Bobde of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India issued an order (also known as “suo moto” ), exercising the extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India lifting the period of limitation in all proceedings under a general and special law, whether or not its delay is condonable, with effect from the 15th of March 2020 until further notice. It was clarified in Sagufa Ahmed v Upper Assam Plywood Products Ltd that the suo moto order was meant only to extend the “prescribed period” of Limitation and not any period beyond the “prescribed period”. That the implication of such an order was that the period of limitation stopped running and it would be resumed from the date which will be notified by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

For instance, if an order was passed by a lower Court on the 10th of March, the period to file an appeal to the concerned High Court is 30 days from then. As the limitation period has been suspended on the 15th of March, the aggrieved party will still have 25 days to file the appeal once the Courts reopen.

Additionally, there is now an option of e-filling and video conferencing provided the Judge is satisfied with the reasons for urgency.

But why do limitation periods matter?

The Limitation Act is a procedural enactment. The object of the statute is based on the Legal Maxim “Vigilantibus non-dorminetibus jura subveniunt”, meaning “the law comes to the assistance of the vigilant”. Limitation periods exist to bring certainty and finality in litigation and to avoid parties disputing over historical events which may risk an unfair trial due to inaccurate recollection or loss of valuable evidence necessary for both a claimant and a defendant.

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