This law note deals with the conceptual and fundamental introduction to the Limitation Act of 1963, starting from its need to its structure. We have also briefly covered the essential points that can be helpful for several judicial exams.
General Meaning of the Limitation Act, 1963
Before understanding the fundamentals of the Limitation Act, let us first discuss the most basic part of it, which is the meaning of the word ‘Limitation’.
Limitation means to limit something, or a restriction, or circumstances which are limited. In other words, limitation is the act of limiting something or circumstances which restrict something.
Limitation Act is the Act that prescribes the time limit or period of limitation for certain suits in civil matters so that the aggrieved party may apply within the limited time provided to them to file a suit or approach the court for justice.
Need for the Limitation Act
Suppose the plaintiff’s rights have been infringed in some way or his property is acquired by another person. In such cases, the plaintiff must always have a right to go to court to enforce his rights. But it does not mean that the plaintiff can enforce his right at any period of time, say 20 years or 30 years or more.
With the passage of time, the memory of human beings fades away, the necessary documents might get lost, the witnesses might be dead, and the basic facts of the matter might be forgotten. Therefore, there is a higher probability that such evidence might get lost. Hence, due to the lack of such necessary documents and evidence, there came a need to bring an Act known as the Limitation Act.
Origin of the Limitation Act
The origin of the Limitation Act is based on the meaning of these two basic legal maxims:
- Ubi jus ibi remedium, which means ‘where there is right, there is remedy.’
- Vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniun, which means ‘law will assist those who are vigilant with their rights and not those who sleep there upon.’ In simpler words, ‘the law will not help those who sleep on their rights.’
This means that whenever the right of any person is violated, then he must be vigilant about the infringement and approach the court as soon as possible.
Purpose of the Limitation Act
The principle maxim Interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium means, ‘the interest of the state requires that there should be the end of litigation.’ This means that the purpose of the Limitation Act is to end litigation and ensure justice.
Therefore, the Limitation Act is the Act which puts a bar (limit) on going to a court of law. It is based on the well-accepted principle of jurisprudence and public policy. Hence the object of the Limitation Act is to provide a legal remedy to repair the damage caused by legal injury, but such a legal remedy can only be enforced when it is claimed within the time provided in the Act.
Salient Features of the Limitation Act, 1963
These are the salient (most noticeable or important) features of the Limitation Act:
1. Exhaustive Law: The Limitation Act is an exhaustive law with respect to all the matters expressly provided in it. It is complete in itself.
2. Adjective Law: The Limitation Act is an adjective law. Being an adjective law, it provides for both the substantial and procedural features of any statute. But, it is more of procedural law. Note: Thus, in competitive exams, it should be marked as procedural law.
In A.S.K. Krishnappa Chettiar & Ors. Vs. S.V.V.Somiah & Ors, AIR 1964 SC 227, the Supreme Court noted that the Limitation Act is basically a piece of adjectives or procedural law and not substantive law. Here’s the detailed text:
The Limitation Act is a consolidating and amending statute relating to the limitation suits, appeals and certain types of applications to courts and must, therefore, be regarded as an exhaustive Code. It is piece of adjective or procedural law and not of substantive law. Rules of procedure, whatever they may be, are to be applied only to matters to which they are made applicable by the legislature expressly or by necessary implication. They cannot be extended by analogy or reference to proceedings to which they do not expressly apply or could be said to apply by necessary implication. It would, therefore, not be correct to apply any of the provisions of the Limitation Act to matters which do not strictly fall within the purview of those provisions. Thus, for instance, period of limitation for various kinds of suits, appeals and applications are prescribed in the First Schedule. A proceeding which does not fall under any of the articles in that schedule could not be said to be barred by time on the analogy of a matter which is governed by a particular article. For the same reasons the provisions of Sections 3 to 25 of the Limitation Act cannot be applied to situations which fall outside their purview.
These provisions do not adumbrate any general principles of substantive rights on litigants and therefore, cannot be permitted to have greater application than what is explicit or implicit in them.
3. Only applicable to civil cases: The Limitation Act applies only to civil matters
Extra knowledge: But in CrPC, the limitation period may range from 6 months to 3 years. The evidence can become redundant after a point of time and might get lost due to old claims, which fades away the reliability of such evidence, for example, blood-stained knife, victim’s cloth, etc.; therefore, there is a limitation period in criminal cases until and unless the contrary is mentioned in the law itself. But if the court finds merit in the case, then they can breach the limitation period and accept the case. Cases which have a punishment of more than three years do not have a limitation period.
4. Prospective as well as a retrospective effect: Section 31 of the Limitation Act provides for the retrospective and prospective effect of the Act.
5. Only applicable to suits, appeals and applications: Section 3 of the Limitation Act provides for the bar of limitation, which means that the Limitation Act only applies to suits, appeals, and applications.
Leading Case Laws Related to the Limitation Act
Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Company vs the State of Bombay (1957): In this case, the court held that the limitation bars the remedy and does not extinguish the right. Thus, the lapse of time does not extinguish the person’s right.
Sri Kishan Lal vs Musammat Kashmiro And Ors (1913): In this case, it was held that the law of limitation does not bar a defence but only bars action.
Structure of the Limitation Act, 1963
The structure of the Limitation Act is as follows:
- It came into force on 1st January 1964.
- Its citation is Act No. 36 of 1963.
- Extension: To the whole of India.
- Total number of chapters: 5
- Total sections: 32
- Total Articles: 137
- Schedule: 1