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S. Brahmanand And Ors vs K. R. Muthugopal (D) And Ors on 21 October, 2005
Showing the contexts in which article 54 of limitation act appears in the document
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In his submissions, the catena of judgments ending with the judgments of this Court holding that the first part of Article 54 of the Limitation Act, 1963 would apply to an agreement wherein no date was fixed, but the performance was with reference to a future contingency, has been wrongly decided and we should refer the matter to a larger Bench for an authoritative exposition of the law. The expressions "date" and "time" have been used differently, as evident from a contrast of the language used in Articles 53 and 54 of the Limitation Act, 1963. Finally, that even if the two expressions are interchangeable, the construction of the expression "date" is ambiguous and in such circumstances the interpretation of the statute must be in favour of preserving the remedy and against the dismissal of a suit.

In Kashi Prasad v. Chhabi Lal and Ors. the High Court dealing with Article 113 of the Limitation Act, 1908, which was in pari materia with Article 54 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963, took the view that the force of the word "fixed" implies that the date should be fixed definitely and should not be left to be gathered from surrounding circumstances of the case. It must be a date clearly mentioned in the contract whether the said contract be oral or in writing.

In Alopi Parshad and Anr. v. Court of Wards and Ors. , also the court was concerned with Article 113 of the Limitation Act, 1908. A suit for specific performance was brought on an agreement of sale where the time for performance of the contract was "after passing of a decree". Though no date for performance was fixed for the agreement, the trial Court had opined that time must be held to have begun to run from the date on which the decree was passed in view of the maxim certum est quod certum reddi potest ("That is sufficiently certain which can be made certain"). The Lahore High Court was of the view that statutes of limitation must be strictly construed and that the respondents before it had failed to bring a case specifically within the purview of the first part of Article 113 and that the case did not fall within the first part but fell within the second part of Article 113. The judgment of the Allahabad High Court in Kashi Prasad (supra) was approvingly referred to and followed. This judgment was taken in appeal before the Privy Council and approved by the Privy Council in Lala Ram Sarup v. Court of Wards .

P. Sivan Muthiah and Ors. v. John Sathiavasagam arose from a suit for specific performance with an alternative prayer for recovery of advance paid under the agreement of sale. Referring to Article 54 of the Limitation Act, 1963 the court took the view that the expression "date fixed" could mean either the date expressly fixed or the date that can be fixed with reference to a future event, which is certain to happen. If the date is to be ascertained depending upon an event which is not certain to happen, the first part of Article 54 would not be applicable, and in such an eventuality, it is only the latter part of Article 54 that could be invoked by treating it as a case in which no date had been fixed for performance and the limitation would be three years from the date when the plaintiff had notice that performance is refused. This was a case where performance was due after the tenants in the property had been vacated. The court took the view that since eviction of the tenants was an uncertain event, the time must be deemed to have run only from the date when the plaintiffs had notice that the performance had been refused by the defendants.

Supplementary Contentions:

Mr. Nariman, learned counsel strongly urged that, the view taken by the Allahabad High Court in 1933 and followed by the Lahore High Court in 1938 had been expressly affirmed by the Privy Council in its judgment in Lala Ram Sarup (supra). Unfortunately, in none of the judgments of the High Courts decided subsequently was the fact noticed that the decision of the Lahore High Court had been expressly affirmed by the Privy Council, nor was this noticed in the two judgments of this Court in Ramzan (supra) and Tarlok Singh (supra). Mr. Nariman contended that if the Privy Council judgment had been noticed, then perhaps none of the judgments of the High Court would have been able to take a contrary view on the interpretation of Article 54 of the Limitation Act, 1963, since the Privy Council had already interpreted Article 113 of the Limitation Act, 1908, which was in pari materia. He, therefore, urged that we should take a different view of the matter, and if we feel ourselves bound by the judgments of this Court in Ramzan (supra) and Tarlok Singh (supra), the matter should be referred to a larger Bench.