Introduction and Object of Law of Limitation
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 request which are made after the specified term which shall be dismissed even though the limitation is not raised as a defence. It is a suit which is initiated when the complaint 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 request 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 and 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.
The concept of limitation is related with the fixing or prescribing of 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 laws of limitation are founded on public policy. Andrew Me Gee, in his book ‘Limitation Periods’ has observed that:
“Arguments with regard to the policy underlying statutes of limitation fall into three main types. The first relates to the position of the defendant. It is said to be unfair that a defendant should have a claim hanging over him for an indefinite period and it is in this context that such enactments are sometimes described as ‘statutes of peace’. The second looks at the manner from a more objective point of view. It suggests that a time limit is necessary because with the lapse of time, proof of a claim becomes more difficulty documentary evidence is likely to have been destroyed and memories of witnesses will fade. The third relates to the conduct of the plaintiff, it being thought right that a person who does not promptly act to enforce his rights should lose them. All these justifications have been considered by the Courts.”
In Halsbury’s Laws of England, the objects of the Limitation Acts have been presented as follows:
“The Courts have expressed at least three different reasons supporting the existence of statutes of limitation, namely,—
(i) That long dormant claims have more of cruelty than justice in them;
(ii) That a defendant might have lost the evidence to dispute the State claim;
(iii) That persons with good causes of actions should pursue them with
The doctrine of limitation and prescription is based on two broad considerations, namely—
(i) That the right not exercised for a long time is non-existence;
(ii) That the rights in property and rights in general should not be in a state of constant uncertainty, doubt and suspense.
The object of limit in legal actions is to give effect to the maxim ‘interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium’ i.e. the interest of the State requires that there should be limit to litigation and to prevent disturbance or deprivation of what may have been acquired in equity and justice by 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.”
Wood, in his ‘Limitation’ says “The Statutes of limitation are known as statutes of repose or peace.”
Abbott C.J. in Battley v. Faulkner, [(1820) 3 В & Aid 288] has said: “The Statute of limitation was intended for relief and quiet of the defendant and to prevent persons from being harassed at a distant period of time after the committing of the injury complained of.”
“Delay defeats equity and ‘visilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt’ i.e. Courts help those who are vigilant and do not slumber over their rights are the reasons for accepting the concept of limitation.
Miraglia in his ‘Comparative Legal Philosophy’ has stated that all statutes of limitation have their object the prevention of the rearing up of claims at great distance of time when evidence is lost.
Limitation to litigation interposes a statutory bar after a certain period and gives a status to enforce an existing right. It does not create any right in favour of any person nor does it define or create cause of action but simply prescribes that the remedy could be exercised only upto a certain period and not subsequently. The object of the statute of limitation is preventive and not to interpose a statutory bar after a certain period and gives a quietus to suits to enforce an existing right.
The purpose of the statute of limitation is not to destroy the rights but it is founded on public policy fixing a life span for the legal remedy for the general welfare. (AIR 2001 Orissa 158). The object of providing a legal remedy is to repair the damage caused by reason of legal injury.
Redress of the legal injury so suffered.
The statutes of limitation are statutes of repose, to quiet title, to suppress frauds and to supply the deficiency of proofs arising from the ambiguity, obscurity or the antiquity or transactions. They proceed upon the presumption that claims are extinguished or ought to be held extinguished whenever they are not litigated within the prescribed period.
They quicken diligence by making it in some measure equivalent to right. They discourage litigation by buying some common receptacle all the accumulations of past times which are unexplained and have now from lapse of time become inexplicable. The statute of limitation is a law of repose, peace and justice which bars the remedy after lapse of a particular period by way of public policy and expediency without extinguishing the right in certain cases.
The Supreme Court of India and different High Courts have discussed the objects of the Law of Limitation. In State of Rajasthan v. Rikhob Chand, (AIR 1966 Raj. 213), the Rajasthan High Court has observed that the rules of limitation are intended to induce the claimant to be prompt in claiming relief and in avoiding unexplained delay and latches.
In M.P Raghavan Nair v. State Insurance Officer, [1971 Ker. L.J. 583 (DB)], the Kerala High Court has also observed that the Limitation Act is based on public policy aiming at justice, repose and peace.
In Rajender Singh v. Santa Singh, (AIR 1973 SC 2537), the Supreme Court of India has held “The object of the law of limitation is to prevent disturbance or deprivation of what may have been acquired in equity and justice by long enjoyment or what may have been lost by a party’s own inaction, negligence or latches.”
In B.B. & D. Mfg. Co. v. ESI Corpn., (AIR 1972 SC 1935), the Supreme Court has observed 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. Krishnamurthy, [(1998) 7 SCC 123J, the Supreme Court has held that the law of limitation is based on public policy fixing a life span for legal remedy for the purpose of general welfare. It is pointed out that the rules of limitation are not meant to destroy the rights of the parties but are meant to see that the parties do not resort to dilatory tactics but seek third remedy promptly and the law of limitation fixes a life span for legal injury suffered and that is enshrined in the maxim ‘interest reipublicae ut sit finis litum’ i.e. it is for the general welfare that a period be put to litigation and that it is not meant to destroy the rights of the parties but they are meant to see that the party do not resort to dilatory tactics but seek their remedy promptly because the idea is that every legal remedy must be alive for a legislatively fixed period of time.
Rules of limitation are prima facie rules of procedure and do not create any rights in favour of any person nor do they define or create cause of action but simply prescribe that the remedy could be exercised only upto a certain period and not subsequently.
The Law of Limitation is an adjective law. It is lexi fori.