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The Limitation Act, 1963 came into force with effect from 1st January 1964. It was enacted to consolidate and amend the law for the limitation of suits and other proceedings and prescribes different periods of limitation for suits, appeals, and applications.
The Act applies to all civil proceedings and some criminal proceedings. It has been held that the Limitation Act does not apply to criminal proceedings unless it is made applicable to them by express provisions.
Brief Historical Overview of The Limitation Act, 1963
In the Ancient and Medieval Indian agrarian economy, there was no principle governing limitation, there was the only law of prescription. After the establishment of the Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta presidency and with it the establishment of the mofussil courts the British Law of Limitation began to be followed.
In 1859, for the first time, an attempt was made to introduce uniformity in The Law of limitation the Act XIV of 1859 was enacted, which was applicable to all the Courts. The Limitation Act was subsequently repealed in the years 1871, 1877, 1908. The Limitation Act, of 1908 was repealed by the Third Law Commission and the Limitation Act of 1963 came into force.
Objectives & Structure of the Limitation Act, 1963
The objective of the Limitation Act, 1963
- The doctrine of limitation is based on two broad considerations, the first being the presumption that the right not exercised for long is non-existent. Second, it is important that the rights in property and rights, in general, should not be in a state of constant uncertainty. The principle is “interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium” e interest of the State requires that litigation should come to an end.
- The Limitation Act does not create or define any cause of action but prescribes the period of limitation within which existing rights can be enforced. It has incorporated a well-known principle of Jurisprudence which suggests that ‘vigilantibus non-dormientibus jura subvenieut’ which means, the law helps only the awakening persons and not those who sleep over their rights. Unlimited and perpetual litigation disturbs the peace of the society and therefore the object of the Limitation Act is to quiet long possession and extinguish stale demands e there should be an end to litigation.
- Therefore, the prime objective of this statute is to make the litigants vigilant in pursuing their remedy and also to prevent harassment to the opposite party by bringing stale claims before the legal forum. It primarily bars a remedy for a litigant but does not bar a right, except when the law of prescription extinguishes the remedy as well as the right. It can be said that the law of Limitation is both, a law of limitation and prescription.
Structure of the Limitation Act, 1963
The Limitation Act contains 32 Sections and one schedule containing 137 Articles.
The Sections are divided into five parts:
- Part I: Section 1 and 2, preliminary and definitions included.
- Part II: Section 3 to 11 deals with Principles and Rules regarding limitations of Suits, Appeals, and Applications.
- Part III : Section 12 to 24 lays down the rules and procedure for Computation of period of Limitation
- Part IV : Section 25, 26 and 27 deal with the acquisition of ownership by possession; and
- Part V : Section 28 to 32 are miscellaneous provisions
The Schedule containing 137 Articles prescribes the period of limitation:
- Article 1 – 5 (Suits relating to accounts)
- Article 6 – 55 (Suits relating to contracts)
- Article 56 – 58 (Suits relating to declarations)
- Article 59 – 60 (Suits relating to decrees and instruments)
- Article 61 – 67 (Suits relating to immoveable property)
- Article 68 – 71 (Suits relating to moveable property)
- Article 72 – 91 (Suits relating to tort)
- Article 92 – 96 (Suits relating to trusts and trust property)
- Article 97 – 112 (Suits relating to miscellaneous matters)
- Article 113 (Suits for which there is no prescribed period)
The limitation act is a consolidating and amending statute relating to the limitation of suits, appeals and certain types of applications to the courts and therefore must be regarded as an exhaustive code governing law of Limitation in India and the Indian courts are not permitted to travel beyond its provisions to add or supplement them A.S.K. Krishnappa Chettiar v. K.S.V.V. Somaiah, [AIR 1964 SC 227]. It is not a substantive law but procedural law.
Bar of Limitation and its Exceptions
The limitation act is applicable to suits brought by the plaintiff, it does not apply to a right set up by the defendant in defence.
Section 3 (1) of the Limitation Act, 1963 provides that any suit, appeal or application if made beyond the prescribed period of limitation it is the duty of the Court not to proceed with such suits irrespective of the fact whether the plea of limitation has been set up in defense or not. The Court can therefore take suo motu take note of the question of limitation.
Section 3 (2)(a)(i) provides that a suit is instituted in an ordinary case where the plaint is presented to the proper officer and not when it is accepted. The mere presentation of the plaint is sufficient to constitute the institution of a suit under the section and registration of the plaint is not necessary for this purpose. The presentation must be valid i.e made by a duly authorized person and in a manner and under the conditions which make it valid under the law.
The provisions of Section 3 of the Limitation Act are subject to the principle that where a question of limitation has been expressly adjudicated upon and there is no appeal against it, the decision is binding on the parties and on the appellate court.
The general rule is that the court shall dismiss a suit instituted after the period od limitation as prescribed under Section 3 of the Act, however, Section 4 to 24 provide certain exceptions to this general rule i.e
- Expiry of the prescribed period when the court is closed –
Section 4 of the Act states that, when the prescribed period expires on a day when the court is closed, the application may be made or suit filed on the day when the Court reopens.
The general principle of law being, when a party is prevented from doing a thing in court on a particular day, by the act of the court itself, as for instance, on account of the closing of the court, and not by any act of his own, he is entitled to do it at the first subsequent opportunity Angadi v. Hiranmayya, [AIR 1972 SC 239]. This rule applies to suits, appeals or applications, civil or criminal.
- Extension of prescribed period in certain cases i.e ‘sufficient cause’
Section 5 of the Act enables a Court to admit an appeal or an application after the expiry of the prescribed period on sufficient cause being shown for the delay. The term ‘sufficient cause’ has not been defined in the Act but it has been held that it must mean a cause which is beyond the control of the party invoking the aid of this section. The extension of time under this section is the discretion of the Court.
Computation of Limitation
Section 12 to 24 deals with the computation of period of limitation and some primary issues that have been dealt with are listed below
- Section 12 speaks about the exclusion of time for the purpose of computing the period of limitation. There need not to be any prayer or application by party for doing so as the Section confers a substantive right upon a party lying down specific rules for computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, an application for revision, an application for leave to appeal, an application to set aside an award or any other application.
- Section 13 provides that if the application for leave to sue or leave to appeal as a pauper is rejected, then the time during which the applicant has been prosecuting in good faith for this application should be excluded. The essential for exclusion of time under this Section is that the applicant should be prosecuting in good faith.
- Section 14 of the Act containing general principles of justice, equity and good conscience provides for exclusion of time or proceedings bonafide in Court without jurisdiction. Conditions for the application of this Section are – due diligence and good faith, proceedings between same parties, same matter in issue, defect of jurisdiction.
- Section 15 provides, certain condition under which a person is entitled in law to get exclusion of time from the period of limitation; where the plaintiff is under the statutory obligation to give a notice before he can institute a suit; computing period of limitation for any suit or application for execution of a decree where any receiver in insolvency or liquidator in winding up is appointed; computing period of limitation for a suit for possession by purchase at a sale in execution decree and; when the defendant is absent from India.
- Section 16 deals with the effect of death on or before the accrual of the right to sue for which the cause of action must not arise before the person dies.
- Section 17 deals with the effect of fraud or mistake wherein the limitation shall be computed from the time when the fraud became known to the person defrauded i.e the party should not be penalized for failing to adopt legal proceedings when the facts or material necessary for him to do so have been willfully concealed from him Pallav Seth v. Custodian and others, [AIR 2001 SC 2763].
Extinguishment of Right to Property
Section 27 of the Act lays down that after the expiry of the period prescribed for instituting a suit for possession of any property the person who should have instituted such suit but has failed to do so, shall cease to have any right to the property. After the expiry of its period the remedy is barred and also the title is extinct. This section is confined to suits for possession only.
This section of the Act is not merely procedural but substantive and applies to persons who are out of possession and seek to recover possession but not to the case where a person is still in possession of the property.
Therefore, the Limitation Act, 1963 is the Act which governs the time period within which one can file a suit to sue another to get justice. If the suit is filed after the expiration of time period as specified in this act, thus will be barred by limitation.
There are various limitation periods for different types of actions and if limitation has passed, the claim will be bound by statute and the claimant may be prohibited from bringing a claim against the purported wrongdoer.
 Варu v. Варu, (ILR 39 Mad. 750)
 Desmond v. Kramer, ET AL | 96 N.J. Super. 96
 Riajendra Singh v. Santa Singh, (1973) 2 SCC705.
 The Limitation Act, 1963, contents