The Supreme Court reiterated the principles pertaining to applicability of Section 14 of the Limitation Act, 1963, which deals with the exclusion of time of proceeding bona fide in a court without jurisdiction.

The Court noted that the following conditions must be satisfied before Section 14 can be pressed into service:

(1) Both the prior and subsequent proceedings are civil proceedings prosecuted by the same party;

(2) The prior proceeding had been prosecuted with due diligence and in good faith;

(3) The failure of the prior proceeding was due to defect of jurisdiction or other cause of like nature;

(4) The earlier proceeding and the latter proceeding must relate to the same matter in issue; and

(5) Both the proceedings are in a court.

The Court observed thus in an appeal against the final judgment of the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court by which the judgment of Munsiff, Hiranagar was affirmed in which the execution application was dismissed, being barred by limitation.

The two-Judge Bench of Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Aravind Kumar said, “No substantial averment has come on record to substantiate the claim that the predecessor in interest of the Plaintiff approached the Tehsildar with any mala fide intention, in the absence of good faith or with the knowledge that it was not the Court having competent jurisdiction to execute the decree. The object to advance the cause of justice, as well must be kept in mind.”

Advocate Nitin Sangra represented the appellants while Senior Advocate Sunil Fernandes represented the respondents.

In this case, the predecessors in interest of the appellant (plaintiff) filed a suit for possession against the respondents (defendants). In 1986, this suit was decreed by the Munsiff, First Class Hiranagar, in favour of the plaintiff, and the defendants were directed to deliver vacant and peaceful possession of the property to the plaintiff. This decree was challenged by the respondents before the District Judge, Kathua, in First Appeal, which was dismissed in 1990. Thereafter, the respondents preferred a Second Appeal before the High Court but the same was also dismissed and no further appeal was preferred.

Therefore, the decree of the Munsiff Court attained finality in 2000. The dispute arose from the application for execution filed by the predecessor in interest of the plaintiff, before the Tehsildar (Settlement) but it was rejected in 2005, whereby the Tehsildar observed that the plaintiff had not applied before the Court with appropriate jurisdiction. The plaintiff thereafter, preferred a fresh application for execution before the Munsiff. This application resulted in the order, whereby, the Munsiff Court dismissed the application as being barred by limitation.

The Supreme Court in view of the above facts noted, “In view of the submissions raised, the issue which arises for consideration of this Court is as to whether the period (18.12.2000 to 29.01.2005) diligently pursuing execution petition before the Tehsildar, would be excluded for the purposes of computing the period of limitation or not. … The only objection pointed out by the Respondent to the ingredients for invocation of Section 14, is that the Plaintiff have not approached this Court with clean hands and did not approach the Court of the Tehsildar diligently and in good faith.”

The Court said that the plaintiff pursued the matter bonafidely and diligently and in good faith before what it believed to be the appropriate forum and, therefore, such time period is bound to be excluded when computing limitation before the Court having competent jurisdiction and hence, all conditions stipulated for invocation of Section 14 of the Limitation Act are fulfilled.

“Therefore, in view of the above discussion the period from 18.12.2000, when the execution application was filed to 29.01.2005, when the prior proceeding was dismissed, has to be excluded while computing period of limitation, which results in the execution application filed by the Plaintiff, being within the limitation period prescribed under Article 182 of the Limitation Act as well, which is 3 years”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, set aside the impugned order, and restored the execution application to Munsiff Court for fresh consideration.

Cause Title- Purni Devi & Anr. v. Babu Ram & Anr. (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 259)


Appellants: Advocates Nitin Sangra, Riju Ghosh, and AOR Pragya Baghel.

Respondents: Senior Advocate Sunil Fernandes, AOR Nupur Kumar, and Advocate Diksha Dadu.

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