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Meaning and nature of the law of limitation

  1. ‘Laws of Limitation bars the remedy but does not extinguish the right.’ Elucidate
  2. Is law of limitation lex fori?
  3. Distinguish between limitation and prescription.
  4. Explain the object of the Law of Limitation and salient features of the Limitation Act.

The word limitation itself says the meaning. The word limitation in its literal term means a restriction or the rule or circumstances which are limited. The law of limitation has been prescribed as the time limit which is given for different suits or appeal or application to the aggrieved person within which they can approach the court for redress or justice. The basic concept of limitation is relating to fixing or prescribing of the time period for barring legal actions. According to Section 2 (j) of the Limitation Act, 1963, ‘period of limitation’ means the period of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by the Schedule, and ‘prescribed period’ means the period of limitation computed in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

The Law of Limitation signifies to prevent from the last date for different legal actions which can take place against an aggrieved person and to advance the suit and seek remedy or righteous before the court. Where a suit is initiated after the bar of limitation, it will be hit by the law of limitation. The main and the fundamental aim of the law of limitation is to protect the lengthy process of penalizing a person indirectly without doing any offence. The law relating to Law of Limitation to India is the Limitation Act, 1859 and subsequently Limitation Act, 1963 which was enacted on 5th of October, 1963 and which came into force from 1st of January, 1964 for the purpose of consolidating and amending the legal principles relating to limitation of suits and other legal proceedings.

According to the provisions provided under the Act, it is the litigation which is initiated, the Appeal which is entertained and the application which are made after the specified term shall be dismissed even though the limitation is not raised as a defence. It is a suit which is initiated when the suit is instituted to any of an appropriate officer in a normal case and where the person is a pauper. In other circumstances a suit is initiated when the application for leave to file a suit as a pauper is made and where the cases relating to the allegation which is against the company that is being wound up by a court, where the applicant initially sent his assertions to the official liquidator. Where the assertion is made in a form of set off or counterclaim, it shall be deemed as a separate litigation. In the case of set off it shall also be considered to have initiated on the date on which the preceding for set off is pleaded. It can be said that in a case of additional claim a suit shall be instituted within the same date on which the counterclaim has been made. With this a request by notice of motion is made in the High Court when the application is provided to the appropriate officer of that particular Court. When a court is closed on the expiry date for filing any suit or appeal or application, it may be initiated on the reopening day of the court. An appeal or application shall be admitted by the court after the specified period if the litigant convinces to the court showing sufficient cause for the failure to prepare an appeal or application within the specified period then the court can admit his appeal or application. It is the duty of a litigant to give appropriate cause for his failure for the filling of a suit appeal or application. Beside all this, it is the act which provides that where a person who is having an authority to file any suit or to make any request for the execution of defence is a minor or insane or an idiot during the specified time of filing is to be considered. He may file a suit or application which shall be filed within the same time after his disability has come to an end, or at the time during which the specified term is to be considered he may initiate the legal actions or applications within the same term after disabilities have come to an end. If the incapacity or disability continues of that person till his death, the legal representatives can initiate the legal actions or make any application after his death within the same period. As provided under the Act, the legal disability shall not apply to any suits which are filed for the right of pre-emption. The limitation period is to be extended for a period of three years and not more.

While calculating the limitation period for any litigation, appeal or application, the date from which such period is to be reckoned, shall be deemed to be excluded. A suit which are filed for review or revision or appeal of a judgment, the date shall be calculated from the date on which the judgment is delivered and the time of request for getting copy of the decree, or order appealed from or revised or reviewed shall be excluded. The Act also provides for other computation of limitation for suits against trustee, execution of a decree, effect of fraud or mistake. The Act states acquisition of easement by prescription for the enjoyment of the use of land without interruption for twenty years.

The Limitation Act, 1963 does not affect the provisions provided under The Indian Contract Act, 1872. The Act is made effective for the reason that it bars the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the actions that are frivolous and to avoid the long proceeding of the pending actions by the complainants.

The salient features of the Limitation Act, 1963

  • The Limitation Act contains 32 Sections and 137 Articles. The Articles have been divided into 10 parts. The first part is relating to accounts, the second part is relating to contracts, the third part is relating to declaration, the fourth part is relating to decrees and instrument, the fifth part is relating to immovable property, the sixth part is relating to movable property, the seventh part is relating to torts, the eighth part is relating to trusts and trust property, the ninth part is relating to miscellaneous matters and the last part is relating to suits for which there is no prescribed period.
  • There is no uniform of limitation for the suits under which the classifications has been attempted. The limitation period is reduced from a period of 60 years to 30 years in the case of suit by the mortgagor for the redemption or recovery of possession of the immovable property mortgaged, or in case of a mortgages for the foreclosure or suits by or on the behalf of Central Government or any State Government including the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Whereas a longer period of 12 years has been prescribed for different kinds of suits relating to immovable property, trusts and endowments, a period of 3 years has been prescribed for the suits relating to accounts, contracts and declarations, suits relating to decrees and instruments and as well as suits relating to movable property.
  • A period varying from 1 to 3 years has been prescribed for suits relating to torts and miscellaneous matters and for suits for which no period of limitation has been provided elsewhere in the Schedule to the Act.
  • The appeal against the death sentence passed by the High Court or the Court of Session in the exercise of the original jurisdiction has been raised to 30 days from the date of sentence given.
  • One of the main salient feature of the Limitation Act, 1963 is that it has to avoid the illustration on the suggestion given by the Third Report of the Law Commission on the Limitation Act of 1908 as the illustration which are given are most of the time unnecessary and are often misleading.
  • The definition of ‘application’ has been extended to include any petition, original or otherwise. The change in the language of Section 2 and Section 5 of the Limitation act, 1963 includes all the petition and also application under special laws.
  • The new Act has been enlarged with the definition of ‘application’, ‘plaintiff’ and ‘defendant’ as to not only include a person from whom the application. Plaintiff or defendant as the case may be derived his title but also a person whose estate is represented by an executor, administrator or other representatives.
  • According to Sections 86 and Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, it requires the consent of the Central Government before suing foreign rulers, ambassadors and envoys. The Limitation Act, 1963 provides that when the time obtained for obtaining such consent shall be excluded for computing the period of limitation for filing such suits.
  • The Limitation Act, 1963 with its new law signifies that it does not make any racial or class distinction since both Hindu and Muslim Law are now available under the law of limitation as per the existing statute book. In the matter of Syndicate Bank v. Prabha D. Naik, (AIR 2001 SC 1968) the Supreme Court has observed that the law of limitation under the Limitation Act, 1963 does make any racial or class distinction while making or indulging any law to any particular person.

Reason for enactment of limitation law

There are different reasons for the existence of statutes of limitation.

  1. Those long dormant claims have more of cruelty than justice in them.
  2. That a defendant might have lost the evidence to dispute the State claim.
  3. That person with good causes of actions should pursue them with.
  4. That, the right which are not exercised for a long time are said to be as non-existence.
  5. That, the rights which are related to property and rights which are in general should not be in a state of constant uncertainty, doubt and suspense.

The main object of limiting any of the legal actions is to give effect to the maxim ‘interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium’ which means that if the interest of the State is required that there should be a limit to a litigation. It is also to prevent any kind of disturbance or deprivation of what may have been acquired in equity and justice or by way long enjoyment or what may have been lost by a party’s own inaction, negligence or laches. The intention in accepting the concept of limitation is that “controversies are restricted to a fixed period of time, lest they should become immortal while men are moral.”

There is a limitation to litigation which interposes the statutory bar. This statutory restriction after a certain period of time gives a status to enforce an existing right. Simply, it neither creates any right in favour of any person nor does it define or create any cause of action against the particular person but it prescribes about the remedy. These remedy can be exercised only up to a certain period of time and not subsequently. The main object of the statute of the Limitation Act, 1963 is more over a preventive kind and not to interpose a statutory bar after a certain period of time. It gives a quietus to all the suit matters to enforce an existing right.

The major purpose of the statutory of the Limitation Act, 1963 is not to destroy or infringe the rights of an aggrieved person but to serve public in a better way and to save time. This statute is basically founded on the public policy for fixing a life span for the legal action which are taken place and to seek remedy in time with the purpose of general welfare. The object of providing a legal remedy is to repair the damage which is caused by reason of legal injury.

The provisions of Limitation Act which are provided in the statute are the statute of repose, to suppress frauds and to supply deficiency of proofs which are arising from the ambiguity, obscurity or the antiquity. The presumptions proceed upon the claims which are extinguished or are ought to be extinguished whenever they are not litigated with the prescribed period of time.

The right has been measured as an equivalent with regards to making of the quick diligence to the person. It has discouraged the litigation by buying some common receptacle which has accumulated from the past times which are now unexplainable and have become inexplicable due to lapse of time. The Limitation Act is a law of repose, peace and justice which has barred the remedy after the failure of particular period of time. This is all because for the public policy and expediency without extinguishing any right in certain cases.

In the matter of State of Rajasthan v. Rikhab Chand1) it has been observed by the Rajasthan High Court that the rules of limitation are mainly intended to induce the claimant in claiming the relief and also in avoiding the unexplainable delay and latches in a suit.

Whereas, in the matter of M.P. Raghavan Nair v. State Insurance Officer2) it has been observed by the Kerala High Court that the Law of Limitation is based upon public policy mainly aiming at justice, repose and peace.

In the matter of Rajender Singh v. Santa Singh3) it was held by the Supreme Court of India that “the object of the Law of Limitation is to prevent disturbance or deprivation of what may have been acquired in equity and justice by a long enjoyment or what may have been lost by a party’s own inaction, negligence or latches.”

In the matter of B.B. & D. Mfg. Co. v. ESI Corporation4) it was observed by the Supreme Court that-

The object of the Statutes of Limitations to compel a person to exercise his rights of action within a reasonable time as also to discourage and suppress stale, fake or fraudulent claims. While this is so, there are two aspects of the Statutes of Limitation — the one concerns with the extinguishment of the right if a claim or action is not commenced within a particular time and the other merely bars the claim without affecting the right which either remains merely as a moral obligation or can be availed of to furnish the consideration for a fresh enforceable obligation. Where a statute prescribing the limitation extinguishes the right if affects substantive right while that which purely pertains to the commencement of action without touching the right is said to be procedural.”

In Balakrishnan v. M.A. Krishnamurthy5) it was held by the Supreme Court that the Limitation Act is based upon public policy which is used for fixing a life span of a legal remedy for the purpose of general welfare. It has been pointed out that the Law of Limitation are not only meant to destroy the rights of the parties but are meant to look to the parties who do not resort the tactics but in general to seek remedy. It fixes the life span for legal injury suffered by the aggrieved person which has been enshrined in the maxim ‘interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium’ which means the Law of Limitation is for general welfare and that the period is to be put into litigation and not meant to destroy the rights of the person or parties who are seeking remedy. The idea with regards to this is that every legal remedy must be alive for a legislatively fixed period of time.

The Law of Limitation is an adjective Law

It is lex fori. Thus, it can be said that the rules of the Law of Limitation are generally prima facie with the rules of procedure and which has not created any rights in favour of any particular person nor does they define or create any cause of action. It has been simply prescribed that the remedy can be exercised only for a limited fixed period of time and subsequently.

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AIR 1966 Raj. 213
1971 Ker. L.J. 583 DB
AIR 1973 SC 2537
AIR 1972 SC 1935
1998 7 SCC 123

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