1. The short, though meaningful, question involved, for the present, in this appeal is whether the time spent by the appellant in obtaining copy of the award is to be excluded while computing the period of limitation for an appeal filed under Section 110-D of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (hereinafter called the Act). Brief facts necessary for the determination of this aforesaid question require a notice at the initial stages.
2. Claim petition No. 159 of 1978 was filed by the wife and children of Moh'd Akram Shah who died as a result of an accident. The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal vide award dated 8-12-78 allowed the claim petition and awarded Rs. 72,000/- as compensation to the claimants. The Tribunal further allowed simple interest at 6% per annum from the date of the claim up to the date of payment as well as the costs admissible under rules. Aggrieved by the award, the Union of India filed an appeal in this court on 20-3-79, In the memorandum of appeal it was stated that the copy of the award had been applied for on 13-12-78 and the same was supplied on 28-12-78 and, therefore, allowing the time spent for obtaining copy of the award, the appeal is within time.
3. The limitation for an appeal under the Act is provided in Section 110-D (1) (2) of the Act. It lays down:--
'110-D. Appeals.-- (1) Subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2), any person aggrieved by an award of a Claims Tribunal may, within ninety days from the date of the award, prefer an appeal to the High Court.
Provided that the High Court may entertain the appeal after the expiry of the said period of ninety days, if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from preferring the appeal in time.
(2) No appeal shall lie against any award ot a Claims Tribunal, if the amount in dispute in the appeal is less than two thousand rupees.'
4. A bare reference to the aforesaid provision makes it clear that an appeal against an award of Claims Tribunal may be filed within 90 days from the date of the award in the High Court. The proviso to Sub-section (1) lays down that the High Court may entertain an appeal even after the expiry of the aforesaid period of 90 days if it is satisfied that the appellant was 'prevented by sufficient cause from preferring the appeal in time'. The appeal in the instant case was filed after 102 days from the date of the award. According to Mr. T. Hussain, learned counsel for the Union of India, the time spent for obtaining the copy of the award i. e. between 13-12-78 and 28-12-78, needs to be excluded while computing the period of limitation and when so excluded the appeal would be within time. Learned counsel has relied on Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act to urge that the provisions of Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act are applicable in the instant case and that in computing the period of limitation, the time spent for obtaining a copy of the award has to be excluded.
5. There is no dispute that the Limitation Act does not specifically prescribe any limitation for preferring an appeal against an award of Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, though it prescribes the period of 90 days for filing appeals in the High Court vide Article 156 of Limitation Act.
6. Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act provides as under:--
'29 (2). Where any special or local law prescribes for any suit, appeal or application a period of limitation different from the period prescribed therefor by the first Schedule, the provisions of Section 3 shall apply, as if such period were prescribed therefor in that Schedule, wad for the purpose of determining anyperiod of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by any special or local law.-
(a) the provisions contained in Section 4, Sections 9 to 18 and Section 22 shall apply in so far as, and to the extent to which, they are not expressly excluded by such special or local law; and
(b) the remaining provisions of this Act shall not apply.
7. Section 3 of the Limitation Act provides that every suit instituted, appeal preferred or application made, after the period of limitation prescribed therefor by the first Schedule shall be dismissed, although limitation has not been set up as defence, subject to the provisions contained in Sections 4 to 25 of the Limitation Act, both inclusive.
8. That the Motor Vehicles Act is a special Act within the meaning of Section 29 of the Limitation Act is not a matter which is in dispute, as indeed it cannot be. The basic condition for the applicability of Sub-section (2) of Section 29 of the Limitation Act, however, is that there has to be 'difference' between the period of limitation as prescribed in the special law and the one prescribed therefor by the 1st Schedule of the Limitation Act. 'By a legal fiction created under Section 29 of the Limitation Act, the period of limitation provided under the special law shall then be deemed to be the period provided under the first Schedule for the purpose of reckoning limitation under Section 3 of the Act.' (See State of J. & K. v. G. S. Baroca, 1978 J & K LR 147: (AIR 1978 J & K 64)). Since, there is no specific period of limitation prescribed for filing an appeal against an award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal in the First Schedule of the Limitation Act, and further since there is no difference between the period of limitation prescribed under Section 110-D of the Act and Article 156 of the Limitation tion Act, Sub-section (2) of Section 29, on its plain reading, would not be attracted and Sub-clause (1) of Sub-section (2) of Section 29 would not come into play. That apart, even if it be assumed for the sake of argument that Section 29(2) does apply (which cannot), the benefit under Sub-section (2) of Section 12 of the Limitation Act, which has been pressed into aid by Mr. T. Hussain would not be available to an appeal preferred against an award of the Motor Vehicle Accidents Claims Tribunal. Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act provides:
'12 (2). In computing the period of limitation prescribed for an appeal, an application for leave to appeal and an application for a review of Judgment, the day on which the judgment complained of was pronounced, and the time requisite for obtaining a copy of the decree, sentence or order appealed from or sought to be reviewed, shall be excluded. In an appeal from an appellate decree or order so much of the time requisite for obtaining a copy of the judgment of the court of first instance for the purpose of being filed with the memorandum of appeal shall also be excluded as may be in excess of the time spent in obtaining a copy of the decree or order appealed against and that of the judgment on which the said decree is founded, but no part of the time common to the copies shall be count-ed twice ever.'
9. A plain reading of Sub-section makes it manifest that the benefit of the sub-section can be extended only to the specified categories mentioned in the subsection itself, namely an appeal, an application for leave to appeal and an application for review of a judgment. In these cases, the day on which the judgment complained of was pronounced and the time spent for obtaining a copy of the decree, sentence or order appealed from or sought to be reviewed, shall be excluded. Where a case does not fall within any of the specified categories, the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 12 of the Limitation Act would be clearly excluded.
10. An award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal is not one of the cate-gories mentioned in Sub-section (2) of Section 12 of the Limitation Act, An 'award' of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal is not a 'decree', sentence or an award (under the Arbitration Act) and as such the time spent in obtaining a copy of the award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal cannot be excluded. In Vidya Wati v. Himachal Govt. Transport reported in 1970 Acc CJ 424 it was rightly held that a 'decision or the award of a Claims Tribunal under the Act is not a decree under the Code of Civil Procedure even though it may be a final decision and may have all the incidents of a decree. In order that an order should have the force of a decree, the statute under which the order is made must expressly say so. Merely because an order is executable or enforceable in the same way as a decree would not make it an order having the force of decree.' Thus, considered itis apparent that since an award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal is not one of the categories specified in sub-sec-tion (2) of Section 12 of the Limitation Act, the benefit of the said sub-section is not available to a party filing an appeal against the 'award' of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal.
11. Mr. T. Hussain relied upon Hayat Khan v. Mangi Lal, 1970 Acc CJ 331, wherein a Division Bench of the M. P. High Court held that the claim petition under Section 110-D of the M. V. Act is a 'suit' to urge, that on that analogy, an award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal would be a 'decree'. With respects to their Lordships of the Division Bench we are unable to agree with the proposition that a claim petition under Section 110-A of the M. V. Act is a 'suit'. In the first place Section 2(10) of the Limitation Act, 1995 (Samvat) itself provides that a 'suit does not include an appeal or an application and in the second place under the Code of Civil Procedure a 'suit' is a proceeding which is instituted by presentation of a plaint. The claimant before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal does not file any 'Plaint' as is understood within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure. He only puts in 'an application' in the form prescribed by the rules framed under the M. V. Act. Thus, not only does Section 2 (10) of the Limitation Act (of the State) itself exclude an application before the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal from the category of a 'suit' but also on general principles, such an application is not a 'suit'. In Khairunnissa A. K. Siddiki v. Municipal Corporation, Bombay, 1966 Acc CJ 37, Bombay High Court has held that the expression 'suit' occurring in Section 6(1) of the Limitation Act, which makes minority a valid ground for condoning delay, does not cover an application under Section 110-A of the M. V. Act, The broad view expressed by the M. P. High Court in 1970 Ace CJ 331 therefore does not appear to lay down the correct law, more so when their Lordships themselves went on to observe that 'we find that although the proceedings are nottechnically termed as 'suit', they are in-stituted by presentation, of an application which is more or less like a plaint.' (emphasis (here underline) added).
12. The M. V. Act, 1939 which is a special Act is a self-contained complete Code in itself. A well established rule for the construction of statutes is thatit should be presumed that the legislature did not intend a general enactment to interfere with the provisions of the Special Act. The legislature, in its supreme wisdom, had drawn its attention to the special subject matter and provided the contingencies under which an appeal should be preferred and the time during which it could be preferred. It would be defeating the intention of the legislature, if recourse is had to general law in preference to the special law for computing the period of limitation in the absence of any such provision in the M. V. Act. As a matter of fact, the legislature took care to provide in the Act itself, in the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 110-D, the circumstances under which the period prescribed for filing an appeal may be extended or the delay condoned -- and on that ground also it is not possible to resort to the provisions of the general law to extend the period of limitation for filing an appeal. We are, therefore, of the opinion, that Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act cannot be pressed into aid and a party filing an appeal against the award of Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal is not entitled to exclude the time spent by it for obtaining a copy of the award.
13. In the view that we have taken, we are fortified by a decision of the Rajasthan High Court in Motor Owners Insurance Co. Ltd., Ajmer v. Mangilal, AIR 1972 Raj 271 also.
14. There are some other Judgments also which support our view, though those judgments are not under the M. V. Act but relate to some other special Acts, like the Land Acquisition Act. Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act prescribes the period of limitation for seeking a reference against the award of a Collector by an aggrieved party. In Uduppu Pylee v. Varki Mathai, AIR 1956 Trav-Co 113, a Division Bench of the Travan-core-Cochin High Court while considering whether or not the benefit of Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act can be given to a party seeking a reference against an award of the Collector, in view of the period prescribed under the Land Acquisition Act itself, observed (at p. 116):--
'Of the general sections of the Limitation Act made applicable to the periods of limitation prescribed by any special or local law, the provisions regarding exclusion of time occupied in obtaining a copy of the decision in a prior proceeding is contained in Sub-sections (2), (3) and (4) but those sub-sections apply onlyto appeals, applications for review of judgments and for applications to set aside awards and not suits.
Sub-section (2) which provides for the exclusion of the day from which the period of limitation prescribed for any legal proceeding is to be recorded applies alike to suits, appeals and to applications. The omission to refer to suits in the subsequent Sub-section is therefore significant. The invocation of the aid of Section 12 of the Limitation Act is therefore of no avail.'
15. Again in Kashi Parshad v. Notified Area, Mahoba, AIR 1932 All 598 it was clearly pointed out that Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act only applied to cases which fall within its ambit. In that case Mukerji J., observed as follows:
'On this Agarwala relies on Section 29(2) Limitation Act and says that by portion (a), Clause (2), Section 29, Section 12, Limitation Act becomes applicable to an application under the Land Acquisition Act and therefore the applicant is entitled to deduction of the time occupied in obtaining a copy. But Section 12, Limitation Act refers to an application for leave to appeal and application for review of judgment and no other application.'
16. Similar, view was expressed in Lakshmi Narayan v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1966 Raj 118 at page 121 wherein Jagat Narayan J. speaking for the court observed:--
'The only application referred to in Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act however are those for leave to appeal and for review of a judgment. The Section is not applicable to an application for a reference under Section 18(1) of the Rajasthan Land Acquisition Act The ap-plicant was therefore not entitled to exclude the time taken by him in obtaining a copy of the award.'
17. To the similar effect are the decisions reported in 1974 JKLR 637, AIR 1960 Bom 499 and AIR 1958 Punj 490 and it is futile to multiply the authorities.
18. The law laid down in the aforesaid judgments makes it clear that Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act is not of general or universal application and that it applies only to the specified categories contained in the Sub-section itself. Since, an appeal against an award of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal does not fall within any of the categories mentioned in Section 12(2), therefore, the provisions of that sub-section cannot be invoked to condone the delay claimed by an aggrieved party, forthe period spent in obtaining copy of the award.
19. Thus, in computing the period of limitation prescribed for an appeal against an award of the M.A.C.T. under Section 110-D resort to Section 12(2) of the Limitation Act cannot be had.
20. Faced with this situation, Mr. T. Hussain relied on the proviso to Section 110-D to urge that the court has ample power to condone the delay in filing the appeal because the time spent for obtaining a copy of the award would amount to a 'sufficient cause' within the meaning of the proviso.
21. The proviso to Section 110-D (1) of the M. V. Act provides that the court may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the period of 90 days 'if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause for preferring appeal in time.' For what we shall presently state, we find that the appellant has not been able to establish that there was any 'sufficient cause' which prevented it from preferring the appeal in time.
22. The award, as already noticed, was made by the Tribunal on 8-12-78. Copy of the award was applied for on 12-12-78. Copy according to the endorsement on the last page of the award, itself, was ready for delivery on 28-12-78 though the appellant took the copy on 6-3-79. Even if no notice is taken of the time gap between 28-12-78, when the copy of the award was ready for delivery and 6-3-79 when it was actually taken by the appellant, yet had the appellant been vigilant enough, he still had enough time to file the appeal till 8-3-79, which would have been within the prescribed period of 90 days. The appellant, however, did not do so. The appeal was filed on 20-3-79. No explanation much less a satisfactory one, has been afforded by the appellant for not preferring the appeal between 6-3-79 and 20-3-79. It is well settled law that for establishing 'sufficient cause', seeking condonation of delay, the applicant is required to explain each day's delay. The appellant has had miserably failed to do so. Let alone through an affidavit, it has not even been explained in the memorandum of appeal, as to why the appeal was not filed between 6-3-79 and 20-3-79, even ignoring as to why the copy of the award was not collected on 28-12-78, when it was ready for delivery. Even though as held in 1977 Kash LJ 279: (AIR 1977 J & K 90) the expression 'sufficient cause' as occurring in the proviso has to liberally and not narrowly construed yet, the construction of the expression has to be such that it advances the cause of justice. In the instant case howsoever liberally we may construe the expression, we are unable to hold that there was any 'sufficient cause' which prevented the appellant from preferring the appeal within time. The appellant was negligent and there was lack of deligence and vigil on its part to file the appeal. We therefore do not find any 'sufficient cause' to have been made out to condone the delay in filing the appeal.
23. Mr. T. Hussain lastly contended that the dismissal of the appeal on the ground of limitation would harshly effect the appellant, since the award itself according to him suffered from some infor-mities. We, however, cannot help. The law of limitation may harshly effect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its vigour when the statute so prescribes and the court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds.
24. For all that has been said above, the preliminary objection succeeds and we hold that the appeal filed by the appellant, is barred by time. The same is accordingly hereby dismissed. We however leave the parties to bear their own costs in this appeal.