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State of Punjab Vs. V.S. Kumar and Co. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLimitation
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberRegular First Appeal No. 16D of 1961
Judge
Reported inILR1971Delhi793; 1971RLR44
ActsLimitation Act, 1963 - Sections 18
AppellantState of Punjab
RespondentV.S. Kumar and Co.
Advocates: D.D. Chawla and; M.L. Oberoi, Advs
Excerpt:
.....acts of cheating and misrepresentation. 142-d of 1961, as well as by dalip k. before the expiration of the period prescribed for a suit or application in respect of any property or right an acknowledgement liability in respect of such property or right has been made in writing signed by the party against whom such property or right is claimed, or by any person through whom he derives his title or liability, a fresh period of limitation shall be computed from the time when the acknowledgement was so signed, (2)explanation-1. for the purposes of this section, (a) an acknowledgement may be sufficient though it omits to specify the exact nature of the property or right, or avers that the time for payment, delivery, performance or enjoyment has not yet come or is accompanied by a refusal to..........dated 13-12-1955 and ex. 35 and ex. 36, both dated 24-11-1955, as acknowledgements extending the period of limitation under section 19 of the limitation act, 1908. it was contended by the state of punjab, in the written statement filed to the amended plaint that nothing was due to the plaintiffs' firm which had by cheating and misrepresentation received amounts very much in excess of his claim; the alleged letters did not amount to an acknowledgement under section 19 of the indian limitation act particularly with reference to ex. p26. the letter dated 13-12-1955 by the sub divisional officer, it was alleged that he had even no auothority to make any acknowledgement for the purpose of saving limitation. (4) the lower court held that ex. p27, p35 and p36 acknowledged the claims of the.....
Judgment:

S. Rangarajan, J.

(1) The only question that has been argued in this Regular First Appeal, which has been preferred by the State of Punjab against the decree for Rs. 8,843.81 np. with proportionate costs passed by the learned Sub Judge First Class, Delhi (Shri Om Parkash Aggarwala) in favor of the plaintiffs, is whether the suit, filed on 12.8.1958, was barred by limitation. It is not disputed that the plaintiff firm at Delhi had supplied certain goods to the defendant appellant between 22-2-1954 and 8-6-1954.

(2) In the plaint as it was originally filed the cause of action for the suit was stated to have arisen in the month of December, 1955 when payment was refused, yet again on 16th of July, 1957 when the plaintiffs' special representative met the officers of the Government of the State of Punjab but payment was refused, and lastly on 2nd of August, 1958 on the expiry of the period of notice served on the State of Punjab under Section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

(3) As a result of the lower court allowing an amendment of the plaint, by its order dated 3rd August. 1960, the plaintiffs sought to rely further on four letters Ex. P27 dated 10-12-1955, Ex. dated P26 dated 13-12-1955 and Ex. 35 and Ex. 36, both dated 24-11-1955, as acknowledgements extending the period of limitation under Section 19 of the Limitation Act, 1908. It was contended by the State of Punjab, in the written statement filed to the amended plaint that nothing was due to the plaintiffs' firm which had by cheating and misrepresentation received amounts very much in excess of his claim; the alleged letters did not amount to an acknowledgement under Section 19 of the Indian Limitation Act Particularly with reference to Ex. P26. the letter dated 13-12-1955 by the Sub Divisional Officer, it was alleged that he had even no auothority to make any acknowledgement for the purpose of saving Limitation.

(4) The lower court held that Ex. P27, P35 and P36 acknowledged the claims of the plaintiff and were sufficient to extend the period of Limitation.

(5) The lawyer of the Plaintiffs wrote to the Sub Divisional Officer. Sarusti Sub Division, Kaithal on 2nd December, 1955 (Ex. P19) pressing for payment of the amount due as per the bills sent. The Executive Engineer thereupon wrote a letter on 10-12-1955 (Ex. P27) to the Sub Divisional Officer, referring to the said letter (Ex, P.19) and asked for a detailed report. Later, a reply was sent to the said lawyer by the Sub Divisional Officer on 13-12-1955 (Ex. P26) informing him that the plaintiff's had not removed the objections raised by the Department and had not given any suitable reply. Neither Ex. P26 nor Ex. P27 are thus seen to contain any acknowledgement at all.

(6) Before noticing the contents of the other two letters. Ex. P35 and P36, which have been reliend upon by the plaintiff to save Limitation, it is necessary to notice the circumstances in which the plaintiffs were not paid fully in respect of the supply of the goods in question with reference to certain works undertaken in connection with the Agra Main Canal Project. The plaintiffs as well as some others were suspected to have indulged in acts of cheating and misrepresentation. It was averred in paragraph 4 of the written statement that the plaintiffs had received moneys without supplying goods at all. The Executive Engineer received the copy of a secret letter dated 24-11-1955 from the Secretary, South Punjab Irrigation Secretariat, Ellersali, Simla to the Superintending Engineer (forwarded to him by the latter) 1st Bhakra main Line Circle Patiala stating that no final payment or refund of securities should be made to certain firms including the plaintiff and that any amount due to those firms should be frozen till further orders. He forwarded in turn, copies of the said letter to all the Sub Divisional Officers under him for necessary action. While Ex. P35 is a copy of the communication by the Executive Engineer Pehowa Division, Kaithal, Ex. P36 is a copy of a communication by the Superintending Engineer, IInd B.M.L. Circle, Hissar incorporating the contents of the said letter. The contents of both being the same it will be sufficient to read the relevant portion of one of them:-

'Iam directed by Shri S. L. Malhotra I. S. E. Chief Engineer and Secretary to Govt. Punjab Public Witness D. Irrigation Branch to request you not to make any final payments or refund or securities of the following firms:- 1. M/s. V. S. Kumar & Co., 2 to 8. Seven other firms. 'Any amounts due to the above firms should be frozen till further orders.'

(7) The same circular letter was considered by Prithvi Raj J-in M/s. V. S. Kumar & Co., vs. The State of Punjab (R.S.A. No. 142-D of 1961, as well as by Dalip K. Kapur, J. in Messrs. V. S. Kumur & Co., vs. The State of Punjab (R.S.A. 158-D of 1961). Both these R.S.A.S. are between the same parties as in this case. In both those cases it was held that the said circular letter did not amount to an acknowledgement of Liability.

(8) Section 19 of the Limitation Act 1908 (corresponding to Section 18 of the Limitation Act 1963) in so far as it is material for the present appeal, reads as follows: -

'19.Effect of acknowledgement in writing-(1) where. before the expiration of the period prescribed for a suit or application in respect of any property or right an acknowledgement liability in respect of such property or right has been made in writing signed by the party against whom such property or right is claimed, or by any person through whom he derives his title or liability, a fresh period of Limitation shall be computed from the time when the acknowledgement was so signed, (2)Explanation-1. For the purposes of this Section, (a) an acknowledgement may be sufficient though it omits to specify the exact nature of the property or right, or avers that the time for payment, delivery, performance or enjoyment has not yet come or is accompanied by a refusal to pay, deliver, perform or permit to enjoy, or is coupled with a claim to set off or is addressed to a person other than a person entitled to the property or right.'

(9) The Supreme Court considered Section 19 of the Limitation Act. 1908, in Shapoor Freedom Mazda v. Durga Prasad Chamaria and others : [1962]1SCR140 . It was observed that the words used in the acknowledgement must indicate the existence of jural relationship between the parties, such as that of debtor and creditor. It must also appear that the statement was made with the intention to admit such jural relationship; such intention need not be expressed in words but can be inferred from the nature of the admission. If the statement was fairly clear then the jural relationship may be implied from it. While courts do lean in favor of a liberal construction of such statements one could not be inferred where there is no admission or a statement has been made without intending to admit the existence of jural relationship. In construing words used in the statements made in writing, on which a plea of acknowledgement rests, oral evidence is excluded but surrounding circumstances, could be considered.

(10) The present case has to be decided in the light of the aforesaid principles; that decision was rendered by the Supreme Court subsequent to the judgment which is now appealed against. It is needless to examine the cases referred to by the lower court or even those cited on behalf of the plaintiffs before us of other High Courts which were all decided prior to the above said decision of the Supreme Court. The above said circular letter, embodied in Exs. P35 and P36, was couched in general terms referring the cases of other firms, in addition to the plaintiffs, to whom payments were not to be made until further orders; it did not contain any admission of existing liability. The circular letter was issued with a view to preventing any person, who had been guilty of cheating and misrepresentation, being paid any amount until further orders. There was no conscious acknowledgement of any liability on the part of the Government to pay any of those firms, including the plaintiffs, who were suspected of having resorted to cheating and misrepresentation. When the said circular letter is thus seen to contain no admission of any liability there could be no question of taking a liberal view of the matter, as the lower court has done. We are unable to find anything in the above said four letters which have been relied upon by the plaintiff to help save limitation. Differing from the lower court we hold that the present suit, which had been filed more than three years after the date when the goods were last supplied by the plaintiffs, is barred under Article 52 of the Limitation Act, 1908. This is, without doubt, a claim for the price of goods sold and delivered, where no fixed period of credit was agreed upon; the period of limitation, of three years provided by the said Article, commences, from the date of the delivery of the goods.

(11) In the result, the decree of the lower court is set aside, the appeal is accepted and the plaintiffs' suit is dismissed but in the circumstances without costs.


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