1. Sri Quazi; who appears for the petitioners, contends that the provisions which were considered by their lordships of the Supreme Court in Bombay Gas Company v. Gopal Bhiva : (1963)IILLJ608SC are not the same as are now obtainable. The provisions that were considered by the Supreme Court in that case were provisions of the Limitation Act of 1908 which is no longer applicable to the present state of circumstances. The Limitation Act of 1908 was repealed and the Limitation Act 36 of 1963 was brought in force. The Act came into force on 1 January, 1964 and the application were made by the workers after April, 1964.
2. Sri Quazi contends that there were several changes brought about in the law of limitation which materially affect the question of limitation in regard to applications made in industrial disputes. In the first instance; the word 'application' which was not defined in the old Limitation Act of 1908 has now been defined.
3. Secondly, it was pointed out by Sri Qazi that the entire law of limitation was consolidated and amended and the old Limitation Act was repealed in pursuance of a report submitted by the Law Commission upon the Limitation Act in 1963. In Part II of the said report, Para. 9, the observations of the Law Commission are the following :
'We recommend that a new definition of the word 'application' so as to include any petition, original or otherwise, should be added. The object is to provide a period of limitation for original petitions and applications under special laws as there is no such provision now.'
4. In pursuance of this report, a Bill was published and the statement of objects shows that except for one important modification effect was being given to the recommendations of the Law Commission. In the note on Clause 2, it is stated in the Bill as follows :
'A new definition of 'application' is being inserted so as to include a petition, original or otherwise. The object is to provide a period of limitation for original application and petition under special laws as there is no such provision now. Consequential changes have been made in the definition of 'applicant'.'
5. If, therefore, the recommendations of the Law Commission and reasons given for the various clauses in the Bill introduced in the Parliament were only to be considered, then an inference must follow that it was intended to bring within the provisions of the Limitation Act applications under special laws for which previously there was no such provision therein. The amendment made, however, was to the effect of defining an application to include a petition. Sri Qazi urged that upon this definition of an application being given as an inclusive one, the provisions of Art. 137 would read differently form the interpretation which was given to original Art. 181 of the old Limitation Act of 1908.
6. In the Act of 1908, Art. 181, which was the residuary article, was as follows :
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Application for which no period of Three years. When the right to limitation is provided elsewhere in apply accrued. this schedule or by S. 48 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. ------------------------------------------------------------------------
7. This article was construed by their lordships of the Supreme Court in Bombay Gas Company v. Gopal Bhiva : (1963)IILLJ608SC (vide supra). The observation of the Supreme Court are as follows (p. 614) :
'... It is well-settled that Art. 181 applies only to applications which are made under the Code of Civil Proceduro; and so, its extension to applications made under S. 33C(2) of the Act would not be justified.'
8. The question that now arises is whether in view of the definition of the word 'application' as given in the new Act (36 of 1963), any change is brought about and the applications, contemplated within the meaning of the same in Art. 137 would include applications made under special Acts.
9. Their lordship of the Supreme Court, while considering the exact question which is now posed before us, viz; whether the law of limitation applies to an application made under S. 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, held as follows (p. 613) :
'... It seems to us that where the legislature has made no provision for limitation, it would not be open to the Courts to introduce any such limitation on grounds of fairness or justice. The words of S. 33C(2) are plain and unambiguous and it would be the duty of the labour court to give effect to the said provision without any considerations of limitation.'
10. From this observations, it appears that their lordships of the Supreme Court were of the opinion that since the words of S. 33C(2) were plain and unambiguous, it was the duty of the labour court to give effect to the said provisions without any consideration of limitation. Their lordships of the Supreme Court were, however, considering the provisions of the old Limitation Act of 1908 which did not make any provision for applications under the special Acts.
11. Sri Kukday appearing for the respondent-worker also brought to our notice a decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Ramakrishna Ramnath v. Presiding Officer, Labour Court : (1963)ILLJ417Bom . After considering the various decisions of the Supreme Court, the learned Judges of the Division Bench held that it was clear that the laws of limitation as such were not applicable to industrial adjudication, but at the same time, over-stale claims were not to be encouraged. These were the observations made by the learned Judges in p. 425 after considering the various decisions of the Supreme Court in regard to the application of the law of limitation to applications under S. 33C of the Industrial Disputes Act. These observations of the Division Bench of this Court are of a very wide import. The question is whether these observations would prevail now in view of the intended change in the Limitation Act as brought about by the clause defining the words 'application' within the Act itself. The decision of the Supreme Court as well as of the Division Bench of this Court have laid down that the law of limitation does not apply to an application under S. 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
12. However, considering the intention at the time of consolidation and amendment of the law of limitation, the statements of objects of the Bill and the statements in regard to the particular Clause 2, it appears to us that this question requires reconsideration. Since a Division Bench had held that the law of limitation does not apply to industrial legislation and since they are of opinion that a change is definitely brought about in the law of limitation by reasons of the definition given to 'application' in the said Act, we feel that a lager Bench should consider this point so that this point be decided finally so far as this Court is concerned. The point is of importance because several such applications might be pending before the labour Court and several applications such as the present one or under any other provision under industrial legislation are bound to be filed hereafter. Since the point is of such great importance, we hold that a larger Bench should decide this particular point :
'Whether by the Limitation Act 36 of 1963, the application in respect of special law is also provided for within Art. 137 of the said Act ?'