1. These two companion appeals arise out of the judgment and decree dated 30th November 1966, rendered in Special Civil Suit No. 48 of 1964, filed in the Court of the Civil Judge, Sr. Dn., at Nasik. By the said judgment and decree, the claim of the plaintiff was partially allowed against the defendant.
2. The plaintiff was an employee of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, (hereinafter referred to as 'the said corporation'), and was working as a cashier-cum-reservation clerk. The date of birth of the plaintiff being 24th October 1905, under the rules of the corporation, the plaintiff was liable to retire on 24th October 1963. The plaintiff, however, was dismissed by the Corporation on 15th July 1953. Aggrieved by the dismissal, the plaintiff filed a Regular Civil Suit No. 257 of 1957 on 14th March 1957, inter alia claiming a declaration that the order of dismissal was wrong and for consequential reliefs. The said suit was dismissed by the learned trial Judge on 26th August 1959. In appeal preferred therefrom, the appellate Court by its judgment and decree dated 12th December 1961, decreed the plaintiff's suit. It gave a declaration in favour of the plaintiff that he continued to be in service till the date of the filing of the said suit i.e. till 14th March 1957. The appellate Court also granted a decree in favour of the plaintiff for arrears of salary and certain other incidental charges and costs of the suit. The matter did not rest there. The unsuccessful Corporation sought to have the appellate decree reviewed in appeal by this Court by preferring a Second Appeal being Appeal No. 440 of 1962. This Court, however, by its judgment and decree dated 9th January 1964, dismissed the said Second Appeal, subject to a variation in the decree of the appellate Court as to the amount of arrears of pay. The said variation, however, is not material for the purposes of the present appeal.
3. The plaintiff filed the present suit being Special Suit No. 48 of 1964, inter alia for recovering a sum of Rs. 24,324-02 ps., being the amount payable to him as arrears of pay, provident fund, gratuity, bonus and other benefits as an employee of the Corporation. In the alternative, the plaintiff prayed for accounts in respect of the said claims. Several issues were raised before the learned Judge. Having regard to the limited controversy that is raised before us, it is unnecessary to notice all the issues or the findings relating thereto. Suffice it to observe, that the learned Judge passed a decree in favour of the plaintiff for a sum of Rs. 5,963-13 ps. being the emoluments for the period of 3 years prior to the date of the suit. The learned Judge did not grant to the plaintiff arrears prior to the three years from the date of the suit. Aggrieved by the said judgment and decree the Corporation filed the above mentioned First Appeal No. 381 of 1967. The plaintiff also preferred an appeal being the abovementioned First Appeal No. 617 of 1969, challenging the refusal of the learned Judge to grant him his claim over and above the one which was decreed in his favour.
4. Shri C. J. Sawant, the learned counsel for the Corporation, assails the decree on the ground that the suit was barred under the provisions of the Payment of Wages Act and the Rules framed thereunder. This challenge is based upon fact that the plaintiff had preferred an application under the said Act and the said application was pending in the Court of the Joint Civil Judge, Sr. Dn., Nasik. The learned Judge has in paragraph 24 of his judgment dealt with the said contention exhaustively. After noticing the relevant provisions of law, the learned Judge answered the issues against the Corporation. We have carefully analysed the discussion of the learned Judge and we do not find any infirmity in the reasoning of the learned Judge. We are also of the opinion that having regard to the provisions of the Payment of Wages Act and the facts and circumstances of the instant case, it must be held that the present suit was not barred by any of the provisions 'f the Payment of Wages Act or the Rules framed thereunder or under the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act or the rules framed thereunder. No other point having been urged by the learned counsel for the Corporation we take the view that the appeal preferred by the Corporation is liable to be dismissed.
5. Shri N. G. Gandhi, the learned counsel for the plaintiff, in support of the claims of the plaintiff for a period prior to three years from the date of the suit, fairly concedes that the plaintiff's case for exemption from the rigours of law of limitation is not based either on Section 13 or 15 of the Limitation Act. However, the learned counsel urges that the plaintiff, in the facts and circumstances of the case is entitled to 'general principles of suspension of limitation or right of action.' The learned counsel emphasises that in view of the second appeal preferred by the Corporation, the plaintiff should not be denied his claims if he awaited the decision of this Court in the said second appeal He asserts that the period which was taken for the disposal of the said Second appeal must be excluded from consideration and arrears of salary should be decreed upon the said footing. It is the submission of the learned counsel that in cases where a party is prevented by reason of certain valid circumstances from taking any action and enforcement of his right, the Courts relax the rigour of the bar of limitation on the principle of suspension of limitation or right of action.
6. Reliance is placed upon a Division Bench judgment of the Allahabad High Court in Murlidhar v. Rani Saran Das reported in AIR 1947 All 256. In that case after holding that the plaintiff therein was not entitled to the benefit of. Section 15 of the Limitation Act, 1908, the Division Bench of the said High Court nevertheless took a view beneficial to the plaintiff therein on the basis of general principles of suspension of limitation or right of action in cases where a party is prevented under certain circumstances from taking action in enforcement of his rights. The learned counsel fairly concedes that there is cleavage of judicial opinion in regard to the said question. He is fair enough to draw attention to a judgment of the same High Court where a contra view was taken. The learned counsel also draws attention to the fact that the said judgment of the Allahabad High Court has been noticed by the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh v. Dhian Dass reported in : AIR1974SC708 . After noticing the said decision of the Allahabad High Court, the Supreme Court, however, left the said question open.
7. We are unable to accept the submission of the learned counsel for the plaintiff that it is open to a Court of law to obviate the bar of limitation upon a general principle of suspension of limitation or right of action.
8. The Limitation Act is founded on public policy. The Limitation Act of 1963 is not only a codifying Act but also an amending Act. The provisions of the Limitation Act are a Code complete in themselves. Section 3 of the Limitation Act enjoins a Court to dismiss every suit, appeal or application which is not within the prescribed period. Gateways from the peremptory provisions of Section 3 are provided by Sections 4 to 24. It follows from the provisions of the Limitation Act and the principles enshrined therein that no Court is entitled to invoke any principle for holding a claim as not barred by Law of Limitation if such a principle is not to be found expressly or by necessary implication in the provisions of the Limitation Act. No separate or independent principle can be invoked to add to or supplement, much less abrogate or nullify the provisions of the Limitation Act. In our opinion, the Limitation Act is conclusive in what it provides and what it forbids. The Act does not confer any inherent powers in a Court to relieve a litigant from its rigour except in cases covered by Sections 4 to 24 thereof.
9. We are fortified in our view by the observations of the Privy Council in Maqbul Ahmad v. Onkar Pratap Narain Singh reported in . It was a case where the provisions of Section 14 of the Limitation Act 1908 were invoked. The invocation proved futile. The argument then was that there was a discretion in the Court to relieve litigants in cases of the hardship, from the operation of the Limitation Act. In repelling the said argument it was observed by the Privy Council at page 88 as follows:--
'In their Lordships' opinion it is impossible to hold that in a matter which is governed by Act, an Act which in some limited respects gives the Court a statutory discretion, there can be implied in the Court, outside the limits of the Act, a general discretion to dispense with its provisions. It is to be noted that this view is supported by the fact that Section 3 of the Act is peremptory and that the duty of the Court is to notice the Act and give effect to it, even though it is not referred to in the pleadings.'
10. In a similar vein is the observation made by the Supreme Court in India Electric Works Ltd. v. James Mantosh reported in : 2SCR397 . The Supreme Court at page 2317 observed:
'x x x all questions of limitation must be decided by the provisions of the Act and the Courts cannot travel beyond them'.
11. It is not disputed before us that the article which is applicable to the plaintiff's claim in suit is Article 7 of the Limitation Act, 1963. The said Article corresponds to Articles 7 and 102 of the Act of 1908. A claim for recovery of salary under Article 102 came up for consideration before the Supreme Court in Sakal Deep Sahai Srivastava v. Union of India reported in : (1974)ILLJ270SC . In that case the question that was posed before the Court was whether Article 102 or 120 of the Limitation Act, 1908 applied to a claim for arrears of salary. The Supreme Court referred its earlier decision in Madhav Laxman Vaikunthe v. State of Mysore, reported in : 1SCR886 , and held that Article 102 of the Limitation Act applied to such a case.
12. Under Article 7, the period prescribed is 3 years. Consequently, the plaintiff was entitled to the arrears of salary for 3 years only from the date of the suit. The plaintiff seeks exemption on the ground of pendency of the said second appeal in this Court between 12th December 1961 and 9th January 1964. It is true that the plaintiff cannot be denied his salary for the earlier period if the pendency of the said Second Appeal in this Court can be a relevant consideration. Since there was no stay of the operation of the decree of the First Appellate Court passed in his favour there is no reason why he could not file the instant suit immediately thereafter. At the highest it might have been more prudent on his part not to have enforced his claims based on the said decree when it was under appeal in this Court, but it cannot furnish a ground for exemption from the lethal limitation bar.
13. It is difficult for us to follow the decision of the Allahabad High Court in Murlidhar's case AIR 1947 All 256 (supra) having regard to the provisions of the Limitation Act and the scheme thereof as also dicta of the PrivyCouncil in Maqbul Ahmad's case (supra) and of the Supreme Court in India Electric Works Ltd.'s case : 2SCR397 (supra). We respectfully dissent from the view taken by the Allahabad High Court. We have no hesitation in rejecting the contention that the plaintiff is entitled to relaxation of the rule of limitation by reason of any hardship or special circumstances of the case- In our opinion, there can be no obviation of the bar of limitation on the ground of general suspension of limitation or right of action.
14. In the result, both the First Appeals are dismissed. The Judgment and decree of the trial Court are confirmed. There will be no order as to costs in both the appeals,
15. As the plaintiff is unsuccessful on a technical plea of limitation, we think, that the proper order to be made is that the court fees payable on the appeal should bs borne by the Corporation. Accordingly, the court-fees payable on appeal should be recovered from the Corporation, and a certificate should be issued to the Collector accordingly.
16. Appeals dismissed.