Limitation Period Ought To Be Considered For Substantive Relief Claimed And Not Consequential Relief - Supreme Court
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice M. R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna has held that the limitation period for filing a suit is required to be considered with respect to substantive relief claimed and not the consequential relief.
The Court in this context, observed -
"...the limitation period is required to be considered with respect to the substantive relief claimed and not the consequential relief. When a composite suit is filed for cancellation of the sale deed as well as for recovery of the possession, the limitation period is required to be considered with respect to the substantive relief of cancellation of the sale deed, which would be three years from the date of the knowledge of the sale deed sought to be cancelled."
In this case, the husband entered into an agreement to sell a property to the appellant, Raj pal Singh. Following this, his wife filed a civil suit against him stating that the title of the property which was being sold was in the name of the wife and therefore the husband had no right to sell the property. A decree was given in favour of the wife however no record of the same was made and the property was sold to the appellant with full consideration. The Relevant changes were made in the revenue records and the property was subsequently registered in the name of the appellant, who had been in possession of the land ever since.
Five years after the registration of the sale deed the wife filed a suit for cancellation of the sale deed and seeking relief of possession. The Trial Court give a judgement in favour of the wife And nullified the registered sale deed. Dissatisfied with the judgement of the trial court the purchaser filed a complaint under sections 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code in the First Appellate Court where the court after taking into account the merits of the case and also that the suit was barred by limitation allowed the appeal and set aside the judgement passed by the trial court.
Consequently, the Husband and his legal heirs on behalf of the wife filed a second appeal before the High Court to dismiss the judgement of the first appellate court and restore the decree passed by the trial court. The High Court restored the original decree by the trial court and dismissed the first Appellate Court's judgement.
The suit has been filed aggrieved with the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The Apex Court noted that there was already an agreement to sell prior to the filing of the suit and held " The case on behalf of the original plaintiff in the earlier Civil Suit No.1643 of 1994 was based on an alleged family arrangement, which was never produced before the court and/or even thereafter also. At this stage it is required to be noted that prior thereto, there was already an agreement to sell executive by the original defendant No. 2- husband of the original plaintiff dated 04.04.1993 in favour of the appellant herein and the time of for executing the sale deed was extended twice in writing on request made by the original defendant No.2."
The Bench also observed that the necessary changes were made in the revenue records and no changes have been made since they were made originally at the time of execution of the sale deed and that the suit is barred by Law of Limitation.
The Court held that "The suit seeking cancellation of the sale deed was required to be filed within a period of three years from the date of knowledge of the sale deed. Therefore, when the name of the appellant herein- original defendant No. 1 was mutated in the revenue records in the year 1996 on the basis of the registered sale deed dated 19.04.1996 and when he was found to be in position and cultivating the land since then the suit was required to be fired by the original painted within the period of three years from 1996. The submission on behalf of the original plaintiff that the prayer in the suit was also for recovery of the possession and therefore the sais suit was filed within a period of 12 years and therefore the suit has been filed within the period of limitation, cannot be accepted."
The Supreme Court considered the cancellation of the sale deed as the substantive prayer and therefore the limitation period was to be considered with respect to the substantive relief claimed and not the consequential relief which was the relief for possession.
The Supreme Court opined that the original suit should have been dismissed by the trial court on the ground that the suit was barred by limitation and that the High Court has committed a grave error in quashing and setting aside a well reasoned and detailed judgement and order passed by the First Appellate Court dismissing the suit and consequently restoring the judgement and decree passed by the Trial Court.
The Bench opined, "The High Court has not properly appreciated and considered the fact that the appellant herein- original defendant No .1 can be said to be a bona fide purchaser and that the decree obtained by the original plaintiff in the earlier Civil Suit No. .1643 of 1994 was a collusive decree and everything was done behind the back of the appellant herein- original defendant No. 1." " The High Court has also not at all considered whether the suit was barred by limitation or not, which ought to have been considered by the High Court. Under the circumstances, the impugned judgement and order passed by the High Court is unsustainable and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside."
The Supreme Court thus allowed the appeal and quashed and set aside the order by the High Court.