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As the famous saying goes “Justice delayed is Justice denied”. The Limitation Act puts a limitation on suits, appeals and applications. If any of these are made beyond the period of limitation i.e. within the period that the plaintiff needs to file the same, the Court has full authority to not proceed with such suit, appeal or application.
The Act extends to the whole of India except State of Jammu & Kashmir. It came into force on 1st January, 1964.
IMPORTANT PROVISIONS IN THE ACT.
Section 3 – Bar of Limitation.
This section states that any suit, appeal or application has to be filed within the stipulated time period as provided under law. If delayed, the Court has the right to not proceed with such a case. The provisions of this section are mandatory.
Exceptions to the Bar of Limitation:
Sections 4, 5 & 6 provide for the exceptions to bar of limitation.
Section 4 – Expiry of period when Court is closed.
If it so happens that the period of limitation expires on a day when the Court is closed, then the suit, appeal or application can be instituted or preferred or made on a day when the Court reopens.
Section 5 – Sufficient Cause.
Any appeal or application can be admitted after the prescribed period, if the applicant is able to satisfy the Court that he had a reasonable cause because of which he was not able to file appeal or application within the specified time allotted.
It is, however, important to note that this section applies to only APPEALS & APPLICATIONS, NOT TO SUITS.
Section 6 – Persons under legal disability.
General rule of law is that the limitation period begins to run from the date of cause of action. But in case of persons who are disabled i.e. legally disabled (e.g. minority, insanity or idiocy) the period of limitation begins to run from the cessation of disability.
DOCTRINE OF SUFFICIENT CAUSE. (in detail)
Section 5 of the Limitation Act allows for the extension of prescribed period in certain cases on sufficient causes being shown for delay. This is known as the Doctrine of Sufficient Cause.
The section states that any appeal or any application may be admitted after the prescribed period of limitation, if the appellant or the applicant satisfies the Court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or making the application within such period.
It is specifically stated that the section applies only to Appeals & APPLICATIONS. It does not apply to Complaints OR Suits. The reason for the non-applicability of the Section to suits or complaints is because, that the period of limitation allowed in most of the suits extends from 3 to 12 years whereas in case of appeals and applications it does not exceed 6 months.
Examples: What is sufficient cause and what is not, may be explained from the below judicial observations.
- Wrong practice of High Court which in turn misled the appellant or his counsel in not filing the appeal, was regarded as sufficient cause under Section 5.
- Wrong advice given by advocate can give rise to sufficient cause in certain cases.
- Imprisonment of the party or serious illness of the party may be considered for delay.
- Time taken for obtaining certified copies of the decree of the judgment necessary to accompany the appeal or application was considered for condoning delay.
- Mistake of law.
LEGAL DISABILITY (in detail)
Law of limitation relating to legally disabled persons is explained below:
- If the person who wants to file a suit or make an application, is a minor or insane at the time of cause of action, in such a case the limitation period will start to run when the disability ceases.
- In case, if one disability is followed by another disability, in succession then the limitation period will begin to run once all the legal disabilities cease.
- If a legal disability continues up to death of a person, the period of limitation will run for the legal representative (who is not legally disabled) from the date of death.
Section 7 – Disability of one of several persons.
Section 7 is an application of the principle in Section 6 to a joint right which is inherited to persons wherein some or all of whom are under legal disability. The disability of all except one does not prevent the running of time, if the discharge can be given without the concurrence of the other. Otherwise the time will run only when the disability is removed.
Section 8 – In cases where the application of Sections 6 or 7 result in extension of the limitation period, such extension is not be more than 3 years after the cessation of the disability.
BARRING REMEDY NOT RIGHT
The Law of Limitation is based on equitable principle that equity helps the diligent but not the indolent. It includes the claimants to be prompt in claiming relief.
The law of limitation bars the remedy only after limitation period has expired, but it does not extinguish a right on which the suit has to be based. In all personal actions the right subsists although the remedy is no longer available. If, therefore, a creditor, whose debt becomes statute is barred, has any means of realizing and enforcing claim by any method except by a suit, the Limitation Act does not prevent him from recovering his debt by such means.
Thus, if a time barred debt is settled outside Court, it is not illegal. If the debtor without being aware of bar of time pays debt, he cannot sue the creditor to refund the money paid to him on the ground of recovery being time barred.
Example: Pushti owes Riya a sum of Rs. 5,00,000. The debt is barred because of the limitation period being expired. The Court shall dismiss the suit if filed by Riya for the recovery of the debt after the period of limitation (i.e. after 3 years). However, if Pushti pays Riya the amount even after the same has been barred, the payment would be a valid one.
CONTINUOUS RUNNING OF TIME.
Time for limitation starts to run when action accrues. However, certain exceptions were provided in Sections 4-8.
Section 4 provides that if the period prescribed expires on a day when the Court is closed, the application etc, may be made on the day , the Court reopens. As per Section 5 condonation of delay is allowed on sufficient grounds. Sections 6, 7 & 8 allow extension of time in certain cases of disability.
Section 9 – Continuous running of time.
Once a period of limitation starts no subsequent disability or inability can stop it. The applicability of Section9 is limited to suits and applications and does not apply to appeals unless the case fell within any of the exceptions provided in the Act itself. Section 9 applies when the cause of action or right to move the Court continues to exist on the date of making the application. Thus, the time runs, when the cause of action accrues. Thus, once time has begun, no subsequent disability or inability stops it.
COMPUTATION OF PERIOD OF LIMITATION.
Limitation period for different types of suits, appeal and application: Students advised to see the Schedule of the Limitation Act, 1963. Summary of limitation period prescribed in the Schedule is given below:
|Suits relating to accounts||3years|
|Suits relating to contracts||3years|
|Suits relating to declarations||3years|
|Suits relating to decrees and instruments||3years|
|Suit by a mortgagor to redeem or recover the possession of immovable property mortgaged.||30years|
|Suit by a mortgage for foreclosure||30years|
|Other suits relating to immovable property||12years|
|Suits relating to movable property||3years|
|Suits relating to tort (i.e. false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, libel, slander)||1year|
|Other suits relating to tort 3years||3years|
|Suits relating to trusts and trust property||12years|
|For arrears of rent||3years|
|By a surety against principal debtors||3years|
|Wages to a seaman||3years|
|Wages due to other employees||3years|
|For leave to appear and defend a suit under summary procedure.||10days|
What period is excluded while computing limitation period
The Limitation Act, 1963 makes specific provisions for exclusion of certain time in some cases for computation of the prescribed period. These provisions are as follows:
- The limitation period of any suit, appeal or application is to be computed exclusive of the day on which the time begins to run.
- The day on which the judgment is pronounced and the time required for obtaining a copy of the decree, sentence or order appealed from or sought to be revised shall be excluded.
- The time required for obtaining copy of judgment is excluded from computation.
- Civil proceeding relating to the matter in issue had been instituted in a Court which is unable to entertain it, by lack of jurisdiction or by any other like cause shall be excluded.
- Exclusion of time in certain cases ( Sections 15 & 16 )
- If suit or application for the execution of a decree had been stayed by an injunction or order then such period of injunction shall be excluded.
- Time required for obtaining the sanction of the Government shall be excluded.
EFFECT OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Effect of acknowledgement (Section 18):
Following requirements which should be present for a valid acknowledgement:
- There shall be admission or acknowledgement.
- Such admission must be of some existing liability in respect of a property or right.
- It must be made in writing and signed by the party against whom such property or right is claimed, and
- It must be made before the expiry of period of limitation.
If all the above conditions are satisfied, a fresh period of limitation shall be computed from the time when the acknowledgement was signed.
The law of limitation prescribes the time within which a person can enforce his legal right. This Act keeps a check on the cases so that they are not dragged for over a long time in the court of law. This Act also recognizes the fact that there are situations when persons instituting a suit or preferring an appeal for a genuine cause are unable to institute a suit within the time prescribed in the Act and the same criteria cannot be applied to every situation and because of this there are also exceptions stated in the Act.