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The word limitation means a rule or restriction. The limitation law provides a strict time limit in which the aggrieved person can approach the court for justice and after the expiry of a certain period the suit cannot be maintained in the court of law. The Law of Limitation is procedural.  Law of limitation has originated from the legal maxim “Vgilantibus Non-Dormientibus Jura Subveniunt” which means the law assist only vigilant one and not those who sleep over their right. The meaning of this maxim is that people should be vigilant while exercising some rights. Any legal infringement will automatically be invalid if the aggrieved party does not file a case within a stipulated period. There is also another legal maxim named “Interest Reipublicae Ut Sit Finis Litium” which means in the interest of all individuals as a whole the litigation must come to an end. The limitation Act, 1859 was enacted in 1963 and came into force on 1st January 1964 for the purpose of keeping the limitation principle to suits and other legal proceedings.


The doctrine of Limitation was common law in England. As India was also a part of a British colony, the Law of Limitation came into existence in our country. As the courts were established in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras statutory laws were passed from time to time. In 1859 Limitation Act was passed and it was applicable under the Code of Civil Procedure. It came into operation in 1862. It was replaced in the year 1871 as it added a limitation period to appeal, in filing suits and extinguished the right to land for a specific period. Then it was replaced in the year 1877 when there was extinguishment in rights of moveable property. Then it was again repealed and replaced in the year 190. Then after independence, the Third Law Commission suggested repealing the previous acts and the Limitation Act was passed in 1963 and came into force in 1964.


The main object of the Limitation Act of 1963 is the limitation to litigation and that they should be fixed within a period. It does not mean to destroy or infringe the rights of an aggrieved person but it saves time for the purpose of the general welfare of the public. The major consideration in this limitation is that the right related to property should not be in a state of doubt or uncertainty. The Limitation Act is not to destroy the rights but it is an Act for fixing lifespan for legal remedy.

The Limitation Act contains 32 sections and 137 Articles. The articles are divided into 10 parts which include accounts, contracts, torts, moveable, immoveable property, trust property, etc. There is no same limitation period for all suits and it varies according to classification. The limitation period is also reduced for some cases like a suit by mortgager from 60 to 30 years.  A longer period of 12 years is for the immoveable property suits, a period of 1 to 3 years for torts and suits with no period of limitation scheduled to the Act. A person sentenced to the death penalty by Session or High Court has been given a limit of up to 30 days to file an appeal case. The limitation period applies equally for a certain matter in all personal laws, there is no distinction on basis of any class or race. For filing a suit against foreign ambassadors there must be the consent of the central government so this time of getting consent is excluded in the Limitation Act when filing suit. Sections 12 to 15 deal with the time excluded from the period of computing the limitation period like the time requisite for obtaining a copy of the judgment, the time required for obtaining the copy of the award, etc. The main purpose of this Act is not to drag the case for a long period of time and aims for quick disposal of the cases.


The Limitation Act is exhaustive as it deals with all the matters. The Act applies only to civil cases except in matters expressly and specifically provided for the purpose. It cannot be extended by analogy. In A.S.Krishnappa Chettiar v. Nahiappa Chettiar1 case, it was stated that amending statutes relating to suits, and appeals to the courts must be regarded as exhaustive. Courts are not permitted to interpret beyond the provision as it is exhaustive already. There are certain rules for interpretation as the act itself is an exhaustive one. The rules of interpretation are –

  1. The court cannot neglect or change the mandatory provisions. Eg if the time framing lapses then a reasonable cause must be given to the court.
  2. If there is no specific limitation period then the court can fix a certain limited, reasonable period.
  3. If there are two interpretations of a particular statute, then the court doesn’t need to follow strict interpretation.
  4. Limitation statutes are given a fair and liberal construction rather than strict ones.

In Ramnath Prasad vs State transport Apellate2 case, it was stated that Limitation Act is undoubtedly an exhaustive code. There is nothing in the Limitation Act to justify to the court that once the period of limitation has begun to run, it can be suspended except for the proviso mentioned in Section 9 of the Limitation Act. In Thirumalai Chemicals Ltd vs Union Of India3 it was stated that the statutes of limitation are retrospective as they applied to all legal proceedings that have occurred earlier and it is procedural.


Limitation Act bars the remedy not the right, the plaintiff can prove that the suit is time-barred debt. Law of Limitation is a part of Lexi Fori because the contract is regulated according to the law of the place where the action is instituted. In Rullia Ram Hakim Rai vs S. Fateh Singh S. Sham Sher Singh4 case, it was held that the limitation does not stand in between the recovery that is time-barred. The court should dismiss the suit if it is filed beyond the time mentioned in the limitation act where section 3 states that the court will not proceed with the suit if it is time-barred. In Ittyavira Mathai vs Varkey Varkey5 case, it was stated that if the court makes an error of law, the error can be corrected in the manner laid down by CPC. If the aggrieved party did not take notice of the error then it is not challenged to nullity. Order 7 Rule 6 CPC states that if a suit is instituted after the limitation period then the person must show on the ground in which such exemption of law can be claimed.

There is no particular stage in which the plea of limitation can be raised. A party to the case can make the plea of limitation even in the 1st appeal or in the proceeding appeal even though he may not have mentioned the plea of limitation in the written statement. If the period of any suit or appeal expires on the day on which the court is closed (on normal working days if closed) then it is preferred on the day on which the court reopens. The extension of time is given only in certain cases like if the party produces a sufficient cause of delay then the case is taken by the court under section 5 of the Limitation Act. A sufficient cause would be an adequate reason or reasonable ground for the court to believe that the person was prevented from filing the suit. For example, suppose during the limitation period the person was found Covid positive then the person will be prevented from filing the suit so this can be a reasonable cause so that even after the expiry of the limitation period the person can file the suit.


The Law of Limitation is said to be an exhaustive one and it has dealt with all civil matters, and if there is no limitation period mentioned for any civil matter then the court can fix a reasonable time for the civil matters. This Act keeps check on the case and makes sure that people are not harassed and the case is also not dragged for a longer period of time. The Act also provides an exception when there is a reasonable cause for the delay within the time prescribed for filing a suit. The court must hear the matter first and decide according whether the case should be taken or not. Law of Limitation plays a major role in a country like India so that people get justice on time. 


  1. AIR 1964 SC
  2. AIR 1957 Pat 117
  3. SC; Civil Appeal 3191-3194 of 2011
  4. AIR 1962 PH 256
  5. AIR 1964 SC 407

This article is written by Sree Lekshmi B J, third-year law student; Sastra University, Thanjavur.

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