Every person has a right to approach courts to seek justice. There are various laws enacted by the central and State governments regulating the rights of citizens and procedure of juridical proceedings. Law of limitation is a restrictive law, where the rights of the persons to approach courts are regulated, with the time factor being important. A person has to approach the court within certain prescribed period if not his right to seek Justice through courts is lost. Law of limitation is both adjective and substantive law. Though superficially law of limitation seems to curtail the rights of the citizen, it is actually proactive, forcing to approach the court within the limitation period. If not people would have waited, might have dug out the graves, to open age old litigations and courts would have flooded with cases. One may imagine the situation in the country in the absence of limitation law, as even now there is backlog of cases in all the courts.
The law of limitation which was enacted in 1908, had certain inherent defects and shortcomings, which were exposed by various judicial verdicts. The act was revised simplified, came into force from 1st January 1964. The act contains 32 sections and 137 articles; where as the act of 1908 had 30 sections and 183 articles. The sections deal with the general principles applicable to the extension of time, whether by reason of disability, acknowledgement and part payment. The sections are divided into five parts; part 1 is preliminary, part IInd deals with limitation of suits, appeals and applications, part IIIrd deals with computation of period of limitation, part IVth deals with acquisition of ownership by possessions and part Vth deals with saving provisions. Out of 183 articles, articles from 1 to 149 deal with suits, articles 150-157 deal with appeals, articles 158 to 183 relate to applications. The revised Act has some salient changes; the most important being the maximum period of limitation is 30 years, which is available to three kinds of suits.
1. Suits by mortgagors for the redemption of recovery of possession of immovable property.
2. Suits by mortgagee for foreclosure
3. Suits by or on behalf of Central government or State government including state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The old Limitation Act has prescribed 60 years as limitation period to suits to redeem or recovery possession of immovable property mortgaged.
The second longest period of limitation is 12 years, prescribed for various kinds of suits relating to immovable property trusts and endowments. The limitation period for contracts, accounts, declaratory suits, suits relating to decrees, instruments and suits relating to movable property is three years. The limitation period varying from one to three years is prescribed for suits relating to torts and miscellaneous suits and also in respect of suits for which no specific period of limitation is provided in the schedule to the Act. A minimum limitation period of 10 days is prescribed for applications for leave to appear and contest a suit under summary procedure from the date of summons.
We shall discuss some important sections. Importantly, the Limitation Act considers all the instruments be made with reference to Gregorian calendar, where the years are computed from the date of the birth of Christ which is widely used. The present year is 2004 according to Gregorian calendar.
Another Important provision is legal disability. The person who is entitled to file a suit may be suffering from legal disability at the time from which the limitation period starts, such as minority, insanity etc. In case of such persons, the limitation period starts after the legal disability is cured. In case of the legal disability continues until the death, his legal heirs may institute the suit, within the same limitation period after the death. In case the person under legal disability dies after the disability is cured but within the limitation period allowed, his legal representative may institute the suit within the same period, after the death as otherwise would have been available to the person had he not died. To be more clear we shall study an illustration. Mr. A has lent some amount to B on the security of demand pro note. The limitation period is three from the date of pro note. But Mr. A was suffering some legal disability during the period of three years and recovers in the fourth year. The limitation period of three years starts from the fourth year. But A will nor institute any suit and dies at the end of fifth year. Mr. A had a balance period of limitation of one year. So his legal representative may institute a suit within one year after the death of A.
The limitation period may expire on a day, when the court is closed. In such cases the suit may be filed on the date when court re-opens. Thus the Court holidays are excluded while computing the limitation period.
If a person could satisfy the court, that he had sufficient reasons for not preferring an appeal during the limitation period, the court may admit the appeal, even after the expiry of limitation period.
Any suit, appeal application made after the prescribed period is liable to be dismissed except where specific provisions are made. The dates of instituting suits, preferring appeals or making applications will be considered as follows.
A suit is said to be instituted when the plaint is presented to the properofficer.
In case of a pauper when his application for leave to sue as pauper is made.
In case of a claim against a company, which is being wound up by the court, when the claimant sends his claim to the official liquidator.