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Raj Chopra Vs. Shanno Devi and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty;Limitation
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetter Patent Appeal No. 90 of 1974
Judge
Reported inAIR1981Delhi18; 17(1980)DLT546; 1980RLR431
ActsPunjab Land Revenue Act, 1887 - Sections 91; Limitation Act, 1963 - Sections 3
AppellantRaj Chopra
RespondentShanno Devi and ors.
Advocates: G.L. Sanghvi,; Vinod Bhobade,; Madan Lokur,;
Cases ReferredImperial Bucket Co. v. Smt. Bhagwati Basak
Excerpt:
.....be made to the court. - - he contends that before the limitation act can be applicable to any period prescribed by a special act like the punjab land revenue act two conditions have to be satisfied namely-(1) that there has to be found in the first schedule to the limitation act a period prescribed different from the period of limitation prescribed by the special law for an identical application. section 5 of limitation act is thus clearly attracted. but in case of latter kind as in the present case where the period is prescribed under a special law like the act, article 137 of schedule to limitation act is not being resorted to at all and the requirement of application being to a court does not necessarily arise. 1 seeks to invoke the applicability of limitation act by virtue of..........5 of the limitation act 1963 was applicable and there was power to admit the application after the period prescribed under section 91 and he thereforee by the impugned order remitted the matter back to the lt. governor for consideration on merits. the auction purchaser being aggrieved has filed this appeal. the respondent no. 1 invoked section 5 of the limitation act, by virtue of limitation act 1963 being applicable to these proceedings because of section 29(2) of limitation act) which reads as under: 'where any special or local law prescribes for any suit, appeal or application a period of limitation different from the period prescribed by the schedule, the provisions of section 3 shall apply as if such period where the period prescribed by the schedule and for the purpose of.....
Judgment:

R. Sachar, J.

(1) This is a Letters Patent Appeal against the order of the learned single Judge dated 31.5.1974 which he allowed the writ petition filed by the respondent No. 1 and remitted the matter back to the Lt. Governor for decision in accordance with law.

(2) The property bearing No. 48-G, Nizamuddin West, New Delhi was put to auction by the Collector, Delhi on 17.11.1971 and was purchased by the appellant for a sum of Rs. 47,000.00 . The auction had taken place in order to realise a sum of money cue to Rehabilitation, Finance Administration from M/s. Shahakar Ltd. on account of loan taken by it for which the son of respondent No. 1 had stood as one of the sureties. The sale was confirmed by the Lt. Governor on 23.12.1971. The possession of the property was given to the appellant/auction purchaser on 4.1.1972.

(3) On 19.2.1972 the respondent No. 1 filed an application under Section 91 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act (as applied to Delhi) for setting aside the sale. Section 91 provides for making an application to set aside a sale at any time within 30 days from the date of the sale. The plea of the Respondent No. 1 was that she had come to know of sale only on 9.2.1972 and thereforee there was sufficient reason for the Lt. Governor to condone the delay and entertain the application. She had sought to invoke Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 read with Section 17 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act (to be called the Act) for this purpose. The Lt. Governor however, took the view that Limitation Act was not applicable to such an application before him and thereforee he had no power to condone the delay, even if the delay was sufficiently explained. The learned Judge however) has held that Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1963 was applicable and there was power to admit the application after the period prescribed under Section 91 and he thereforee by the impugned order remitted the matter back to the Lt. Governor for consideration on merits. The auction purchaser being aggrieved has filed this appeal. The respondent No. 1 invoked Section 5 of the Limitation Act, by virtue of Limitation Act 1963 being applicable to these proceedings because of Section 29(2) of Limitation Act) which reads as under:

'Where any special or local law prescribes for any suit, appeal or application a period of limitation different from the period prescribed by the Schedule, the provisions of Section 3 shall apply as if such period where the period prescribed by the Schedule and for the purpose of determining any period of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by any special or local law, the provisions contained in Section 4 to 24 (inclusive) shall apply only in so far as, and to the extent to which, they are not expressly excluded by such special or local law.'

(4) The learned Judge has accepted this contention which is challenged by Mr. Sanghi the learned counsel for the appellant. He contends that before the Limitation Act can be applicable to any period prescribed by a special act like the Punjab Land Revenue Act two conditions have to be satisfied namely-(1) that there has to be found in the first schedule to the Limitation Act a period prescribed different from the period of limitation prescribed by the special law for an identical application. The contention, in short is that as in the Schedule to the Limitation Act there is no provision for limitation for filing an application before the Commissioner (in this case the Lt. Governor) under Section 91 of the Act. Section 29(2) cannot attract the Limitation Act because the condition precedent is that there must be found in the schedule the very situation which is to be found in a special law with the only difference that the periods of limitation may be different. This argument proceeds on the assumption that if no period of limitation is provided in the schedule to the Limitation Act for a situation for which an application which is contemplated by special law. Section 29(2) of Limitation Act does not cover this aspect. Now this very argument was raised and rejected in : [1964]6SCR129 Vidyacharan Shukla v. Khub Chand Baghel and others. In that case the question was whether Section 12 of the Limitation Act could be invoked in an appeal filed under Section 116(A)(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act to the High Court. The argument was that as there was no provision in the Limitation Act prescribing any period of limitation for an appeal under the Representation of Peoples Act, resort to the Limitation Act was not permissible. The court posed the problem that 'when the First Schedule of the Limitation Act prescribes no time limit for a particular appeal, but the special law prescribes a time limit to it, can it not be said that under the First Schedule of the Limitation Act an appeal can be filed at any time, but the special law by limiting it provides for a different period While the former permits the filing of an appeal at any time, the latter limits it to the prescribed period. It is, thereforee, different from that prescribed in the furmer. The court approved the observation of Chhagla, C.J. in : AIR1953Bom35 Canara Bank Ltd. Bombay v. Warden Ins. Co. Ltd. Bombay, that 'if the First Schedule to the Limitation Act omits laying down any period of limitation for a particular appeal and the special law provides a period of limitation, then to that extent the special law is different from the Limitation Act.' The court after referring to the other case law ultimately held that the position was that 'Section 29(2) would apply even to a case where a difference between the special law and the Limitation Act arose by omission to provide for a limitation to a particular proceeding under the Limitation Act.

(5) In the present case the period of time is provided under Section 91 of the period. Even if there is no period prescribed by the First Schedule to the Limitation Act Section 29(2) of the Act would govern such an application with the result that the provisions of Section 4 to 24 will become applicable. Section 5 of Limitation Act is thus clearly attracted. This plea of Mr. Sanghi fails.

(6) The next limb of this very argument was that Section 29(2) also postulates that an application or proceedings that are covered by Section 29(2) of Limitation Act must relate to application being filed before the Civil or the Criminal Courts, and as an application under Section 91 of the Act before the Revenue Officer was not an application before a court, Limitation Act would not be applicable. We cannot agree. In (22 S. T. C. 104) Vasanji Ghela & Co. v. The. State of Maharashtra & another, an application was filed before the Sales Tax Tribunal beyond one year and a prayer for condensation of delay was rejected by the Tribunal on the ground that it had no power to condone the delay. The court reverses this decision and held that the provisions of Section 29(2) and Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1963 were attracted and could be availed of for applications for reference before the tribunal and that it was not necessary that an application necessarily be before a court before by virtue of Section 29(2) the provisions of Limitation. Act could be attracted. Mr. Sanghi had however, relied on : AIR1974Ker162 Jokkim Fernandez v. Amina Kunhi Umma, which had held by a majority that as the appellate authority under the Kerala Rent Control Act was not a court but a persons designate Section 5 of the Limitation Act 1963 was not applicable to proceedings before the appellate authority, as the Limitation Act only applies to courts. It may however, he noted that the majority decision was influenced by the decision given by : (1969)IILLJ651SC Town Municipal Council, Athani v. Presiding Officer, Labour Court, Hubli and others which was specifically held to have been decided wrongly in : [1977]1SCR996 The Kerala State Electricity Board, Trivendrum v. T. P Kunhhaliumma, G. Vishwanata Iyer, J. however, held that a conclusion that the proceeding under the special law should be before ordinary (Civil and Criminal) courts alone in order that the provision of Section 5 can be applied is not warranted by the provisions of the various special laws and the Limitation Act. With respect the opinion of Vishwanath Iyer, J. commends to us more than the opinion of other learned Judges, in Kerala case. A similar argument that in an appeal filed before a Rent Control Tribunal which was a persona designata. Section 29(2)(a) could not be invoked to apply the Limitation Act) was rejected in : AIR1954Cal520 Imperial Bucket Co. v. Smt. Bhagwati Basak, and the court observed that in the plain meaning the word 'suit or appeal' refer to any suit or appeal being filed in a court or before a persona designata and that the words 'inclusive of suit, appeal or application' specified by a prescribed local law do not justify the words in adding the words, 'to court', and Section 29 of the Limitation Act was thereforee held to be available. This view was followed by 0m Parkash,J.C. in Mehar Chand and others v. Twarsoo and others, to hold that the word 'application' will include an application made to a persona designata and that the applicability of Section 29(2) was not restricted to applications which were made to a court only. In this connection it may be noted that the preamble of the 1908 Limitation Act spoke to consolidate and amend the law relating to suits, appeals and certain applications to courts. Now in the Limitation Act of 1963 the preamble is differently worded to say that it is an Act to consolidate and amend the law for the limitation of suits and other, proceedings. Under Section 29(2)(a) of Limitation Act 1963 there is no restriction that only the applications filed before a court are covered and the argument that they must nevertheless be so limited is not warranted by the language of the statute.

(7) We feel that the argument based on the contention that the application under a special law must necessarily be to a court, before the provisions of Limitation Act are attracted is not borne out by any precedent or principles of Jaw. This argument does not appreciate the difference between a case where there is no period prescribed by a special law and where it is so provided. In the former instance, a party will have to invoke Article 137, of Schedule to Limitation Act 1963, and this can be resorted to for filing an application under any Act vide : (1969)IILLJ711SC . Such an application alone is required to be filed before a Civil Court. But in case of latter kind as in the present case where the period is prescribed under a special law like the Act, Article 137 of Schedule to Limitation Act is not being resorted to at all and the requirement of application being to a court does not necessarily arise. In such a case the position is different. Here the respondent No. 1 seeks to invoke the applicability of Limitation Act by virtue of Section 29(2) because a special law like the Punjab Land Revenue Act has prescribed a period for filing an application different from that prescribed by the First Schedule to the Limitation Act and because of that the provisions contained in Section 4 to 24 automatically become applicable; evidently thus Section 5 becomes available. Section 29(2) attracts Limitation Act by way of anology only when there is a limitation prescribed in the First Schedule to the Limitation Act, It is not correct that the applicability of Limitation Act by virtue of Section 29(2) of the said Act further postulates that an application under the special law should necessarily be made to a court, as has been contended by Mr. Sanghi, as this is not borne out from the language or the scheme of the statute.

(8) We may note that the provision of the Limitation Act have been applied in computing the period of limitation under a special law like the U.P. Sales Tax Act; see (1976 (4) Supreme Court Cases 464) The Commissioner of Sales Tax U. P. v. M/s. Madan Lal Das & Sons, Bareilly. In that case the revision under Section 10 of the Sales Tax Act was filed beyond the prescribed period of one year. The asessee however claimed the benefit of Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act for excluding the time spent in obtaining a copy of the appellate order. The argument that the U.P. Sales Tax Act constituted the complete code in itself and that the Limitation Act cannot be applied was rejcted by the court which after referring to Section 29(2) of the Act stated, 'there can be no manner of doubt that the U.P. Sales Tax Act answers to the description of a special or local law. According lo Sub-section (2) of Section 29 of the Limitation Act, reproduced above, for the purpose of determining any period of limitation prescribed for any application by special or local law the provisions contained in Section 12(2) inter alias shall apply in so far as and to the extent to which they are not expressly excluded by such special or local law.' It is clear that the application was to a persona designata and not to a civil court and still the provisions of Limitation Act were held to be attracted. Similarly in the present case then is nothing in the Act excluding the applicability of provisions of Limitation. Act. As such Section 5 of the Limitation Act being one of the Sections in Section 4 to 24 could be resorted to and was rightly held by the learned Judge to be applicable.

(9) We also feel that our interpretation made above is in consonance with justice and equity. Here is a provision which permits an application to set aside a sale to be moved within 30 days from the date of sale. If the argument of Mr. Sanghi is to be accepted, the application filed even on 31st day would be time barred even if an applicant had a cast iron Explanationn as to why the application could not be filed within 30 days. To take an illustration if a party was going to the office of Lt. Governor to file the application on the 30th day and on the way met with a serious accident and removed to a hospital in a state of unconsciousness from where he recovers only a week or 10 days later and if even on that very day of discharge he was to file an application the result would be that such an application would have to be held as beyond time; and what is worse that Lt. Governor would have no power to condone the delay, though circumstances cry out loud for the exercise of such power. This result which would work such grave injustice cannot be accepted by us because it is not based on any sound reasoning or any principles of law. The only purpose of fixing a period is that there should be some check on the parties so that old and stale claims are not revived. That has been done by prescribing the period in Section 91 of the Act. But having done that we see no reason why by virtue of Section 29(2) the provisions of Section 5 of the Limitation Act should not govern such an application. It is also to be appreciated that 1963 Limitation Act has made a vital change in Section 29 itself. Whereas under 1908 Act some of the provisions contained like 4 to 9 and 9 to 18 were to apply and the remaining provisions of the Limitation Act were not to apply which meant that even if 1908 Limitation Act applied Section 5 as such was not automatically applicable. But that has now been changed by Section 29(2) providing that in those like cases the provisions contained in Sections 4 to 24 of Limitation Act shall apply. Section 5 of the Limitation Act thus would become applicable by its own force.

(10) In the alternative if Section 5 was to be held inapplicable on the ground that the Limitation Act was not applicable to application filed under the Punjab Land Revenue. Act it will still not avail the appellant. The reason is that if as urged by the appellant the Limitation Act is not applicable, on the same parity of reasoning Section 3 of the Limitation Act would similarly be inapplicable. In that view there would be no statutory compulsion to dismiss the petition filed beyond 30 days under Section 91 of the Land Revenue Act. The only consequence would be that if the application is filed beyond 30 days and the delay is unreasonable and there is no proper Explanationn given for it the authority may refuse to entertain it. But there is no mandate in law that because the application is filed beyond 30 days it cannot be entertained after that period. Each case would have to be decided on its own peculiar facts. This is because there may be very good and Justifiable reasons why a person filed an application beyond the period of 30 days. In such a case all that could be said was that there was some delay and laches; but whether the delay was unreasonable would have to bedecided by the authorities before refusing to entertain an application under Section 91 of the Act. In such a case it would be impermissible to urge that there was no inherent power with the authority to condone the delay in filing the application late. If thereforee even if the argument of Mr. Sanghi was to be accepted that the Limitation Act was not applicable it would still not bar the L. G. from entertaining the application filed beyond 30 days, if he found that there was sufficient cause for the delay. The error of the Lt. Governor was in assuming that he had no power to entertain the application filed beyond 30 days because of the inapplicability of the Limitation Act. The Lt. Governor never applied his mind to the fact that notwithstanding the inapplicability of the Limitation Act, he would have inherent power to entertain the application if he was satisfied that there was sufficient ground because the compulsion of dismissing the application filed beyond 30 days would not apply, as Section 3 cannot be applied without at the same time applying Section 5 of the Limitation Act. In any view of the matter it was incumbent on the Lt. Governor to apply his mind to the facts disclosed and to the reasons given for filing the application late and then to give his decision. As the Lt. Governor had rejected the application on the preliminary ground of maintainability on erroneous view of law, his order clearly disclosed an error of law and learned Judge was thereforee right in setting aside the same and sending the matter back to Lt. Governor for reconsideration on merits. We, thereforee, must reject the. contention that Section 5 of Limitation Act was not applicable to the case. We also hold that in any case Lt. Governor had inherent powers to entertain the application, if there were good reasons for it. But the Lt. Governor by holding that he had no power to do refused to exercise his jurisdiction vested in him and thus committed an error patent on the face Of record and the learned Judge was right in quashing the said order.

(11) As a result we find no merit in the appeal and we dismiss it but without any order as to costs.


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