Limitation; What is Limitation & the Policy of Limitation Acts

Limitation : On account of delay, in case Basawaraj v. Land Acquisition officer, (2013) 14 SCC 81, Hon’ble Supreme Court has, inter alia, has held as under :

  • The statute of limitation is founded on public policy, its aim being to secure peace in the community, to suppress fraud and perjury, to quicken diligence and to prevent oppression.
  • It seeks to bury all acts of the past which have not been agitated unexplainably and have from lapse of time become stale.

According to Halsbury’s Law of England, Vol.28, p.266 :

# 605. Policy of the Limitation Acts

The courts have expressed at least three differing reasons supporting the existence of statutes of limitations namely,

(1) that long dormant claims have more of cruelty than justice in them,

(2) that a defendant might have lost the evidence to disprove a stale claim, and

(3) that persons with good causes of actions should pursue them with reasonable diligence.”

An unlimited limitation would lead to sense of insecurity and uncertainty, and therefore, limitation prevents disturbance or deprivation of what may have been acquired in equilty and justice by long enjoyment or what may have been lost by a party’s own inaction, negligence or laches.

The law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that where a case has been presented in the court beyond limitation, the applicant has to explain the court as to what prevented him to approach the court within limitation.

In case a party is found to be negligent, or for want of bona fide on his part in the facts and circumstances of the case, or found to have not acted diligently or remained inactive, there cannot be a justified ground to condone the delay. No court could be justified in condoning such an inordinate delay by imposing any condition whatsoever.

The application is to be decided only within the parameters laid down by Apex Court in regard to the condonation of delay.

In case there was no sufficient cause to prevent a litigant to approach the court on time condoning the delay without any justification, putting any condition whatsoever, amounts to passing an order in violation of the statutory provisions and it tantamounts to showing utter disregard to the legislature.