The High Court of Karnataka has ruled that Section 5 of the Limitation Act cannot be invoked to condone delay in filing appeal against an award under the Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 (RFCTLARR Act).
A Division Bench comprising Justices B V Nagarathna and K Natarajan gave the ruling in the case The Deputy Commissioner and Special Land Acquisition Officer v M/s S V Global Mill Pvt Ltd.
Under Section 74(1) of the 2013 Act, a person aggrieved may file an appeal before the High Court within sixty days from the date of the award. The proviso states that if the High Court is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal within the said period, allow it to be filed within a further period not exceeding sixty days.
The special period of limitation prescribed under RFCTLARR Act will prevail over the general rule of limitation period for appeals, by virtue of Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act. Since the period up to which the Court can condone the delay in filing appeals is limited as sixty days by the proviso to Section 74(1), the general power to condone is not applicable.
Having regard to the dictum of the Supreme Court in the case of Union of India vs. Popular Construction Company [2001 (8) SCC 470] and similar precedents, the HC held that Section 74(1) of the 2013 Act excludes Section 5 of the Limitation Act as the extended period of limitation is fixed as 60 days under the proviso to Section 74(1) of the 2013 Act.
"it is held that the phrase 'within sixty days from the date of the Award' in Section 74(1) of the 2013 Act and the expression "within a further period not exceeding sixty days" in the proviso thereto must be interpreted to mean that there is a specific limitation prescribed in the 2013 Act, which is a code by itself in the matter of grant of fair compensation in respect of acquisition of land and other matters incidental thereto. Therefore, the special statute having a specific provision regarding limitation period would prevail over the Limitation Act, which is a general law and hence, Section 5 of the Limitation Act is not applicable to Section 74(1) of the 2013 Act as it prescribes a specific period of limitation different from what is prescribed under Article 116 of the Schedule to the Limitation Act.", held the judgment authored by Justice Nagarathna.
The Court however held that the other provisions of Limitation Act, particularly Sections 4, 12 , 13 and 14 will apply to appeals under RFCTLARR Act. Section 12 deals with exclusion of time taken for delivery of copy of judgment from limitation. Section 14 deals with exclusion of time spent in prosecution in a wrong forum.
"While considering the expression 'sixty days from the date of the Award' and 'further period not exceeding sixty days', in our view, the day on which the Award was signed which is the date of the Award would have to be excluded. Further, the period taken for preparation of the certified copy of the judgment and Award would also have to be excluded. If after such exclusion of the aforesaid period, if the appeal is filed within a period of sixty days, then the there would be no delay in filing of the appeal to the High Court", observed the Court regarding Section 12.
As regards Section 14, it was observed :
the expression "not exceeding sixty days" cannot be applied in a literal sense as application of Section 14 of the Limitation Act is not excluded under Section 74(1) of the 2013 Act. In such circumstances, the expression "not exceeding sixty days" cannot be given a verbatim meaning or a plain meaning but a contextual and practical meaning as, in our view, the said expression is applicable in relation to Section 74(1) of 2013 Act. Any other interpretation would deprive an appellant of his remedy before the High Court.
Likewise, the time take for declaration as indigent can also be excluded as per Section 13 of the Limitation Act as regards appeals under Section 74(1) of the 2013 Act.
This is on the finding that under Section 74 there is no bar, either express or implied, which excludes application of Sections 12 to 14 of Limitation Act.
"if a mechanical interpretation is given to the words "within sixty days from the date of the Award" and the expression "a further period not exceeding sixty days", without taking into consideration Sections 12, 13 and 14 of the Limitation Act, it would result in violation of the Constitutional right of a land-loser to seek enhancement by filing an appeal to the High Court and also disable him from seeking enhancement of compensation. The application of Sections 12 to 14 of Limitation Act is in order to advance justice as the reasons for exclusion of the periods mentioned in those Sections while computing the limitation period are those which are beyond the control of the party seeking to file an appeal to the High Court".
Advocate Vasant Fernandes High Court GP appeared for the appellant.
Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya and Dr Adithya Sondhi, assisted by Advocates Shirish Krishna and Monica Patil appeared for the respondents.
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