C.B. Capoor, J.C
1. This petition purports to be under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, but the learned counsel for the petitioner has stated that it may be treated as one under Article 227.
2. At the instance of the petitioner a reference was made to the Court under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act which has been dismissed on the ground that the petition of reference was filed after the expiry of the prescribed period of limitation and it is that order which is sought to be quashed by this petition.
3. The main point that has been made out on behalf of the petitioner is that a notice as required by Section 9 or 12 of the Land Acquisition Act was not served upon him and that it was only on 1st March, 1959, that he came to know of the making of the award and that the period of limitation for the filing of a petition for reference should be computed from that date.
4. It has not been denied on behalf of therespondent that a notice as required by Section 9Order 12 of the Land Acquisition Act was not dulyserved on the petitioner. It has, however, beencontended on his behalf that the period of limitation for the filing of the petition for referencesshould be computed from 31-1-1958, the date on.which the award was made and not from the dateon which the petitioner had knowledge of theaward.
5. The only question that arises for determination is as to whether the period of limitation for the filing of a petition for reference under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act commenced iron* the date on which the petitioner had knowledge of the making of the award.
6. The relevant portion of Section 18(2) of the Land Acquisition Act runs as follows:--
'Provided that every such application shall be made-
(a) if the person making it was present or represented before the Collector at the time when he made his award, within six weeks from the date-of the Collector's award;
(b) in other cases, within six weeks of the-receipt of the notice from the Collector under Section 12, sub-section (2), or within six months from the date of the Collector's award, whichever shall first expire.'
7. There is a conflict of Opinion on the interpretation of the aforesaid Clause (b), but before I proceed to notice that conflict I propose to examine the question as if it were of first impression.
8. The words 'the date of the Collector's award' prima facie mean the date on which the Collector draws up and signs the award. It is a well established canon of interpretation that the words of a statute are primarily to be given their natural and grammatical meaning. The aforesaid words cannot normally mean the date on which an aggrieved person becomes aware of the award. It is significant that the words 'date of the Collector's award' have been used in Clause (a) also and it cannot be gainsaid that those words mean the date on which the award is drawn up and signed by the Collector and normally the words 'date of the Collector's award' as used in Clause (b) should be assigned the same meaning as is assignable to those words as used in Clause (a). If the intention of the Legislature had been that the period of six months should run from the date on which an aggrieved person comes to know of the award the words used would have been 'from the date on which the person interested or aggrieved has knowledge of the award.' Wherever the intention of the Legislature has been that the period of limitation should commence from the date of knowledge it has specifically made a provision to that effect, e. g. Articles 164 and 169 of the Indian Limitation Act. Again, if the intention of the Legislature had been that under the second part of Clause (b) the period of limitation should commence from the date of the knowledge of the award such a long period as of six months would not have been prescribed. It is significant that in Clause (a) and in the first part of Clause (b) the period of limitation provided is of six weeks only and in the latter part: of Clause (b) also the period of limitation would have been six weeks if it were to run from the date of knowledge. The policy underlying the Land Acquisition Act is that the proceedings thereunder should come to a close as early as possible and the circumstance that under the latter part of Clause (b) a period of six months has been prescribed indicates that such period was to commence from the date on which the award is drawn up and signed and not from the date on which an aggrieved person comes to know of the award. A perusal of Clause (b) leads to the conclusion that the six months period was intended to be the limit beyond which no petition for reference could be entertained.
9. The aforesaid view has prevailed in the Allahabad, Bombay and Travancore-Cochin High Courts. It was held in Raja Harishchandra Raj Singh v. Deputy Land Acquisition Officer, AIR 1957 All 112 that whether a notice be issued by the Collector pursuant to Section 12(2) of the Act or not, the maximum period within which an application must be made under Section 18 is six months from the date of the Collector's award.
10. In the case of C. Ravunny Nair v. State, AIR 1954 Trav-Co. 444, it was held that the date of the award under Section 18(2), proviso (b) is the date on which the. award is drawn up and signed by the Collector and further that the date of the award mentioned in proviso (b) was not meant by the Legislature to be the date on which notice of the award is received by the party is clear from the wordings of the proviso which prescribed two periods of limitation for an application for reference one to be computed from the date of the receipt of the notice of the award and the other from the date of the award itself. If the date of the award means the date of the receipt of the award there is no meaning in prescribing two periods of limitation one to run from the date of the receipt of the notice of the award and the other from the date of the award.
11. In the case of the State of Travancore-Cochin v. Narayani Amma, AIR 1958 Kerala 272 it was inter alia held that the date of the award referred to in proviso (b) of Section 18(2) is not the date of the receipt of the notice thereof by the person making the application or the date on. which he obtained information or knowledge about it.
12. In Jehangir Bomanji v. C. D. Gaikwad,. AIR 1954 Bom 419, it was held that the law of limitation is always a harsh law and it would be a mistake to look for ethical principles in that. Meritorious claims have been barred because the law of limitation prescribes that such claims should. be presented in Court within a particular period. Therefore, it would be a mistake to construe the law of limitation either from the point of view of. the merits or demerits of the parties before the Court. Limitation in its very nature is a technical law and it has to be construed technically and if the Court comes to the conclusion that the Legislature clearly intended that an application should be barred after the lapse of a particular time, the Court must give effect to that provision of law, however unmeritorious the defence to the claim may be and however well deserved the claim may be.
13. The other view has found favour with the Madras, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir High Courts. In the case of Khajana Lakshmana Rao v. Revenue Divisional Officer, Ranipet, AIR 1954 Mad 942, it was held, following the earlier Madras cases, reported in Muthiah Chettiar v. Commr. of Income Tax, Madras, AIR 1951 Mad. 204, Secy, of State v. Gopisetti Narayanaswami Naidu, 1LR 34 Mad 151 and Swaminathan v. Lakshmanan Chettiar, ILR 53 Mad 491: (AIR 1930 Mad 490), that where the claimant has not been served with a notice under Section 12(2) and where he did not have any notice that an award would be made on a particular date he will have six months from the time that he had information that an award had been made. In arriving at the aforesaid conclusion, Mr. Justice Rajagopala Ayyangar had quoted with approval the following observations made by the learned Chief Justice of the Madras High Court in the case of AIR 1951 Mad 204:
'We consider that the rule laid down by the learned Judges in the above two decisions is based upon a salutary and just principle, namely that if a person is given a right to resort to a remedy to get rid of an adverse order within a prescribed time, limitation should not be computed from a date earlier than that on which the party-aggrieved actually knew of the order or had an opportunity of knowing the order and therefore must be presumed to have had knowledge of the order.'
The aforesaid reasoning, it is most respectfully submitted, is mainly based on considerations of hardship, but such considerations are hardly relevant to the construction of statutes of limitation which, as has been very aptly said, are statutes of repose and are to be construed strictly.
14. The Andhra Pradesh High Court has also followed the Madras view, vide AIR 1957 Andh Pra 687, K. Seshachalam v. Dist. Collector, Guntur.
15. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has also kid down vide, AIR 1960 J and K 78, Prem Nath v. State of J and K, that the time limit prescribed in Section 18 presupposes the knowledgeof the passing of the award on the part of the applicant. A true and proper construction of Section 18 would therefore be to require the petitioners to apply within six months from the date of their knowledge of the Collector's award. No case law was, however, considered in the aforesaid case.
16. It would thus appear that not only there is preponderance of authority in support of the view that the date of the Collector's award is not the date on which the person interested comes to know of the award, but the clear language of the Section also leads to the same result. If the intention of the legislature had been that the period of six months should commence from the date of the knowledge of the award nothing would have been easier for the legislature than to have said so as it has done in other enactments.
17. It may incidentally be mentioned that there is also a conflict of judicial authority on the question as to whether the words 'the date of the Collector's award' mean the date on which the award is drawn up and signed by the Collector or the date on which it is filed, but, for the purposes of the instant case, it is not necessary to notice that conflict for the petition for reference filed by the petitioner was beyond six months even from the date on which the award was filed by the Collector in his office.
18. My attention on behalf of the petitioner was also invited to an earlier decision of this Court in the case of Bishan Das v. Collector, Bilaspur in Civil Writ Petn. No. 63 of 1958 D/- 16-3-1959 and it was argued that Section 18 (2) was interpreted in the manner in which it has been interpreted by the Madras High Court. In that case the award was not completed on the date that it was signed by the Collector and what in the main was held was that the period of limitation for the filing of a petition for reference should commence from the date on which the award was completed. The question as to whether under Section 18(2) (b) the period of six months limitation should commence from the date of knowledge of the award was not considered or decided and as such the aforesaid decision is not an authority for the question under consideration.
19. In fine, the order of the learned Collector refusing to make a reference to the Court on the ground of petition for reference being filed after the expiry of the period of limitation was correct and no question of the quashing of that order can arise.
20. In this view of the matter, it is not necessary to go into the question as to whether the aforesaid order even if it were wrong could have been quashed in the exercise of powers under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.
21. In conclusion, the petition is devoid of merits and is dismissed with costs.