1. 'The Cheshire Cat vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some-time after the rest of it had gone. 'Such was the 'Alice in Wonderland' story of Kumudini Shah, an auction purchaser, who purchased a property formerly known as 'Globe Theatre' and surroundings buildings, as well as a three storeyed building known as 'Globe Chawl', situate in City Survey Nos. 18 and 19-A, Shukrawar Peth, Poona, which has subsequently been numbered as 1100 and 1101, Budhwar Peth, Poona, Shah waited for some eleven years to get possession of the property and when she got it, found that mesne profits for all those years except the least three have vanished like the Cheshire Cat.
2. This property, along with other, formed the subject matter of a Civil Suit No. 82 of 1952 in the Court of Civil Judge, Senior Division, Poona. This suit was filed by a mortgage against the mortgagors and other subsequent mortgages for foreclosure and realisation of the debt by sale of the mortgaged property. Punamchand Shrichand the mortgaged obtained a preliminary decree on 21st November 1952. One K.M. Mody was also joined as defendant No. 10 to the suit as he was a subsequent mortgagee. Punamchand Shrichand proceeded to obtain a final decree and, as none of the mortgagors or subsequent mortgagees could pay the decretal amount, Punamchand Shrichand filed Special Darkhast No. 1 of 1954, in the Court of Civil Judge, Senior Division, Poona, for realisation of the amount by sale of the mortgaged property. Even though the Court granted indulgence for payment of the dues the same could not be paid and finally the mortgaged properties were put up to Court auction. The present plaintiff Kumudini Shah came to the scene for the first time as she purchased the property on 6th August 1957. Objections were preferred for setting aside the sale but were dismissed finally by this Court on 2nd December 1960. With the final dismissal of all objections by the High Court on 2nd December 1960, a sale-certificate was granted to the plaintiff who moved 'C' Application No. 285 of 1957 for possession. The executing Court gave symbolic possession of some portion of the properties purchased in the auction. When the plaintiff prayed for Khas possession of the property which was in occupation of K.M. Modi who was joined as defendant to the suit as a subsequent mortgagee, her prayer was granted by the executing Court. K.M. Mody, being aggrieved by the order, challenged the same in Revision Application No. 1508 of 1958 before this Court contending that he was a tenant of the property. On 27th February 1961, parties came to terms and a learned single Judge of this Court passed the following order in the revision proceedings wherein Mody had sought setting aside of the order of the Civil Judge, Senior Division, Poona, in the executing proceedings :-
'The petitioners and the respondent having settled the disputes between them and the terms of which have been reduced to writing, signed, by the counsel of the parties and put on record of this case, the Court by consent sets aside the order passed by the Civil Judge (S.D.) Poona, and passes the following consent order in terms thereof :-
1. By consent judgment and order dated the 16th August 1958 in Civil Application No. 328/57 passed by Shri V.V. Ghotge Jt. Civil Judge (Senior Division) Poona, set aside.
2. The petitioner agrees to file within 6 weeks from the date hereof a suit in an appropriate Civil Court in Poona against the respondent for declaration of his rights to continue in possession as a tenant or statutory tenant or otherwise of the property and the premises herein and to protection of the Rent Act.
3. The respondent hereby agrees and undertakes not to interfere with the possession and quiet enjoyment of the property and premises and not to demand or recover possession or to take steps or proceedings to recover possession of the said property and premises and not apply for the appointment of a Receiver of the said property and premise until the final disposal of the suit referred to in clause 2 hereof and until the final disposal of any appeal or revision in respect of any judgment or order or decree in the said suit and until the disposal of any appeal therein taken to the Supreme Court in India.
4. In view of the decision of the Hon'ble Court in A.O. NO. 1 of 1958 confirming the sale of the said properly and premises in favour of the respondent, the petitioner agrees to deposit in Court in the suit referred to in clause 2 hereof an amount of Rs. 800/- per month as rent of the said property and premises and to deposit within 6 months from the date hereof the arrears if any of rent of the said property and premises. The respondent will withdraw all these amounts without prejudice to her contention that the petitioner is not entitled to remain in possession as tenant or otherwise and that she is entitled to recover mesne profits from the petitioner in the event of the final outcome of the suit mentioned in clause 2 hereof being against the petitioner.
5. In the event of the final Court as mentioned above holding that the petitioner is not entitled to be in possession of the said property and premises, the petitioner hereby undertakes to this Hon'ble Court to give vacant possession thereof to the respondent (if necessary by taking possession from Western India Theatres Ltd.) within one year from the date of the final decision'.
3. True to his word K.M. Mody filed a suit being Suit No. 1122 of 1961 in the Court of Small Causes, Poona, for a declaration that he is a tenant of the properties in question and is entitled to continue possession under the terms of the tenancy agreement. The suit was dismissed on 7th February 1964 and the Civil Appeal No. 385 of 1964, Civil Revision, as well as the Petition for Special Leave for Appeal in the Supreme Court being No. 136 of 1967 were all rejected, the final one on 30th October 1967. K.M. Mody delivered possession of the properties on 31st October 1968. Having been kept out of possession all these years, Shah filed Original Special Civil Suit No. 224 of 1969 in the Court of Joint Civil Judge, (Senior Division) Poona, for an enquiry to be made as to the amount of compensation and / or mesne profits of the business and the income which had accrued from out of the property for a period from 6-8-1957 to 31-10-1968. The trial Court quantified the annual average income of the properties by three modes and taking lowest rate of Rs. 1,09,400/- and making deduction of the payment of Rs. 800/- per month made by the defendant, came to the conclusion that the yearly income for which the defendants can be held liable would come to Rs. 90,000/- As respects the contention that the suit is barred by limitation, the trial Court found that the relevant article is Article 51 of the Indian Limitation Act. As the starting point of limitation under that Article is the date when the profits are received, the trial Court limited the mesne profits for a period of three years and decreed the suit accordingly. That is what brings the plaintiff Shah to this Court in appeal.
4. A three-legged philosophy that serves as a prop upon which the edifice of the adjectival law of limitation is built is : firstly, an individual should not live under the threat of an action for an undetermined period; secondly, the indolent should be deprived of the power of enforcing cause of action and thirdly a defendant should be protected from suits which he would not be in a position to defend successfully because of loss of evidence due to passage of time. Limitation Act, in Section 9, contains the prescription that - where once time has begun to run, no subsequent disability or inability to institute a suit or make an application stops it - subject to certain provisions not material for the present purpose. Similarly the adjectival law of limitation also contains provisions of extinguishing rights and Section 27 provides that at the determination of the period thereby limited to any person for instituting a suit for possession of any property, his right to such property shall be extinguished. This section would not partake the nature of a law of procedure, but is a substantial law extinguishing rights.
5. Article 51 which was successfully canvassed by the defendants in the trial Court has a legislative history right from the Act of 1871 and the changes which the drafting of the Article went through during the 90 years can best be understood by reproducing them -
'Article 51 of the Act of 1963 is as under :
Act 36 of For the profits of immovable prop Three When the profits are received 1963 erty belonging to the plaintiff which years have been wrongfully received by the defendant. The next of corresponding Article 109 of the Act of 1908 is in the identical language :
Art 9 of 1908 For the profits of immovable pro- Three When the profits are received. erty belonging to the plaintiff years which have been wrongfully received by the defendant. The corresponding Article 109 of the Act of 1877 differs in some particulars :
Act 15 of 1877 For the profits of immovable pro- Three When the profits are receivedperty belonging to the plaintiff years or where the plaintiff has which have been wrongfully recei- been dispossessed by a decreeved by the defendant. Afterwards set aside on appealwhen he recovers possession. Article 109 of the Act of 1871 corresponding to present Article 51 is also reproduced below :- Act 9 of 1871 For the profits of immovable pro- Three When the profits are receivedperty belonging to the plaintiff years or where the plaintiff has beenwrongfully received by the dispossessed by a decree after-defendant. Wards set aside on appeal, thedate of the decree of the Appellate Court.
6. The clause pertaining to recovery of possession consequent upon the decree being set aside on an appeal obtaining in the third column of Article 109 of 1871 Act as well as 1877 Act was omitted for the first time in the 1908 Act. Commenting on this omission, the Mysore High Court, in Balappa v. Waman, AIR 1962 Mys 235 observed that the deletion indicates the intention of the legislature that Article 109 (i.e. the present Article 51) would not be applicable to a suit for restitution, and the reason for omission was probably the change which Section 144, clause (2) of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 introduced barring a separate suit for recovery of such profits. The Supreme Court, in Mahijibhai Mohanbhai Barot v. Patel Manibahi Gokalbhai : 2SCR436 , held that (at p. 1481) :-
The result of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Mahijibhai's case would be that if during the pendency of a litigation possession has been taken by a successful party of immovable property under a Court order which ultimately is set aside by a higher Court, the mesne profits for a full span of 12 years will become payable in the process.
7. The parties to the Civil Revision Application No. 1508 of 1958 in which K.M. Mody had raised the plea of tenancy by a private treaty, agreed to the following propositions :-
i) Mody to file a suit in an appropriate Court with a view to obtaining a declaration that he is a tenant or statutory tenant of the property;
iii) Shah should not disturb the possession enjoyed by Mody and
v) Mody to pay Rs. 800/- per month as rent of the property and premises.
8. The agreement is silent as to the effect on the suit in the event Mody resiles from his promise to file a suit in an appropriate Court or does not prosecute the same with due diligence.
9. According to Mr. Paranjape, the learned Counsel for the appellant, the private treaty between the parties having merged into an order of the Court, the possession of Mody was recognized by the parties and the Court to be a lawful one and Mody was to pay Rs. 800/- per month as rent of the property. The character of the occupation of the property by Mody was kept in a state of suspended animation inasmuch as whether Mody was occupying the premises as a tenant or was a trespasser was dependent upon the outcome of the civil suit which Mody proposed to file in the Court of Small Causes at Poona. Counsel continues that if the result of the civil suit in the Small Cause Court at Poona were to go against Shah, Shah would never have been able to obtain Khas possession of the property even though she was armed with a confirmed sale-certificate in her possession. In the alternative, if Mody were to lose in the civil suit, the character of possession would have been pronounced by the Court in a retrospective manner to be that of a tress-passer and the plaintiff would have become entitled to obtain profits of the property in possession of Mody during all these years. As the filing of the suit for mesne profits or damages was contingent upon the result of the declaratory suit proposed to be filed by Mody, the argument continues, the cause of action or the time when the right to sue accrues itself got linked with the date when the proposed suit for declaration would be finally decided. In this view of the matter Mr. Paranjape contends that it is Article 113 of the Limitation Act which would apply and the right to sue accrued on 30th October 1967 when the Supreme Court finally dismissed the claim of Mody as respects the alleged tenancy rights in the suit property.
10. Mr. Dalvi, the learned Counsel for the respondents has taken us through the order passed by this Court in the Civil Revision Application No. 1508 of 1958 word by word can contends that there is not a scintilla in the order which can be construed as a bar to the filing of a suit for mesne profits by the plaintiff Shah. According to Mr. Dalvi, all that the does is to put an embargo on the auction purchaser Shah in initiating or prosecutingany legal proceedings to recover Khas possession of the suit property and premises. The order only protects the Khas possession of Mody and even prohibits the auction purchaser Shah from filing an application for the appointment of a Receiver but nowhere if forbids the filing of a suit periodically for claim of mesne profits. Mr. Dalvi places reliance on the observations of the Allahabad High Court in Ram Charan Sahu v. Goga : AIR1927All446 to the effect that when a claim for mesne profits is in dispute, the starting point for mesne profits would be the date when the profits are received. The limitation cannot start instead, from the date of an adjudication of the rights between the parties. In such cases the practice is that the plaintiff should institute a suit for it be stayed pending the disposal of the former litigation. This practice, continues Mr. Dalvi, is prevalent in Courts. Many a suit are filed in this manner and got stayed under Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure. What prevented Shah, asks Mr. Dalvi, from filing suits every three years and getting them stayed?
11. A scrutiny of the order of this Court in Civil Revision Application which has been reproduced in extenso above, shows that by consent the order passed by the Joint Civil Judge, Senior Division, Poona ordering delivery of possession in the Darkhast proceedings was set aside, with the result that there was no pending execution proceeding in the trial Court which had granted the sale-certificate to the plaintiff Shah. The plaintiff Shah agreed not to take any steps to recover possession of the property and the only step which she had taken by filing a Darkhast was also withdrawn. The result was that the auction purchaser was relegated to the stage when she received a sale-certificate as respects the property which proclaimed her title thereto. The parties agreed to fight out their rights in another Court viz. The Small Cause Court, because it was that Court and that Court alone which had jurisdiction to determine the question of tenancy rights. Till the determination was made, the parties had worked out on arrangement as respects the quid pro quo which the auction purchaser was to receive against the continued possession of Mody in the property. Mody was to pay Rs. 800/- per month which has been described as rent. But nothing turns on the label which has been attached to this amount because even Mody in his written statement refers to this amount as mesne profits. Then the parties interpolated a without prejudice clause so that the receipt of this amount by the auction purchaser should not prejudice her contention that Mody was a trespasser. The contentions which were visualised by the parties were that no prejudice should be caused to the auction purchaser Shah regarding her contention that Mody is not entitled to remain in possession as tenant or otherwise. The second contention which was sought to be protected by the umbrella of the without prejudice clause was that auction purchaser Shah 'is entitled to recover mesne profits from the petitioner in the event of the final outcome of the proposed declaratory suit'. The use of the expression 'in the event of the final outcome' forges the link between the right to file a suit for mesne profits with the result of the declaratory suit. The parties were clear in their mind that entitlement of Shah to recover mesne profits can only arise if the claim of Mody, that he is the tenant of the property, is thrown out by the Small Cause Court, Poona.
12. Mr. Dalvi concedes such an interpretation of this term so far as the actual receipt of the mesne profits is concerned, but argues that the plaintiff could, and in the nature of things, should have filed suits periodically which suits would have been animated in the event Mody failed to establish his claim of tenancy.
13. To our mind, the present suit can never be called a suit simpliciter for mesne profits as is envisaged by Article 51 of the Limitation Act. We had made reference to the legislative history of this Article to show that suits for restitution, though were contemplated by the earlier Limitation Acts of 1871 and 1877, have been taken out of this article and we had in that connection, referred to Mahijibhai's case : 2SCR436 which treats an application for restitution under Section 144 as an application for execution of a decree and is governed by Article 181 of the 1908 Limitation Act. In allied fields, the Supreme Court has expanded the concept of accrual of cause of action so as to make it co-ordinate with and concomitant upon the final determination of lis by a competent court. For example, in Shiv Shankar Dal Mills v. State of Haryana : 1SCR1170 , the question that fell for consideration revolved round the restitution of excess market fees realised by the several market committees of Haryana. The original rate of market fee of 2% was increased to 3% under Haryana Act 22 of 1977 which increase was challenged as being unconstitutional. The challenge was upheld and the recovery of 1% was held to be ultra vires. No directions could be given by the court at the time when Haryana Act was declared unconstitutional because these amounts could not be quantified. There was some discussion before the High Court regarding the Article of limitation applicable to such a claim. But the Supreme Court, evolving a new jurisprudence observed (at p. 1038)
'There is no law of limitation especially for public bodies, on the virtue of returning what was wrongly recovered to whom it belongs'
14. Similarly, in the field of service matter where the dismissal of a government servant was declared illegal by the Court, the Supreme Court, in Jai Chand Sawhney v. Union of India (1970) 2 SCJ 288 had observed that :
'Salary due to the public servant concerned must be deemed to have accrued month after month because he had been wrongfully prevented from rendering service and the period of limitation under Article 102 commences to run when the wages 'accrue due' .................'
Later on, the Supreme Court, in Maimoona Khatun v. State of U.P. : (1980)IILLJ164SC , ruled that the starting point of limitation would be not the date of the order of dismissal or removal but the date when the right actually accrues, that is to say, the date of the reinstatement by the appointment authority where no suit is filed and decreed. On this basis, the Court ordered payment of the entire back wages and not only those which fell due in the period of three years preceding the filing of the suit. Thus, the discernible trend that surfaces in these decisions is that an aggrieved party can found his action for consequential relief on the date of decision of a court which declares his rights and enables him to bring in such action rather than rush to court periodically treating it as a fortuitous gamble.
15. We would not wish to be thought that we are in favour of any general principles of suspension of right of action in cases where the party is prevented under certain circumstances from taking action in pursuance of his rights. The suspension of period of limitation is governed by the catena of Sections 4 to 24 of the Limitation Act, and if a suspension of the period of limitation is sought to be pleaded by a party once time has begun to run against him, he will have to bring his case in one of the aforesaid sections. In the present case all that has happened is that the plaintiff had taken steps to obtain possession of the property in pursuance of the sale-certificate granted in her favour and the question of running of time against her did not arise because the matter was pending in the execution court itself. The parties, by private treaty, agreed to postpone the filing of the suit according as the respondent Mody proves or fails to prove his claim of tenancy rights. That is to say, it was not a case of suspension of limitation but one when the right to sue itself accrued only when the Supreme Court finally dismissed the claim of Mody. None of the basic principles of the law of limitation were violated by Shah; she was not indolent, she did not spring a surprise on Mody nor was any evidence lost by passage of time.
16. Alternatively, various arguments were addressed at the bar regarding the applications of Section 15 so as to exclude the time during which the institution of a suit was stayed by an order of this Court in the revision proceedings. It was urged that even if Article 51 of the Limitation Act applied to the suit, the period during which the suit for a declaration of tenancy rights filed by Mody was pending, should be excluded in the computation of the period of limitation. Mr. Paranjape also relied on a decision of the Supreme Court in Anadilal v. Ram Narain : 3SCR806 , for the proposition that even a partial stay of execution of the decree staying sale of the attached property in execution proceedings is within sub-section (1) of Section 15 of the Limitation Act, 1908 so as to entitle the decree-holder to claim exclusion of the period during which there was stay of sale but the property was to continue under attachment. This was in answer to Mr. Dalvi's argument that at best the order of the High Court in revision proceedings amounted to a partial stay of proceedings to recover Khas possession of the property or even getting a Receiver appointed, but that there was no stay as respects receipt of mesne profits.
17. Reference was also made to an early case of Calcutta High Court, in Dwijendra Narain Roy v. Joges Chandra De : AIR1924Cal600 which laid down that the true test to determine as to when a cause of action has accrued is to ascertain the time when plaintiff could first have maintained his action to a successful result, and to Ram Charan Sahu v. Goga : AIR1927All446 in which the Calcutta case was doubted. However, in the view which we are taking of the matter, we do not think it necessary to discuss in detail these pleas which are contradictory in nature, as we hold that the suit is governed by Article 113 of the Limitation Act.
18. Coming now to the question of quantum of mesne profits, the appellant herself has accepted the rate of Rs. 90,000/- per year, and further restricted her claim to Rs. 8,00,000/- though even according to the lowest calculation made by the trial Court, the claim would have worked out to Rs. 9,77,261/-.
19. In the result, the appeal is allowed and the plaintiff would be entitled to recover from the defendants an additional sum of Rs. 8,00,000/- together with interest at the rate of 6% per annum on this additional sum of Rs. 8,00,000/- from 31st August 1974 i.e. the date of the trail Court judgment, till realisation. The plaintiff shall pay the necessary court-fees on the amount of Rs. 8,00,000/- in the trial Court subject to the deductions of court-fees, if any paid. The court-fees should be paid within two months from today. The decree shall not be executable by the plaintiff till the payment of deficit court-fee. In view of the peculiar circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs in this First Appeal, though the other order as to costs in the trial Court and interest in the trail Court is confirmed.
20. Order accordingly.