Legal Disability Under Limitation Act, 1963

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Legal disability, as outlined in Section 6 of The Limitation Act, plays a significant role in determining the timeframe within which individuals or their legal representatives can file suits. 

Legal disability under the Limitation Act can be described as a period of “cooling off” during which individuals or their legal representatives are barred from initiating legal proceedings due to certain constitutional disabilities. Such disabilities may include minorities, insanity or incompetence. Only after the disability ceases to exist can the concerned parties or their legal counsel proceed with filing a suit. Essentially, legal disability imposes eligibility requirements that determine when parties can challenge their legal claims.

What Does Limitation Act, 1963 Say?

The Limitation Act of 1963 establishes the time limits within which an aggrieved party can approach the court seeking relief and justice. If a suit is filed after the specified time limit, it is deemed invalid due to the law of limitation. 

The primary aim of this law is to safeguard the rights of long-standing users and indirectly penalize individuals who have neglected their rights for an extended period. According to the Act, any person must initiate a suit or make a request within the timeframe specified in its schedule.

The Need for Recognition of Legal Disability

However, there are circumstances where a person, due to physical or mental incapacity, is unable to file a suit or make an application. In such cases, the law acknowledges the need for additional rights and benefits for individuals with disabilities.

What is Legal Disability in the Limitation Act 1963?

Legal Disability under Limitation Act refers to the lack of legal capacity to perform an action due to insufficient physical and mental abilities. It denotes the incapacity of a person to exercise all the legal rights that an average person possesses.

Section 6 of the Act addresses situations where a person entitled to initiate a suit or file an application for the execution of a decree is a minor, insane or mentally disabled. It states that such a person can file a suit or make an application once the disability ends, as specified in the Act’s schedule. If a person is affected by multiple disabilities, they can file a suit or make the application when both disabilities cease. 

In cases where the legal disability continues until the person’s death, their legal representatives can file the suit or make the application after the person’s demise. If the legal representatives are affected by a disability other than death, the aforementioned provisions still apply. Furthermore, if a person with a disability passes away after the disability has ended but before the deadline set by this section, their legal representative may file a lawsuit or application within the same timeframe as if the person were still alive.

It is important to note that, according to this section, the term “minor” encompasses a child in the womb of the mother.

Kinds of Legal Disabilities

Section 6(1) of the Limitation Act, 1963 provides three types of legal disabilities:

Minor

The first legal disability under Limitation Act is related to the age of an individual, known as “minor.” According to the Indian Majority Act, 1875, an individual attains majority at the age of eighteen. It is important to note the following points as per Section 3(2) of the Indian Majority Act:

  • The day of birth is considered as a whole day.
  • The individual is considered a major when the 18th anniversary of their birth begins.

The Indian Majority Act, 1875 is applicable to individuals of all religions and can be considered a secular law. However, personal laws may have different provisions regarding the age of majority. The Indian Majority Act also considers a child in the womb as a minor. In cases where the court appoints a guardian for the welfare of a minor before they turn eighteen, the age of the minority is extended to twenty-one.

Insanity

The second legal disability is “insanity.” The Supreme Court, in the case of S.K. Yadav v. State of Maharashtra, discussed the concept of legal insanity. The court held that legal insanity is recognized by the courts, as distinct from medical insanity. There is no specific test to prove legal insanity, but even if medical insanity is established in lower courts, it must be proven again in higher courts. To determine whether a person is legally insane, their behaviour, antecedents and events before, during and after the incident must be considered.

Idiot

In the case of Hari Singh Gond v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court defined four sub-types of non-compos mentis, including “idiot.” An idiot is someone who is unable to count the days of the week, lacks sane memory since birth and cannot count up to twenty.

A lunatic experiences periods of sanity interspersed with bouts of erratic behaviour, such as in the case of epilepsy. Madness is considered a permanent condition. Lunacy and madness are categorized as acquired insanity, while idiocy is seen as natural insanity. This means that while a person can become lunatic or mad at any time during their lifetime, idiocy is present since birth.

Rules Relating to Legal Disability in Limitation Act

The rules related to legal disability under Limitation Act is discussed under Section 6 to 9. They can be briefed as:

What is Section 6 of the Limitation Act?

The rule regarding minors states that the limitation period does not run against a minor. Section 6 does not provide a fresh starting point of limitation. Instead, it allows individuals with disabilities to seek an extension of time before the expiration of the period mentioned in the Schedule, calculated from the end of their legal disability. However, there is a limitation to this extension as provided under Section 8.

Under Section 6, individuals who are insane, minors and idiots are exempted from filing a suit or application within the prescribed time mentioned in the law due to their legal disability. They are allowed to file a suit or application once their legal disability has ceased and the counting of the limitation period starts from the day their disability ends.

It’s important to note that idiots, minors and insane individuals fall under the category of legal disability under Limitation Act. Furthermore, this section applies when a suit is brought by a disabled person, not against them. The legal disability as per Limitation Act, must be present at the time when the limitation period is considered. The suit or application for the execution of an order should be relevant to the proceedings at the time.

The limitation period for the proceedings should be mentioned in the third column of the schedule to the Limitation Act.

Scope of Section 6 with CPC

The scope of Section 6 of the Limitation Act in relation to the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) is as follows:

  • Appeal by a Minor: Section 6 does not provide an extension of time for a minor to prefer an appeal. It only applies to suits or applications for the execution of an order.
  • Application under Order 21, Rule 90: Section 6 does not cover an application under Order 21, Rule 90 of the CPC, which seeks to set aside a sale held in execution. This was established in the case of Bholanath v. Sayedatunnisia.
  • Application for Readmission of Appeal: Section 6 does not apply to an application for the readmission of an appeal under Order 41, Rule 10 of the CPC.
  • Bringing on Record Legal Representative: Section 6 is not applicable for bringing on record the legal representative of a deceased party.
  • Application for Final Decree in Mortgage Suit: An application to obtain a final decree for sale in a mortgage suit is not considered an application for the execution of the preliminary decree for sale. Therefore, Section 6 does not apply to such an application.
  • Application for Supplementary Decree: An application for a supplementary decree under Order 34, Rule 6 is not categorized as an application for execution. Hence, it does not fall within the purview of Section 6.
  • Claim under Section 110-A of the Motor Vehicle Act: A claim under Section 110-A of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1939, which is in the nature of a suit under the CPC, would be covered under Section 6 of the Limitation Act.

Who is Entitled to the Benefit of Section 6?

In the case of Bailchon Karan v. Basant Kumari Naik, it was established that only an individual who is entitled to file a suit or application can claim the benefit of Section 6 (legal disability). If an individual does not have the right to sue or apply within the initial limitation period but is later allowed to do so, they cannot avail themselves of the provisions of Section 6.

In the case of Zafir v. Amiruddin, it was held that Section 6 is applicable when one plaintiff is an idiot, minor or insane or when there are multiple defendants who fall under the disabilities mentioned in Section 6.

Additionally, in the case of Abed Hossain v. Abdul Rahman, it was ruled that if one person’s limitation period has already started running and another person subsequently becomes entitled to sue on the same cause of action, Section 6 is not applicable. There is no fresh starting point of limitation and the legal disability of the latter person at the time when they become entitled to sue is not a valid ground for extending the limitation under Section 6.

Combination with other Sections 3, 7, 8, 9

The Limitation Act contains important provisions regarding legal disabilities, particularly Sections 6, 7 and 9, which provide detailed insights into various aspects of these disabilities. These sections complement each other effectively.

Section 3 of the Limitation Act is of great significance as it deals with the prescribed time periods within which parties must file their cases. Failure to file within these time limits results in the application of the concept of limitation. However, certain exceptions are also provided for in this section for exceptional circumstances, which are covered by Sections 4 to 24 of the Limitation Act.

Sections 6 and 7 of the Act are specifically relevant as they allow parties to file suits even after the expiration of the limitation period if the disabilities of a minority, insanity or madness are involved.

It is important to note that the legal disability must actually exist at the time when the limitation period is scheduled to commence. No future disability can reset the limitation period once it has already begun, as stated in Section 9 of the Limitation Act. If a person has multiple disabilities, i.e., at least two or if they have overcome one legal disability and acquired a new one as per Section 6(2), then they can file a complaint once all these disabilities have ceased to exist or the most recent disability has ceased to exist.

Section 8 clarifies that there is no provision for preemptive action in such cases and the limitation period is three years from the death of the individual or the termination of their legal disability under Limitation Act.

Section 8 of the Limitation Act

Section 8 of the Limitation Act serves as an ancillary provision to Sub-Sections 6 and 7, providing certain limitations and restrictions. It does not confer significant rights on its own but functions as a proviso to Sub-Sections 6 and 7.

For example, in a situation where a father, acting as a trustee, makes an alienation on behalf of himself and his three minor sons and the eldest son attains majority two years before the father’s death, a partition suit seeking separate ownership by the sons of their 2/3rd share based on the argument that the father’s alienation was not binding on them. If this suit is filed more than three years after the father’s death, but within the two-year period after the eldest son attains majority, the applicability of Section 8 comes into play.

The Supreme Court has ruled that there is a cumulative effect of Section 6 and Section 8. The duration within which a person with a legal disability may sue is determined by the third column of the relevant article of the Limitation Act. However, Section 8 acts as a special limitation and exception, stating that the extended period after the termination of the legal disability shall not exceed three years from the cessation of the disability or the death of the individual with disabilities.

The Supreme Court further emphasizes that in any case, the litigant is entitled to a fresh starting point for limitation from the date of termination of the legal disability. However, it is important to note that the extension of time granted by Section 6 or Section 7 should not exceed three years from the date of cessation of the disability.

Extension of Legal Disability under Limitation Act

The present Section, as a proviso to Section 6, imposes a condition that the extension of time shall not exceed three years from the cessation of the legal disability. This means that the maximum extension allowed under this clause is three years, even if the ordinary limitation period for bringing an action is shorter than three years. However, if the remaining duration is already longer than three years, no further extension can be granted.

The calculation of the limitation period starts from the termination of the legal disability or the death of the person affected by the disability. Therefore, the plaintiff must establish that they attained a majority within three years prior to filing the suit. Spouses or assignees of a person with a disability are not entitled to the benefits provided under Sections 6 to 8.

If the prescribed limitation period for a suit is longer than three years, a minor has two options. They can either file the suit within the specified period, if it expires during their minority or they can wait for the entire duration of the limitation period to run and then file the suit before it expires, taking advantage of the provisions of Section 8. In this case, the suit must be brought within three years from the termination of the disability.

When Section 8 refers to the cessation of legal disability, it signifies the termination of the disability resulting from the loss of the party’s capacity to grant a valid discharge. The discharge will cease if an individual within the community acquires the capacity to grant a valid discharge without the involvement of others.

Pre-Emption Suits for Legal Disability

Regarding pre-emption suits, the extended limitation period mentioned in Section 6 or Section 7 does not apply. As the right of pre-emption should be promptly claimed by a minor or any other person with a legal disability under Limitation Act, there is no justification for delay in asserting that right.

Rules Pertaining to Legal Disability under Limitation Act

The sections and rules you have mentioned relate to legal disabilities under Limitation Act and their implications in legal proceedings:

  • Order 8 Rule 5(1) of the CPC: This rule states that if a specific charge has not been clearly denied or admitted by the defendant, it must be expressly admitted, except in the case of persons with legal disabilities. This means that persons with legal disabilities may not be required to expressly admit or deny certain charges.
  • Section 6(3) of the Limitation Act: This section allows legal representatives to bring an action on behalf of a person with a legal disability after their death. It enables the continuation of legal proceedings even after the death of a person with a legal disability under the Limitation Act.
  • Order 22 Rule 3(1) of the CPC: This rule allows the legal representatives of a deceased plaintiff party to continue with the suit. It ensures that the legal representatives can step into the shoes of the deceased and pursue the case.
  • Rule 4A of Order 22 of the CPC: According to this rule, if no legal representatives are available, the court has the power to appoint a deputy general or an officer of the court to represent the estate of the deceased person. This ensures that the interests of the deceased person are represented even when there are no legal representatives.
  • Order 23 Rule 1(1) of the CPC: This rule states that an action in which the applicant is a minor or falls under the provisions of Order 31 can be withdrawn only with the court’s satisfaction on grounds such as formal defect or the existence of grounds for filing a fresh suit. It ensures that the court’s consent is obtained before withdrawing such cases.
  • Rule 3 of Order 23 of the CPC: This rule further clarifies the conditions under which a case can be withdrawn. It specifies that the court must give its consent based on formal defect or grounds for filing a fresh suit before allowing the withdrawal.
  • Rule 12 of Order 32 of the CPC: This rule deals with cases filed by minors, allowing them to obtain a majority during the course of the proceedings. It states that if a minor, upon attaining a majority, decides not to pursue the case, dismissal of the case may not be appropriate.

These sections and rules provide provisions and guidelines to ensure that persons with legal disabilities are appropriately represented and their rights are protected in legal proceedings.

Relevant Case Laws Pertaining to Legal Disability under  Limitation Act

Although this list is not comprehensive, it includes significant cases from various high courts and the Supreme Court, which have played a crucial role in establishing procedures related to legal disability under Limitation Act. Some of the important cases are:

Darshan Singh v. Gurdev Singh

This case emphasizes that Section 6 of the Limitation Act allows minors, cowards or idiots to bring an action or make an application within the specified time period after the legal disability has ended. However, the extension of the limitation period under Section 6 is subject to the condition that the period of extension does not exceed three years after the death or termination of the legal disability under Limitation Act.

Udhavji Anandji Ladha v. Bapudas Ramdas Darbar

This case clarifies that Section 6 of the Limitation Act applies only if there is a legal disability present when the limitation period starts. If a person does not suffer from any legal disability at the commencement of the limitation period, they cannot invoke the relaxation provided by Section 6. The limitation period for suits by minors should be considered as per Section 6, rather than the general period mentioned in Schedule 1 of the Limitation Act.

Lalchand Dhanalal v. Dharamchand and Ors

In this case, it was held that the cause of action or grievance must occur when the complainant (administrator) dies and the limitation period starts from that point. Subsequent disability does not reset the time under Section 9 of the Limitation Act. The benefit of legal disability under Limitation Act can only be claimed if the disability exists at the commencement of the limitation period.

Bapu Tatya Desai v. Bala Raojee Desai

This case highlights that Section 7 of the Limitation Act is meant to restrict the indulgence available to minors. The benefit of Section 6 should not extend to a significantly longer period but only until the eldest of the minors reaches the age of majority.

Smt. Usha Rani Banerjee & Ors v. Premier Insurance Company Ltd

This case interprets Section 7 as an exception to the general principle of Section 6. If multiple persons are jointly entitled to file a suit and one of them is under a legal disability, the limitation period will not run against any of them until the disability ceases to exist. However, if one of the persons entitled to sue can grant a discharge without the involvement of the others, the limitation period will begin to run against both of them.

Conclusion

Legal disability under Limitation Act includes minority, insanity or mental disability. It serves as a safeguard to protect individuals who are unable to fully comprehend their legal rights and responsibilities. By temporarily suspending the ability to initiate legal proceedings, it ensures that vulnerable individuals are not taken advantage of during periods of diminished capacity. Moreover, it allows for a fair and equitable legal process, as it requires parties to possess the necessary competence to actively participate in legal proceedings.

The Limitation Act incorporates various sections, namely Sections 6, 7, 8 and 9, to address different aspects of legal disability. These sections collectively define the parameters within which legal disability operates. Section 6 serves as the primary provision, while Sections 7, 8 and 9 further expand on specific situations where legal disability under Limitation Act may apply.


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