Limitation Act, 1963 is the one statute that every great litigating advocate uses to make the best of the justice system.
Did you know that there is no limitation barring the time of the lodging of an FIR?
This blogpost is dedicated to showing you the most useful provisions of the Limitation Act, 1963.
Table of Index
- Facts from Limitation Act, 1963
- The principle behind the Limitation Act, 1963
- Legal provisions from the Limitation Act that every good advocate must know
The roots of the law in Limitation are to be found in two legal maxims.
Interest Reipublicae Ut Sit Finis Litium which translates to “in the interest of the state there should be a limit to litigation.”
Vigilantibus non-dormientibus Jura subveniunt which translates to “the law will assist only those who are vigilant with their rights and not for those who sleep upon it.”
The purpose of enforcing the Limitation Act is so that the cases can be disposed of quickly and that the legal proceedings are not dragged for years due to unreasonable grounds for delay.
The limitation law specifies a time frame within which legal proceedings can be initiated. If the suit is brought after the time has expired the proceedings would be barred by limitation; would be restricted by the court.
The Limitation Act contains 32 Sections divided into 5 parts and 137 Articles divided into 10 parts.
The Articles contain different time periods within which a suit, application, or an appeal can be filed before courts in varying cases.
The court will declare all suits, appeals, and applications as time-barred and dismiss the case if they are bought after the expiration of the prescribed time within which a suit should have been filed [Section 3]. Although, this does not mean that an individual can no longer file a suit.
The petitioner should file a reasonable defense due to which he was not able to file the suit within the prescribed time. There is no time limit to file the defenses for such actions. (Exception to Section 27).
A period of limitation can clash with the closed day of the court. For example, a suit’s last date to be filed is on 25 December and the court has observed a holiday on the same day. It does not mean that the suit is now time-barred. An extension to the expiry of limitation will be considered in such cases. The application shall be moved on the day the court resumes its operations [Section 4].
The principle behind Section 4 is that an individual could not file the suit within the time frame because the court was not working on the same date. The individual is not at fault. It is the duty of the court to consider this application after it has resumed its operation.
The starting of the limitation period depends on the subject matter of the case. It varies from case to case. It can begin from the date of :
- Accrual of the cause of action,
- The date from which an event transpires to the basis of the suit being filed [Schedule],
- From the date summons or notice is issued [Article 118, Schedule],
- The day decree or judgment is passed[Article 115, Schedule].
Other than these a specific starting of limitation is mentioned in the schedule of the Act.
The court can give an extension to the limited time period in certain cases (Section 5). It is called a ‘Condonation of Delay’. For this purpose, the appellant has to satisfy the court with his reasons as to why he could not initiate a legal proceeding at the given time.
If the party is unable to show sufficient cause of delay, the court has the right to dismiss the suit, application, or appeal.
A limitation can also be postponed in certain cases when the person has the right to file the suit dies before he can, the limitation period will start after he has a legal representative who is capable of filing the suit in the court [Section 16].
Similarly, when the person against whom the suit is to be filed dies before it could be filed by the petitioner or would be filed when he dies, the limitation will start after he has a legal representative.
When there is a case of fraud, cheat or a mistake the limitation time does not start from the date the offense has been committed but would start after the plaintiff has discovered the fraud, cheat, or mistake in his/her case [Section 17].
In case of acknowledgment of liability, the limitation would start from the time the acknowledgment was signed [Section 18].
For example, A gave B (a family friend) loan of Rs. 2 Lakhs but did not take it in writing. B does not pay for 2 years but gave in writing that he would pay later. The date the acknowledgment was signed is the date from which the limitation period would start.
In the case of the account of debt or interest legacy, the fresh limitation will start from the last payment made [Section 19].
For example – If an interest of debt is paid in March 2018 and a second interest was paid in March 2019, the limitation would start after March 2018. Every time a payment is made, the limitation period would start after that.
If under any circumstances the person is not able to file or continue the suit due to disability, an agent duly authorized by him would represent the individual and continue the suit. The term ‘agent duly authorized’ will include legal guardian, guardian, committee, manager or agent duly authorized by such guardian, committee or manager [Section 20].
When there is a continuous breach of contract or tort, every time the tort or breach of contract continues to happen a fresh limitation would start from the moment the breach or tort starts a continuation [Section 22].
In case of suits for compensation for acts not actionable without special damage, the limitation period will not start unless and until the injury occurs [Section 23].
Example – Negligence and nuisance are two torts where the cause of action does not accrue until damage occurs, possibly many years after the date of the defendant’s act of omission.
A Georgian Calendar must be followed for the reference of the limitation period [Section 24].
The general rule that we talked about in Fact 2 which stated ‘there is no time limit to file the defenses for not filing the suit in the prescribed time’ has an exception in Section 27. It applies to the possession of the property. Adverse possession allows a person to claim a property right in land owned by another person. If someone is residing at an unclaimed property for too long(12 years), he has the right to claim the possession of the property.
Criminal cases can be filed beyond limitation. Section 473 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 offers an extension of limitation if it is satisfied on the facts and in the circumstances of the case that the delay has been properly explained or that it is necessary to do so in the interests of justice.
- Trustee’s Port of Bombay vs premier automobile 1974 AIR 923, 1974 SCR (3) 397. ↑
- Collector Land Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr. vs Mst. Katiji & Ors. 1987 AIR 1353 ↑
- Limitation Defences in Civil Cases: Update Report for the Law Commission, New Zealand Legal Information Institute ( 20 April 2020, 1:30 AM) http://www.nzlii.org/nz/other/nzlc/mp/MP16/MP16.pdf ↑