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Friday, April 24, 2015

Under Section 128 as it then stood a person aggrieved by a decision or order passed by a Superintendent of Customs could appeal to the Collector (Appeals) within three months from the date of communication to him of such decision or order. On the principles contained in Section 14 of the Limitation Act the time taken in prosecuting an abortive proceeding would have to be excluded as the appellant was prosecuting bona fide with due diligence the appeal before CEGAT which was allowed in its favour by CEGAT on 23.6.1998. The Department preferred an appeal against the said order sometime in the year 2000 which appeal was decided in their favour by this court only on 12.3.2003 by which CEGAT’s order was set aside on the ground that CEGAT had no jurisdiction to entertain such appeal. The time taken from 12.3.2003 to 23.5.2003, on which date the present appeal was filed before the Commissioner (Appeals) would be within the period of 180 days provided by the pre amended Section 128, when added to the time taken between 3.4.1992 and 22.6.1992. The amended Section 128 has now reduced this period, with effect from 2001, to 60 days plus 30 days, which is 90 days. The order that is challenged in the present case was passed before 2001. The right of appeal within a period of 180 days (which includes the discretionary period of 90 days) from the date of the said order was a right which vested in the appellant. A shadow was cast by the abortive appeal from 1992 right upto 2003. This shadow was lifted when it became clear that the proceeding filed in1992 was a proceeding before the wrong forum. The vested right of appeal within the period of 180 days had not yet got over. Upon the lifting of the shadow, a certain residuary period within which a proper appeal could be filed still remained. That period would continue to be within the period of 180 days notwithstanding the amendment made in 2001 as otherwise the right to appeal itself would vanish given the shorter period of limitation provided by Section 128 after 2001.

                                                                  REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.4367 OF 2004




      M.P. STEEL CORPORATION                   …APPELLANT


                                   VERSUS


      COMMISSIONER OF CENTRAL
      EXCISE                                              ...RESPONDENT




                               J U D G M E N T

      R.F. Nariman, J.

      1.      The facts giving rise to the present appeal  are  as  follows.
      The appellant is engaged in  ship  breaking  activity  at  Alang  Ship
      Breaking Yard.  The appellant imported a vessel, namely, M.V.  Olinda,
      for the purpose of breaking the same, and filed a Bill of  Entry  when
      the vessel was imported on 7.2.1992.  It declared in the said Bill  of
      Entry that the Light Displacement  Tonnage  of  the  vessel  was  7009
      metric  tons.   On  19.2.1992,  the  appellant  was  informed  by  the
      Superintendent of Customs and Central  Excise  Alang  that  the  Light
      Displacement Tonnage of the  ship  is  actually  8570  tons  and  that
      customs duty was to be levied  on  this  tonnage.   On  3.3.1992,  the
      appellant cleared the vessel on payment of customs duty on  the  basis
      of 7009 metric tons and executed a bank guarantee  for  Rs.19,90,275/-
      being the  difference  in  customs  duty  on  1561  metric  tons.   On
      25.3.1992, the Collector of Customs, Rajkot,  directed  the  Assistant
      Collector, Bhavnagar to encash the bank  guarantee  furnished  by  the
      appellant.  On 2.4.1992, the Superintendent  of  Customs  and  Central
      Excise sent a letter to the appellant communicating  the  decision  of
      the Collector, as aforesaid.  The bank guarantee was duly encashed  on
      3.4.1992.  After protesting against the said  illegal  action  of  the
      Department in encashing the bank guarantee, the appellant preferred an
      appeal against the Superintendent’s  letter  dated  2.4.1992  and  the
      Collector’s order dated 25.3.1992 before  CEGAT.   On  23.6.1998,  the
      Appellate Tribunal allowed the appeal and set aside the order  of  the
      Collector dated 25.3.1992.  In the year 2000, the Department preferred
      an appeal before this Court.   On 12.3.2003, this  Court  allowed  the
      appeal holding:

                 “This appeal is against a judgment dated 23.6.1998  passed
           by the Customs, Excise And Gold  (Control)  Appellate  Tribunal,
           West Regional Bench at Mumbai.

                 Facts briefly stated are that the respondent filed a  Bill
           of Entry in respect of ship M.V. Olinda  imported  by  them  for
           purposes  of  breaking.   The  respondent   showed   the   light
           displacement  tonnage  (LDT)  as   7009   metric   tons.    This
           declaration was not accepted by the  Superintendent  of  Customs
           and  Central  Excise.   The  respondent,  thus,  approached  the
           Assistant Collector.   The  question  was  how  LDT  was  to  be
           calculated.  It appears that between the Assistant Collector and
           the Collector there was some  internal  correspondence  on  this
           aspect.  The Collector took a policy decision on how LDT was  to
           be calculated.  The Collector  conveyed  this  decision  to  the
           Assistant Collector by his  letter  dated  25.3.1992.   Pursuant
           thereto the Superintendent of Customs and Central Excise  passed
           an order dated  2nd  April,  1992  in  respect  of  vessel  M.V.
           “Olinda”.  Of course the order dated 2nd April, 1992 is based on
           the decision of the Collector.  However, the order remains  that
           of the Superintendent of Customs and Central Excise.

                 The respondent filed  an  appeal  directly  before  CEGAT.
           CEGAT has disposed of this appeal by the impugned order.   CEGAT
           negatived a contention that  the  appeal  was  not  maintainable
           before them on the basis  that  the  Superintendent’s  order  is
           nothing more than a communication of the  order  passed  by  the
           Collector (Appeals).  CEGAT held that the  appeal  was  in  fact
           against the Collector’s order.

                 In our view, the reasoning of CEGAT cannot  be  sustained.
           The decision taken  by  the  Collector  was  not  taken  in  his
           capacity as  Collector  (Appeals).   Also  the  order  by  which
           respondent  is  aggrieved   is   the   order   passed   by   the
           Superintendent.  An appeal against that order has  to  be  filed
           before the Commissioner (Appeals) under Section 128.  By  virtue
           of Section 129-A, CEGAT has no jurisdiction to entertain such an
           appeal.

                 It is clear that the impugned order is passed without  any
           jurisdiction.  Therefore, it cannot be sustained.  We, thus, set
           aside the order.  The appeal is accordingly allowed.  There will
           be no order as to costs.

                 We clarify that we have not gone into the  merits  of  the
           matter and that it will be open to the respondent to adopt  such
           remedy as they may be advised, if in law they are entitled to do
           so.”




      2.    After this judgment, on 23.5.2003, the appellant filed an appeal
      before the Commissioner (Appeals) against  the  order  passed  by  the
      Superintendent, Customs dated 2.4.1992.  On 4.8.2003,  an  application
      to condone delay in filing the appeal was made in the following terms:

                 “As appeal against the order of the Supdt. of Customs  was
           filed by us within 60 days of the receipt of the certified  true
           copy of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.   It  is  our
           respectful submission that since the  appeal  was  filed  by  us
           before the correct forum with due dispatch after receipt of  the
           Supreme Court’s judgment, there has been no delay in filing  the
           appeal.  It is well settled now that the time taken for pursuing
           a remedy before another appellate Forum is to  be  excluded  for
           the purpose of  computing  the  period  for  filing  an  appeal.
           (Union Carbide India Ltd. Vs. CC 1998 (77)  ECR  376,  Karnataka
           Minerals & Mfg. Co. Ltd. Vs. CCE 1998 (101) ELT 627).”




      3.    By an  order  dated  27.10.2003,  the  Commissioner  of  Customs
      (Appeals) dismissed the appeal on the ground of delay stating that the
      appeal had been filed way beyond the period of 60 days  plus  30  days
      provided for in Section 128 of the Customs Act.  Against  this  order,
      CESTAT  dismissed  the  appeal  of  the  appellant  stating  that  the
      Commissioner (Appeals) had no power to condone delay beyond the period
      specified in Section 128.

      4.    Shri Viswanathan, learned senior advocate appearing on behalf of
      the appellant argued before us that the entire  period  starting  from
      25.3.1992 up till 12.3.2003 ought to be excluded by  applying  Section
      14 of the Limitation  Act.   According  to  him,  Section  14  of  the
      Limitation Act would apply to exclude this period from the  period  of
      90 days allowed in filing an appeal filed to the  Collector  (Appeals)
      inasmuch as vide Section 29 (2) of the Limitation Act  Section  14  of
      the Limitation Act would also apply to Tribunals set up under  special
      or local Acts.  According to him, the entire period    with  which  he
      was prosecuting, with due diligence, the abortive appeal filed  before
      CEGAT should be excluded, which would include the period even prior to
      22.6.1992 when the abortive  appeal  was  filed.   As  an  alternative
      submission, on the assumption that Section 14 applied only  to  Courts
      and not to Tribunals, he submitted that the principle  of  Section  14
      would then apply.  According to him, Section 128 of  the  Customs  Act
      before its amendment in 2001 would be attracted on the facts  of  this
      case giving him a period of 90 days  plus  an  extended  period  of  a
      further period of 90 days within which the  present  appeal  could  be
      filed.  This being the case, on an  application  of  Section  14,  the
      appeal would be filed with no delay at all even  if  the  period  from
      3.4.1992 to 22.6.1992 and 12.3.2003 to 23.5.2003 is to be  taken  into
      account, as that would be less than 180 days given to file the  appeal
      under the old Section 128.  He cited a number of authorities which  we
      will deal with in the course of this judgment in support  of  all  the
      aforesaid propositions.

      5.    Shri A.K. Sanghi, learned senior advocate appearing on behalf of
      the Department argued that Section 128 of the Customs Act excluded the
      application of Section 14 of the Limitation Act in that the scheme  of
      the Section is that only a  limited  period  should  be  given  to  an
      assessee beyond which the appeal would become  time  barred.   In  the
      present case, Section 128 as amended post  2001  would  apply  to  the
      facts of this case and on the appellant’s own showing  the  appeal  is
      out of time by eleven and a half years. Section  128  only  gives  the
      appellant 60 days plus another 30 days which have long gone.  He  also
      argued that Section 14 of  the  Limitation  Act  would  not  apply  to
      Tribunals but only to Courts, and the Collector (Appeals) was at  best
      a quasi-judicial Tribunal.  Further, according to him, no question  of
      any principle of section 14 would get attracted.  In  fact,  according
      to him, there is no pleading qua Section 14 at all – the only pleading
      is for condonation of delay and not for exclusion of time.  Section 14
      requires that five necessary ingredients must be  satisfied  on  facts
      before it can be attracted. The  appellant  has  neither  pleaded  nor
      proved  any  of  these  ingredients.   He  also  cited  a  number   of
      authorities which we will refer to in the course of this judgment.




      Ingredients of Section 14.

      Section 14 of the Limitation Act reads as follows:

              “14. Exclusion of time  of  proceeding  bona  fide  in  court
           without jurisdiction.—(1) In computing the period of  limitation
           for any suit the  time  during  which  the  plaintiff  has  been
           prosecuting with due diligence another civil proceeding, whether
           in a court of first instance or of appeal or  revision,  against
           the defendant shall be excluded, where the proceeding relates to
           the same matter in issue and is prosecuted in good  faith  in  a
           court which, from defect of jurisdiction or  other  cause  of  a
           like nature, is unable to entertain it.
              (2)  In  computing  the  period   of   limitation   for   any
           application, the  time  during  which  the  applicant  has  been
           prosecuting with due diligence another civil proceeding, whether
           in a court of first instance or of appeal or  revision,  against
           the same party for the same relief shall be excluded, where such
           proceeding is prosecuted in good faith in a  court  which,  from
           defect of jurisdiction or other  cause  of  a  like  nature,  is
           unable to entertain it.
              (3) Notwithstanding anything contained in  Rule  2  of  Order
           XXIII of the Code of Civil Procedure,  1908  (5  of  1908),  the
           provisions of sub-section (1) shall apply in relation to a fresh
           suit instituted on permission granted by the court under Rule  1
           of that Order, where such permission is granted  on  the  ground
           that the first suit must fail by  reason  of  a  defect  in  the
           jurisdiction of the court or other cause of a like nature.
              Explanation.—For the purposes of this section,—
        (a) in excluding the time during which a  former  civil  proceeding
           was pending, the day on which that proceeding was instituted and
           the day on which it ended shall both be counted;
        (b) a plaintiff or an applicant resisting an appeal shall be deemed
           to be prosecuting a proceeding;
        (c) misjoinder of parties or of causes of action shall be deemed to
           be a cause of a like nature with defect of jurisdiction.”



      6.    Shri A.K. Sanghi, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf  of
      the Department has stated that at no point of time has  the  appellant
      taken up a plea based on Section 14.  Neither has  the  appellant  met
      with  any  of  the  five  conditions  set  out  in  paragraph  21   of
      Consolidated Engg. Enterprises v. Principal secy., Irrigation  Deptt.,
      (2008) 7 SCC 169, which reads as follows:-

           “21. Section 14 of the Limitation Act deals  with  exclusion  of
           time of proceeding bona fide in a court without jurisdiction. On
           analysis of the  said  section,  it  becomes  evident  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.”




      7.     Technically  speaking,  Shri  A.K.  Sanghi,  may  be   correct.
      However, in an application for  condonation  of  delay  the  appellant
      pointed out that they were pursuing a remedy before another  appellate
      forum which ought to be excluded.  We deem  this  averment  sufficient
      for the appellant to contend that Section 14 of the Limitation Act  or
      principles laid down under it would be attracted to the facts of  this
      case.

           We might also point out that conditions 1 to 4 mentioned in  the
      Consolidated  Engineering  case  have,  in  fact,  been  met  by   the
      appellant. It is clear that both the prior and subsequent  proceedings
      are  civil  proceedings  prosecuted  by  the  same  party.  The  prior
      proceeding had been prosecuted with due diligence and in  good  faith,
      as has  been  explained  in  Consolidated  Engineering  itself.  These
      phrases only mean that the party who invokes Section 14 should not  be
      guilty of negligence, lapse or inaction.  Further, there should be  no
      pretended      mistake      intentionally      made       with       a
      view to delaying the proceedings or harassing the opposite party.   On
      the facts of this case, as  the  earlier  Supreme  Court  order  dated
      12.3.2003 itself points out, there was some confusion  as  to  whether
      what was appealed  against  was  the  Superintendent’s  order  or  the
      Collector’s order.  The appellant bona fide believed that it  was  the
      Collector’s order which was appealed against and hence  an  appeal  to
      CEGAT would be maintainable.  This contention, however, ran into rough
      weather in this Court.  Further, the time taken between  3.4.1992  and
      22.6.1992 to file an appeal cannot be said to  be  inordinately  long.
      Thus, neither was there any negligence, lapse or inaction on facts nor
      did the appellant  delay  proceedings  to  harass  the  Department  by
      pretending that there was a mistake.  Condition (3) was also  directly
      met – this Court in the order dated 12.3.2003 set aside CEGAT’s  order
      on the ground that it was without jurisdiction.   It  is  indisputable
      that the earlier proceeding and the later  proceeding  relate  to  the
      same matter in issue and thus condition 4 is also met.   Condition  5,
      however, has not been met as both the proceedings are before a  quasi-
      judicial Tribunal and not in a Court.  This, however, is not fatal  to
      the present proceeding as what is being held by us in this judgment is
      that despite the fact that Section 14 of the Limitation  Act  may  not
      apply, yet the principles of Section 14  will  get  attracted  to  the
      facts of the present case.  It is in this way that we now  proceed  to
      consider the law on the subject.

      Whether the Limitation Act applies only to Courts and not to Tribunals





8.    A perusal of the Limitation Act, 1963  would  show  that  the  bar  of
limitation contained in the Schedule to the Act applies to  suits,  appeals,
and applications.  “Suit” is defined in Section 2(l)  as  not  including  an
appeal or an application.  The word “Court” is not defined  under  the  Act.
However,  it  appears  in  a  number  of  its  provisions   (See:   Sections
4,5,13,17(2),21).  A perusal of the Schedule would show that it  is  divided
into three divisions.   The  first  division  concerns  itself  with  suits.
Articles 1 to 113 all deal with “suits”.



9.    Sections 2(a),(e) and (i) are material in that  they  define  what  is
meant by an applicant, a plaintiff and a defendant.



           “2. Definitions.—In  this  Act,  unless  the  context  otherwise
           requires,—

                         (a) “applicant” includes—

                            (i) a petitioner;

                            (ii)  any  person  from  or  through  whom   an
                            applicant derives his right to apply;

                            (iii) any person whose estate is represented by
                            the applicant  as  executor,  administrator  or
                            other representative;

                          (e) “defendant” includes—

                            (i) any person from or through whom a defendant
                            derives his liability to be sued;

                            (ii) any person whose estate is represented  by
                            the defendant  as  executor,  administrator  or
                            other representative;

                          (i) “plaintiff” includes—

                            (i) any person from or through whom a plaintiff
                            derives his right to sue;

                            (ii) any person whose estate is represented  by
                            the plaintiff  as  executor,  administrator  or
                            other representative;”




10.   Section 3(2) which is material states as follows:

                “3(2) For the purposes of this Act-

                             a) A suit is instituted-

                                  (i)In an ordinary case, when  the  plaint
                                  is presented to the proper officer;

                                  (ii)In the case of  a  pauper,  when  his
                                  application for leave to sue as a  pauper
                                  is made; and

                                  (iii)In the case of  a  claim  against  a
                                  company which is being wound  up  by  the
                                  court, when the claimant first  sends  in
                                  his claim to the official liquidator;

                              (b) Any claim by way of a set off or a counter
                              claim, shall be treated as a separate suit and
                              shall be deemed to have been instituted –

                                  (i)in the case of a set off, on the  same
                                  date as the suit in which the set off  is
                                  pleaded;

                                  (ii)in the case of a  counter  claim,  on
                                  the date on which the  counter  claim  is
                                  made in court;

                              (c)an application by notice  of  motion  in  a
                              High Court is made  when  the  application  is
                              presented  to  the  proper  officer  of   that
                              court.”




11.   A perusal of  Section  3(2)  shows  that  “suits”  are  understood  as
actions begun in courts of law established under the Constitution of  India.




12.   In the Schedule, the second division  concerns  itself  with  appeals.
These appeals under  Articles  114  to  117,  are  either  under  the  Civil
Procedure Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, or intra-court appeals  so  far
as the High Courts are concerned. These appeals again are only  to  “Courts”
established under the Constitution.



13.   Equally, in the third division, all applications that are referred  to
are under Articles 118 to 137 only  to  “Courts”,  either  under  the  Civil
Procedure Code or under other enactments.



      14.   Sections 13, 21 and Articles 124, 130 and 131 of the  Limitation
      Act are  again  important  in  understanding  what  is  meant  by  the
      expression “Court”. They are set out below:

           “13. Exclusion of time in cases where leave to sue or appeal  as
           a pauper is applied for.—In computing the period  of  limitation
           prescribed  for  any  suit  or  appeal  in  any  case  where  an
           application for leave to sue or appeal as a pauper has been made
           and rejected, the time  during  which  the  applicant  has  been
           prosecuting in good faith his application for such  leave  shall
           be excluded, and the court may, on payment  of  the  court  fees
           prescribed for such suit or appeal, treat the suit or appeal  as
           having the same force and effect as if the court fees  had  been
           paid in the first instance.

           21.  Effect  of  substituting  or  adding   new   plaintiff   or
           defendant.—(1) Where after the institution  of  a  suit,  a  new
           plaintiff or defendant is substituted or added, the suit  shall,
           as regards him, be deemed to have been instituted when he was so
           made a party:

              Provided that where the court is satisfied that the  omission
           to include a new plaintiff or defendant was  due  to  a  mistake
           made in good faith it may direct that the suit as  regards  such
           plaintiff or defendant shall be deemed to have  been  instituted
           on any earlier date.

              (2) Nothing in sub-section (1) shall apply to a case where  a
           party is added or substituted owing to assignment or  devolution
           of any interest during  the  pendency  of  a  suit  or  where  a
           plaintiff  is  made  a  defendant  or  a  defendant  is  made  a
           plaintiff.

                                  Schedule

|124.   |For a review of    |Thirty    |The date of|
|       |judgment by a court|days      |the decree |
|       |other than the     |          |or order.  |
|       |Supreme Court.     |          |           |
|130.   |For leave to appeal|                      |
|       |as a pauper --     |                      |
|       |(a) to the High    |Sixty days|The date of|
|       |Court;             |          |decree     |
|       |                   |          |appealed   |
|       |                   |          |from.      |
|       |(b) to any other   |Thirty    |The date of|
|       |court.             |days      |decree     |
|       |                   |          |appealed   |
|       |                   |          |from.      |
|131.   |To any court for   |Ninety    |The date of|
|       |the exercise of its|days      |the decree |
|       |powers of revision |          |or order or|
|       |under the Code of  |          |sentence   |
|       |Civil Procedure,   |          |sought to  |
|       |1908 (5 of 1908),  |          |be revised.|
|       |or the Code of     |          |           |
|       |Criminal Procedure,|          |           |
|       |1898 (5 of 1898).  |          |           |



           It will be seen that suits and appeals that are covered  by  the
      Limitation Act are so covered provided court fees prescribed for  such
      suits or appeals are paid.  Under Section  13,  set  out  hereinabove,
      this becomes clear.  That is why time is excluded in cases where leave
      to  file  a  suit  or  an  appeal  as  a  pauper  is  granted  in  the
      circumstances mentioned in the Section. ‘Courts’ that are mentioned in
      this Section are therefore courts as understood in the strict sense of
      being part of the Judicial Branch of the State.

      15.   Section 21 also makes it clear that the suit that the Limitation
      Act speaks of is instituted only by a plaintiff against  a  defendant.
      Both plaintiff and defendant have been defined  as  including  persons
      through whom they derive their right to sue and include persons  whose
      estate is represented by persons such as executors, administrators  or
      other representatives.  This again  refers  only  to  suits  filed  in
      courts as is understood by the  Code  of  Civil  Procedure.   In  this
      regard, Section 26 of the CPC states:

                      “Section 26- Institution of suits

                 (1)Every suit shall be instituted by the presentation of a
                 plaint or in such other manner as may be prescribed.


                  (2) In every plaint, facts shall be proved by affidavit.”

      16.   When it comes to applications, again Articles 124, 130  and  131
      throw a great deal of light.  Only review of judgments by a “court” is
      contemplated in the Third Division in the Schedule.  Further, leave to
      appeal as a pauper again can be made either to the High Court or  only
      to any other court vide Article 130.  And by Article 131,  a  revision
      petition filed only before Courts under the Code  of  Civil  Procedure
      Code or the Code of Criminal Procedure are referred to.   On  a  plain
      reading of the provisions of the Limitation Act, it becomes clear that
      suits, appeals and applications are only to be  considered  (from  the
      limitation point of view) if they are filed in courts and not in quasi-
      judicial bodies.

      17.   Now to the case law.  A number  of  decisions  have  established
      that the Limitation Act applies only to courts and not  to  Tribunals.
      The  distinction  between  courts  and  quasi-judicial  decisions   is
      succinctly brought out in Bharat Bank Ltd. v. Employees of Bharat Bank
      Ltd., 1950 SCR 459. This root authority has been followed in a  catena
      of judgments. This judgment refers to a decision of the  King’s  Bench
      in Cooper v. Wilson.  The relevant quotation from the said judgment is
      as follows:-

           “A  true  judicial  decision  presupposes  an  existing  dispute
           between two or more parties, and then involves four  requisites:
           (1) The presentation (not necessarily orally) of their  case  by
           the parties to the dispute; (2) if the dispute between them is a
           question of fact, the ascertainment of  the  fact  by  means  of
           evidence adduced by the parties to the dispute  and  often  with
           the assistance of argument by or on behalf of the parties on the
           evidence; (3) if the dispute between them is a question of  law,
           the submission of legal argument  by  the  parties,  and  (4)  a
           decision which disposes of the whole matter by  a  finding  upon
           the facts in dispute and application of the law of the  land  to
           the facts so found, including where required a ruling  upon  any
           disputed question of  law.  A  quasi-judicial  decision  equally
           presupposes an existing dispute between two or more parties  and
           involves (1) and (2), but does not necessarily involve  (3)  and
           never involves (4). The  place  of  (4)  is  in  fact  taken  by
           administrative action, the character of which is  determined  by
           the Minister's free choice.”




      18.   Under our constitutional scheme  of  things,  the  judiciary  is
      dealt with in Chapter IV of Part V and Chapter V of Part VI.   Chapter
      IV of Part V deals with the Supreme Court and Chapter  V  of  Part  VI
      deals with the High Courts and courts subordinate thereto.   When  the
      Constitution uses the expression “court”,  it  refers  to  this  Court
      system.  As opposed to this court system is a system of quasi-judicial
      bodies called Tribunals.  Thus, Articles 136 and 227 refer to “courts”
      as distinct from “tribunals”.  The question in this  case  is  whether
      the Limitation Act extends beyond the court system mentioned above and
      embraces within its scope quasi-judicial bodies as well.

      19.   A series of decisions of this Court have clearly held  that  the
      Limitation Act applies only to courts and does  not  apply  to  quasi-
      judicial bodies.  Thus, in Town Municipal Council, Athani v. Presiding
      Officer, Labour Court, (1969) 1 SCC 873, a question arose as  to  what
      applications are covered under Article 137  of  the  Schedule  to  the
      Limitation Act. It was argued  that  an  application  made  under  the
      Industrial Disputes Act to a Labour Court  was  covered  by  the  said
      Article.  This Court negatived the said plea in the following terms:-

           “12. This point, in our opinion, may be looked at  from  another
           angle also. When this Court earlier held that all  the  articles
           in the third division to the schedule, including Article 181  of
           the Limitation Act of 1908, governed applications under the Code
           of  Civil  Procedure  only,  it   clearly   implied   that   the
           applications must be presented to a court governed by  the  Code
           of Civil Procedure. Even the applications under the  Arbitration
           Act that were included within the third division by amendment of
           Articles 158 and 178  were  to  be  presented  to  courts  whose
           proceedings were governed by the Code  of  Civil  Procedure.  As
           best, the further amendment now made enlarges the scope  of  the
           third division of the  schedule  so  as  also  to  include  some
           applications  presented  to  courts  governed  by  the  Code  of
           Criminal Procedure. One factor at  least  remains  constant  and
           that is that the applications must be to courts to  be  governed
           by the articles in this  division.  The  scope  of  the  various
           articles in this  division  cannot  be  held  to  have  been  so
           enlarged as to include within them applications to bodies  other
           than courts, such as a  quasi  judicial  tribunal,  or  even  an
           executive authority. An Industrial Tribunal or  a  Labour  Court
           dealing with applications or references under the  Act  are  not
           courts and they are in no way governed either  by  the  Code  of
           Civil Procedure or the Code of Criminal  Procedure.  We  cannot,
           therefore, accept the submission made  that  this  article  will
           apply even to applications made to an Industrial Tribunal  or  a
           Labour Court. The alterations made in the article and in the new
           Act cannot, in our opinion, justify the interpretation that even
           applications presented to bodies, other than courts, are now  to
           be governed for purposes of limitation by Article 137.”




      Similarly,  in  Nityananda,  M.  Joshi  &  Ors.  v.   Life   Insurance
      Corporation & Ors., (1969) 2 SCC 199, this Court followed the judgment
      in Athani’s case and turned down a plea that an application made to  a
      Labour Court would be covered under Article 137 of the Limitation Act.
       This Court emphatically stated that  Article  137  only  contemplates
      applications to courts in the following terms:

           “3. In our view Article 137 only  contemplates  applications  to
           Courts. In the Third Division of the Schedule to the  Limitation
           Act, 1963 all the other applications mentioned  in  the  various
           articles are applications filed in a court. Further Section 4 of
           the Limitation Act, 1963, provides for the contingency when  the
           prescribed period for any application expires on a  holiday  and
           the only contingency contemplated is “when the court is closed.”
           Again under Section 5 it is only a court  which  is  enabled  to
           admit an application after the prescribed period has expired  if
           the court is satisfied that the applicant had  sufficient  cause
           for not preferring the application. It  seems  to  us  that  the
           scheme of the Indian Limitation Act is that it only  deals  with
           applications to courts, and that the Labour Court is not a court
           within the Indian Limitation Act, 1963.'”




      20.   In Kerala State Electricity Board v. T.P. Kunhaliumma, (1976)  4
      SCC 634, a 3-Judge Bench of this  Court  followed  the  aforesaid  two
      judgments and stated:-

            “22. The conclusion we reach is that Article 137  of  the  1963
           Limitation Act will apply to any petition or  application  filed
           under any Act to a civil court. With respect we differ from  the
           view taken by  the  two-judge  bench  of  this  Court  in Athani
           Municipal Council case [(1969) 1 SCC 873 : (1970) 1 SCR 51]  and
           hold that Article 137 of the 1963 Limitation Act is not confined
           to applications contemplated by  or  under  the  Code  of  Civil
           Procedure. The petition in the present case was to the  District
           Judge as a court. The  petition  was  one  contemplated  by  the
           Telegraph  Act  for  judicial  decision.  The  petition  is   an
           application falling within the scope of Article 137 of the  1963
           Limitation Act.”

      This judgment is an authoritative pronouncement  by  a  3-Judge  Bench
      that the Limitation Act applies only  to  courts  and  not  to  quasi-
      judicial Tribunals. Athani’s case was dissented from  on  a  different
      proposition – that Article 137 is not confined to  applications  under
      the Code of Civil Procedure alone.  So long as an application is  made
      under any statute to a Civil Court, such application will  be  covered
      by Article 137 of the Limitation Act.

      21.   The stage is now set  for  a  decision  on  which  wide  ranging
      arguments were made by counsel on  both  sides.   In  Commissioner  of
      Sales Tax, U.P., Lucknow v. Parson Tools and Plants, Kanpur, (1975)  4
      SCC 22, a 3-Judge Bench was confronted with whether Section 14 of  the
      Limitation Act applied to the Sales Tax  authorities  under  the  U.P.
      Sales Tax Act.  In no uncertain terms, this Court held:-

           “8. Mr Karkhanis is right that  this  matter  is  no  longer res
           Integra. In Shrimati Ujjam Bai v. State  of  U.P. [AIR  1962  SC
           1621 : (1963) 1 SCR 778]  Hidayatullah,  J.  (as  he  then  was)
           speaking for the Court, observed:

           “The Taxing authorities are instrumentalities of the State. They
           are not a part of the legislature, nor are they a  part  of  the
           Judiciary. Their functions are the assessment and collection  of
           taxes and in the process  of  assessing  taxes,  they  follow  a
           pattern of action which is considered  judicial.  They  are  not
           thereby converted into courts of civil  judicature.  They  still
           remain the instrumentalities of the State  and  are  within  the
           definition of ‘State’ in Article 12.”

           9. The above observations were  quoted  with  approval  by  this
           Court in Jagannath Prasad case [AIR 1963 SC 416 : (1963)  2  SCR
           850 : 14 STC 536] and it was held that a Sales Tax Officer under
           U.P. Sales Tax Act, 1948 was not a court within the  meaning  of
           Section 195 of the Code of Criminal  Procedure  although  he  is
           required  to  perform  certain  quasi-judicial  functions.   The
           decision in Jagannath Prasad case it seems, was not  brought  to
           the notice of the High Court. In view of these pronouncements of
           this Court, there is no room for  argument  that  the  Appellate
           Authority  and  the  Judge  (Revisions)  Sales  tax   exercising
           jurisdiction under the Sales Tax Act,  are  “courts”.  They  are
           merely Administrative Tribunals and “not  courts”.  Section  14,
           Limitation  Act,  therefore,  does  not,  in  terms   apply   to
           proceedings before such tribunals.”




      It then went on to discuss whether the  general  principle  underlying
      Section 14 would be applicable and held:-

           “12. Three features of the scheme of  the  above  provision  are
           noteworthy. The first is that no limitation has been  prescribed
           for the suo motu exercise of its jurisdiction  by  the  revising
           authority. The second is that the period of one year  prescribed
           as limitation for filing an  application  for  revision  by  the
           aggrieved  party  is  unusually  long.  The third is  that   the
           revising  authority   has   no   discretion   to   extend   this
           period beyond a further period of six months, even on sufficient
           cause shown. As rightly pointed out in the minority judgment  of
           the  High  Court,  pendency  of  proceedings   of   the   nature
           contemplated by Section 14(2) of the Limitation Act, may  amount
           to a sufficient cause for condoning the delay and extending  the
           limitation for filing a revision application, but Section  10(3-
           B) of the Sales Tax Act gives no jurisdiction  to  the  revising
           authority to extend the limitation, even in such a case,  for  a
           further period of more than six months.

           13. The three stark features of the scheme and language  of  the
           above provision, unmistakably  show  that  the  legislature  has
           deliberately  excluded  the  application   of   the   principles
           underlying Sections 5 and 14 of the Limitation  Act,  except  to
           the extent and in the truncated form embodied in sub-section (3-
           B) of Section 10 of the Sales Tax  Act.  Delay  in  disposal  of
           revenue matters adversely affects the steady inflow of  revenues
           and  the  financial  stability  of  the  State.  Section  10  is
           therefore designed to ensure speedy and final  determination  of
           fiscal matters within a reasonably certain time-schedule.

           14. It  cannot  be  said  that  by  excluding  the  unrestricted
           application of the principles  of  Sections  5  and  14  of  the
           Limitation Act, the  legislature  has  made  the  provisions  of
           Section 10 unduly oppressive. In most cases, the  discretion  to
           extend limitation, on sufficient cause being shown for a further
           period of six months only, given by sub-section (3-B)  would  be
           enough to afford relief. Cases are no doubt conceivable where an
           aggrieved party, despite sufficient cause, is unable to make  an
           application for  revision  within  this  maximum  period  of  18
           months. Such harsh cases would be rare. Even in such exceptional
           cases of extreme hardship, the revising authority  may,  on  its
           own motion, entertain revision and grant relief.”

      22.   It is clear that this judgment clearly laid down  two  things  –
      one that authorities under the Sales Tax  Act  are  not  “courts”  and
      thus, the Limitation Act will not apply to them.  It  also  laid  down
      that the language of Section 10 (3-B) of the U.P. Sales Tax  Act  made
      it clear that an unusually long period of limitation  had  been  given
      for filing a revision application and therefore  said  that  the  said
      Section as construed by the Court would not be unduly oppressive. Most
      cases would, according to the Court, be filed within a maximum  period
      of 18 months but even in cases, rare as they are,  filed  beyond  such
      period, the revising authority may on its  own  motion  entertain  the
      revision and grant relief.  Given the three features of the U.P. Sales
      Tax Act scheme, the  Court  held  that  the  legislature  deliberately
      excluded the application of the principle underlying Section 14 except
      to the limited extent that it  may  amount  to  sufficient  cause  for
      condoning delay within the period of 18 months.

      23.   Close upon the heels of  this  judgment  comes  another  3-Judge
      Bench decision under the same provision of the U.P. Sales Tax Act.  In
      this judgment, another 3-Judge Bench in C.S.T. v. Madan  Lal  Das  and
      Sons, 1976 (4) SCC 464, without adverting to either  Parson  Tools  or
      the three other judgments  mentioned  hereinabove  went  on  to  apply
      Section 12 (2) of the Limitation Act to  proceedings  under  the  U.P.
      Sales Tax Act.  None of the aforesaid four decisions were pointed  out
      to the court and it was not argued that  the  Limitation  Act  applies
      only to courts and not to Sales Tax authorities who are quasi-judicial
      Tribunals.  This judgment, therefore, is  not  an  authority  for  the
      proposition that the  Limitation  Act  would  apply  to  Tribunals  as
      opposed to courts.  Clearly the conclusion reached would  be  contrary
      to four earlier decisions three of which are 3-Judge Bench decisions.

      24.   In fact, even after this judgment, in Officer  on  Special  Duty
      (Land Acquisition) v. Shah Manilal Chandulal, (1996) 9 SCC  414,  this
      Court held that a Land Acquisition Officer under the Land  Acquisition
      Act not being a court, the provisions of the Limitation Act would  not
      apply.  The court concluded, after adverting to some of  the  previous
      judgments of this Court as follows:-

           “18. Though hard it may be, in view of the  specific  limitation
           provided under proviso to Section 18(2) of the Act,  we  are  of
           the considered view that sub-section (2) of Section 29 cannot be
           applied to the proviso to sub-section (2)  of  Section  18.  The
           Collector/LAO, therefore, is not a  court  when  he  acts  as  a
           statutory authority under Section 18(1). Therefore, Section 5 of
           the Limitation Act cannot be applied for extension of the period
           of limitation prescribed under proviso  to  sub-section  (2)  of
           Section 18. The High Court, therefore,  was  not  right  in  its
           finding that the Collector is a court under  Section  5  of  the
           Limitation Act.

           19. Accordingly, we hold that the  applications  are  barred  by
           limitation and the Collector has no power  to  extend  time  for
           making an application under Section 18(1) for reference  to  the
           court.”




      25.   Two other judgments of this Court need to be dealt with at  this
      stage.  In Mukri Gopalan v. Cheppilat Puthanpurayil Aboobacker, (1995)
      5 SCC 5, a 2-Judge Bench of this Court held that  the  Limitation  Act
      would apply to the appellate authority constituted under Section 13 of
      the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act ,  1965.   This  was
      done by applying the provision of Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act.
      Despite referring to various earlier judgments  of  this  Court  which
      held that the Limitation  Act  applies  only  to  courts  and  not  to
      Tribunals,  this  Court  in  this  case  held  to  the  contrary.   In
      distinguishing the Parson  Tools’  case,  which  is  a  3-Judge  Bench
      binding on the Court that decided  Mukri  Gopalan’s  case,  the  Court
      held:-

           “If the Limitation Act does not apply then neither Section 29(2)
           nor  Section  14(2)  of  the  Limitation  Act  would  apply   to
           proceedings before him. But so far as this Court is concerned it
           did not go into the question whether Section 29(2) would not get
           attracted because the U.P. Sales Tax Act Judge  (Revisions)  was
           not a court but it took the view that  because  of  the  express
           provision in Section 10(3)(B) applicability of Section 14(2)  of
           the Sales Tax Act was ruled out. Implicit in this  reasoning  is
           the assumption that but for such an express conflict or contrary
           intention emanating from Section 10(3)(B) of the U.P. Sales  Tax
           Act which was a special law, Section 29(2) would have brought in
           Section 14(2) of the Limitation Act even for governing period of
           limitation for such revision  applications.  In  any  case,  the
           scope of Section 29(2)  was  not  considered  by  the  aforesaid
           decision of the three learned Judges and consequently it  cannot
           be  held  to  be  an  authority  for  the  proposition  that  in
           revisional  proceedings  before  the   Sales   Tax   authorities
           functioning under the U.P. Sales Tax Act  Section  29(2)  cannot
           apply as Mr. Nariman would like to have it.”




      It then went on to follow the judgment reported in The Commissioner of
      Sales Tax, U.P. v. M/s. Madan Lal Das & Sons, Bareilly, (1976)  4  SCC
      464 which, as has been pointed out earlier, is not  an  authority  for
      the proposition that the Limitation Act would apply to  Tribunals.  In
      fact, Mukri Gopalan’s case was distinguished in Om Prakash v.  Ashwani
      Kumar Bassi,  (2010) 9 SCC 183 at paragraph 22 as follows:
            “22. The decision in Mukri Gopalan case [(1995) 5 SCC 5] relied
           upon by Mr Ujjal Singh is distinguishable from the facts of this
           case. In the facts of the said case, it was the District  Judges
           who were discharging the functions of  the  appellate  authority
           and being  a  court,  it  was  held  that  the  District  Judge,
           functioning  as  the  appellate  authority,  was  a  court   and
           not persona designata and was, therefore, entitled to resort  to
           Section 5 of the Limitation Act. That is not so in  the  instant
           case where the Rent Controller appointed by the State Government
           is a  member  of  the  Punjab  Civil  Services  and,  therefore,
           a persona designata who would  not  be  entitled  to  apply  the
           provisions of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, as  in  the
           other case.”



            The fact that the District Judge himself also happened to be the
      appellate authority under the Rent Act would have been  sufficient  on
      the facts of the case for the Limitation Act to  apply  without  going
      into the proposition that the Limitation Act would apply to tribunals.




      26.   Quite apart from Mukri Gopalan’s case being out of step with  at
      least five earlier binding judgments of this Court, it does not square
      also with the subsequent judgment in Consolidated Engg. Enterprises v.
      Principal secy., Irrigation Deptt., (2008) 7 SCC 169.  A 3-Judge Bench
      of this Court was asked to decide whether Section 14 of the Limitation
      Act would apply to Section 34(3) of the Arbitration  and  Conciliation
      Act, 1996. After discussing the various provisions of the  Arbitration
      Act and the Limitation Act, this Court held:

           “23. At this stage it would be  relevant  to  ascertain  whether
           there is any  express  provision  in  the  Act  of  1996,  which
           excludes the applicability of Section 14 of the Limitation  Act.
           On review of the provisions of the Act of 1996 this Court  finds
           that there is no provision in the said Act  which  excludes  the
           applicability of the provisions of Section 14 of the  Limitation
           Act to an application submitted under Section  34  of  the  said
           Act. On the contrary, this Court finds that Section 43 makes the
           provisions of the Limitation Act, 1963 applicable to arbitration
           proceedings. The  proceedings  under  Section  34  are  for  the
           purpose of challenging the award whereas the proceeding referred
           to under Section 43 are the original proceedings  which  can  be
           equated with a suit in a court. Hence, Section 43  incorporating
           the  Limitation  Act  will  apply  to  the  proceedings  in  the
           arbitration as it applies to the proceedings of a  suit  in  the
           court. Sub-section (4) of Section 43, inter alia, provides  that
           where the court orders that an arbitral award be set aside,  the
           period between the commencement of the arbitration and the  date
           of the order of the court shall be  excluded  in  computing  the
           time  prescribed  by  the  Limitation   Act,   1963,   for   the
           commencement of the proceedings with respect to the  dispute  so
           submitted.  If  the  period  between  the  commencement  of  the
           arbitration proceedings till the  award  is  set  aside  by  the
           court, has to be excluded in computing the period of  limitation
           provided for any proceedings with respect to the dispute,  there
           is no good reason as to why it  should  not  be  held  that  the
           provisions  of  Section  14  of  the  Limitation  Act  would  be
           applicable to an application submitted under Section 34  of  the
           Act of 1996, more particularly where no provision is to be found
           in the Act of 1996, which excludes the applicability of  Section
           14 of the Limitation Act, to an application made  under  Section
           34 of the Act. It is to be noticed that the powers under Section
           34 of the Act  can  be  exercised  by  the  court  only  if  the
           aggrieved party makes an  application.  The  jurisdiction  under
           Section 34 of the Act, cannot be exercised suo motu.  The  total
           period of four months within which an application,  for  setting
           aside an arbitral award, has to be made is not  unusually  long.
           Section 34 of the Act of 1996 would be unduly oppressive, if  it
           is held that the provisions of Section 14 of the Limitation  Act
           are not applicable to it, because cases are no doubt conceivable
           where an aggrieved party, despite exercise of due diligence  and
           good faith, is unable to make an application within a period  of
           four months. From the scheme and language of Section 34  of  the
           Act of 1996, the intention of the  legislature  to  exclude  the
           applicability of  Section  14  of  the  Limitation  Act  is  not
           manifest. It  is  well  to  remember  that  Section  14  of  the
           Limitation Act does not provide for a fresh period of limitation
           but only provides for the exclusion of a certain period.  Having
           regard to the legislative intent, it will have to be  held  that
           the provisions of Section 14 of the Limitation Act,  1963  would
           be applicable to an application submitted under  Section  34  of
           the Act of 1996 for setting aside an arbitral award.”

           While discussing Parson Tools, this Court held:

           “25……In appeal, this Court held that (1) if the legislature in a
           special statute prescribes a certain period of limitation,  then
           the Tribunal concerned  has  no  jurisdiction  to  treat  within
           limitation, an application,  by  excluding  the  time  spent  in
           prosecuting in good faith, on the analogy of  Section  14(2)  of
           the Limitation Act, and (2)  the  appellate  authority  and  the
           revisional  authority  were  not  “courts”   but   were   merely
           administrative tribunals  and,  therefore,  Section  14  of  the
           Limitation Act did not,  in  terms,  apply  to  the  proceedings
           before such tribunals.

           26. From the judgment of the Supreme Court in CST [(1975) 4  SCC
           22 : 1975 SCC (Tax) 185 : (1975) 3 SCR 743] it is  evident  that
           essentially what weighed with the Court in holding that  Section
           14 of the Limitation  Act  was  not  applicable,  was  that  the
           appellate  authority  and  the  revisional  authority  were  not
           “courts”. The stark features of the  revisional  powers  pointed
           out by the Court, showed that the legislature  had  deliberately
           excluded the application of the principles underlying Sections 5
           and 14 of the Limitation Act. Here in this case,  the  Court  is
           not called upon to examine scope of revisional powers. The Court
           in this case is dealing with Section 34 of the Act which confers
           powers on the court of the first instance to set aside an  award
           rendered by an arbitrator on specified grounds. It  is  not  the
           case  of  the  contractor  that  the  forums  before  which  the
           Government of India undertaking had  initiated  proceedings  for
           setting aside the arbitral award are not “courts”.  In  view  of
           these glaring distinguishing features,  this  Court  is  of  the
           opinion that the decision rendered in CST [(1975)  4  SCC  22  :
           1975 SCC (Tax) 185 : (1975) 3 SCR 743] did not decide the  issue
           which falls for consideration of this Court and, therefore,  the
           said decision cannot be construed to mean that the provisions of
           Section 14 of the  Limitation  Act  are  not  applicable  to  an
           application submitted under Section 34 of the Act of 1996.”

             In  a   separate   concurring   judgment   Justice   Raveendran
      specifically held:

           “44. It may be noticed at this juncture that the Schedule to the
           Limitation Act prescribes  the  period  of  limitation  only  to
           proceedings in  courts  and  not  to  any  proceeding  before  a
           tribunal or quasi-judicial authority.  Consequently  Sections  3
           and 29(2) of the Limitation Act will not  apply  to  proceedings
           before the tribunal. This means that the Limitation Act will not
           apply to appeals or applications before  the  tribunals,  unless
           expressly provided.

      While dealing with Parson Tools, the learned Judge held:

           “56. In Parson Tools [(1975) 4 SCC 22] this Court did  not  hold
           that Section 14(2) was excluded by  reason  of  the  wording  of
           Section 10(3-B) of the Sales Tax Act. This Court was considering
           an appeal against the Full Bench decision of the Allahabad  High
           Court. Two Judges of the High Court had held that the time spent
           in prosecuting the application for setting aside  the  order  of
           dismissal  of  appeals  in  default,  could  be  excluded   when
           computing the period of limitation for filing a  revision  under
           Section 10 of the said Act,  by  application  of  the  principle
           underlying Section 14(2) of the  Limitation  Act.  The  minority
           view of the third Judge was that the revisional authority  under
           Section 10 of the U.P. Sales Tax Act did not act as a court  but
           only as a Revenue Tribunal and therefore the Limitation Act  did
           not  apply  to  the  proceedings  before  such   Tribunal,   and
           consequently, neither Section 29(2) nor  Section  14(2)  of  the
           Limitation Act applied. The  decision  of  the  Full  Bench  was
           challenged by the Commissioner of Sales Tax before  this  Court,
           contending that the Limitation Act did not apply  to  tribunals,
           and  Section  14(2)  of  the  Limitation  Act  was  excluded  in
           principle or by analogy. This Court upheld  the  view  that  the
           Limitation Act did not apply  to  tribunals,  and  that  as  the
           revisional authority under Section 10 of the U.P. Sales Tax  Act
           was  a  tribunal  and  not  a  court,  the  Limitation  Act  was
           inapplicable.  This  Court  further  held  that  the  period  of
           pendency of proceedings before the  wrong  forum  could  not  be
           excluded while computing the period of  limitation  by  applying
           Section 14(2) of the Limitation Act. This Court,  however,  held
           that by applying the principle  underlying  Section  14(2),  the
           period of pendency before the wrong forum may be considered as a
           “sufficient cause” for condoning  the  delay,  but  then  having
           regard to Section 10(3-B), the extension on  that  ground  could
           not extend beyond six months. The observation  that pendency  of
           proceedings of the nature contemplated by Section 14(2)  of  the
           Limitation Act, may amount to a sufficient cause  for  condoning
           the delay and extending the limitation and such extension cannot
           be for a period in excess of the ceiling period  prescribed,  is
           in the light of its finding that Section 14(2) of the Limitation
           Act was inapplicable to revisions under Section 10(3-B)  of  the
           U.P. Sales Tax Act. These observations cannot be interpreted  as
           laying down a proposition that even where Section 14(2)  of  the
           Limitation Act in terms applied  and  the  period  spent  before
           wrong forum could therefore  be  excluded  while  computing  the
           period of limitation, the pendency before the wrong forum should
           be considered only as a sufficient cause for extension of period
           of limitation and therefore, subjected to the  ceiling  relating
           to the  extension  of  the  period  of  limitation.  As  we  are
           concerned with a proceeding before  a  court  to  which  Section
           14(2) of the Limitation  Act  applies,  the  decision  in Parson
           Tools [(1975) 4 SCC 22 : 1975 SCC (Tax) 185 : (1975) 3 SCR  743]
           which related to a proceeding before a Tribunal to which Section
           14(2) of the Limitation Act did not apply, has no application.”




      27.   Obviously, the ratio of Mukri Gopalan does not square  with  the
      observations  of  the  3-Judge  Bench  in   Consolidated   Engineering
      Enterprises. In the latter case, this  Court  has  unequivocally  held
      that Parson Tools  is  an  authority  for  the  proposition  that  the
      Limitation Act will not apply to quasi-judicial bodies  or  Tribunals.
      To the extent that Mukri Gopalan is in conflict with the  judgment  in
      the Consolidated Engineering Enterprises case, it is  no  longer  good
      law.

      28.   The sheet anchor in Mukri  Gopalan  was  Section  29(2)  of  the
      Limitation Act.  Section 29(2) states:-

           “29. Savings.—

           (2) Where any special or local  law  prescribes  for  any  suit,
           appeal or application a period of limitation different from  the
           period prescribed by the Schedule, the provisions of  Section  3
           shall apply as if such period were the period prescribed by  the
           Schedule and for  the  purpose  of  determining  any  period  of
           limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by any
           special or local law, the provisions contained in Sections 4  to
           24 (inclusive) shall apply only insofar as, and to the extent to
           which, they are not expressly excluded by such special or  local
           law.”




      A bare reading of this Section would show that the  special  or  local
      law described  therein  should  prescribe  for  any  suit,  appeal  or
      application  a  period  of  limitation  different  from   the   period
      prescribed by the schedule. This  would  necessarily  mean  that  such
      special or local law would have to lay down that the suit,  appeal  or
      application to be instituted under it should  be  a  suit,  appeal  or
      application of the nature described in the schedule.  We have  already
      held that such suits, appeals or applications as are  referred  to  in
      the schedule are only to courts and not to  quasi-judicial  bodies  or
      Tribunals.  It is clear, therefore, that only when a suit,  appeal  or
      application of the description in the schedule is to  be  filed  in  a
      court under a special or local law that the provision gets  attracted.
      This is made even clearer by a  reading  of  Section  29(3).   Section
      29(3) states:-

           “29. Savings.—

            (3) Save as otherwise provided in any law for the time being in
           force with respect to marriage and divorce, nothing in this  Act
           shall apply to any suit or other proceeding under any such law.”




      29.   When it comes to the law of marriage and  divorce,  the  Section
      speaks not  only  of  suits  but  other  proceedings  as  well.   Such
      proceedings  may  be  proceedings  which  are  neither   appeals   nor
      applications thus making it clear that the laws relating  to  marriage
      and divorce, unlike the law of  limitation,  may  contain  proceedings
      other than suits, appeals or applications filed in courts.  This again
      is an  important  pointer  to  the  fact  that  the  entirety  of  the
      Limitation Act including Section 29(2) would apply only to  the  three
      kinds of proceedings mentioned all of which are to be filed in courts.



      30.   It now remains to consider  the  decision  of  a  2-Judge  Bench
      reported in P. Sarathy v. State Bank of India, (2000) 5 SCC 355.  This
      judgment has held that an abortive  proceeding  before  the  appellate
      authority under Section 41 of the Tamil Nadu Shops  and  Establishment
      Act would attract the provisions of Section 14 of the  Limitation  Act
      inasmuch as the appellant in this case had been prosecuting  with  due
      diligence another civil  proceeding  before  the  appellate  authority
      under the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishment  Act,  which  appeal  was
      dismissed on the ground that  the  said  Act  was  not  applicable  to
      nationalized banks and that,  therefore,  such  appeal  would  not  be
      maintainable.  This Court made a distinction between “Civil Court” and
      “court’ and  expanded  the  scope  of  Section  14  stating  that  any
      authority or Tribunal having the trappings  of  a  Court  would  be  a
      “court” within the meaning of Section 14. It must be  remembered  that
      the word “Court” refers only  to  a  proceeding  which  proves  to  be
      abortive.  In this context, for Section 14 to  apply,  two  conditions
      have to be met.  First, the primary proceeding must be a suit,  appeal
      or application filed in a Civil Court.  Second, it  is  only  when  it
      comes to excluding time  in  an  abortive  proceeding  that  the  word
      “Court” has been expanded to include proceedings before tribunals.



      31.   This judgment is in line with  a  large  number  of  authorities
      which have held that Section  14  should  be  liberally  construed  to
      advance the cause of justice –  see:  Shakti  Tubes  Ltd. v. State  of
      Bihar,  (2009) 1 SCC 786 and the judgments cited therein.   Obviously,
      the context of Section 14 would  require  that  the  term  “court”  be
      liberally construed to include within it quasi-judicial  Tribunals  as
      well.  This is for the very good reason that the principle of  Section
      14 is that whenever a person bonafide prosecutes  with  due  diligence
      another proceeding which proves to be abortive because it  is  without
      jurisdiction, or otherwise no decision could be  rendered  on  merits,
      the time taken in such proceeding ought to be  excluded  as  otherwise
      the person who has approached the Court in such  proceeding  would  be
      penalized for no fault of his own. This judgment does not further  the
      case of Shri Viswanathan in any way.  The  question  that  has  to  be
      answered in this  case  is  whether  suits,  appeals  or  applications
      referred to by the Limitation Act are to be filed in courts.  This has
      nothing to do with “civil proceedings” referred to in Section 14 which
      may be filed before other courts or authorities  which  ultimately  do
      not answer the case before them on merits but throw the  case  out  on
      some technical ground.  Obviously the word “court” in Section 14 takes
      its colour  from  the  preceding  words  “civil  proceedings”.   Civil
      proceedings are of many kinds and  need  not  be  confined  to  suits,
      appeals or applications which are made only in courts  stricto  sensu.
      This is made even more clear by the explicit language of Section 14 by
      which a civil proceeding can even be a revision  which  may  be  to  a
      quasi-judicial tribunal under a particular statute.

      Whether the Principle of Section 14 would apply  to  an  appeal  filed
      under Section 128 Customs Act.

           “128.  Appeals  to  Commissioner   (Appeals).—(1)   Any   person
           aggrieved by any decision or order passed under this Act  by  an
           officer of customs lower in rank than a Commissioner of  Customs
           may appeal to the  Commissioner  (Appeals)  within [sixty  days]
           from the date of the communication to him of  such  decision  or
           order:

           [Provided  that  the  Commissioner  (Appeals)  may,  if  he   is
           satisfied that the appellant was prevented by  sufficient  cause
           from presenting the appeal within the aforesaid period of  sixty
           days, allow it to be presented within a further period of thirty
           days.]

           [(1-A) The Commissioner (Appeals) may, if  sufficient  cause  is
           shown, at any stage of hearing of an appeal,  grant  time,  from
           time to time, to the parties or any  of  them  and  adjourn  the
           hearing of the appeal for reasons to be recorded in writing :

           Provided that no such adjournment shall  be  granted  more  than
           three times to a party during hearing of the appeal.]

           (2) Every appeal under this section shall be in  such  form  and
           shall be verified in such manner as may be  specified  by  rules
           made in this behalf.”

           Prior to its amendment in 2001, the said Section read as under:-

           “128. Appeals to Collector (Appeals).—(1) Any  person  aggrieved
           by any decision or order passed under this Act by an officer  of
           customs lower in rank than a Collector of Customs may appeal  to
           the Collector (Appeals) within three months from the date of the
           communication to him of such decision or order:

           Provided that the Collector (Appeals) may, if  he  is  satisfied
           that the  appellant  was  prevented  by  sufficient  cause  from
           presenting the appeal  within  the  aforesaid  period  of  three
           months, allow it to be presented  within  a  further  period  of
           three months.

           (2) Every appeal under this section shall be in  such  form  and
           shall be verified in such manner as may be  specified  by  rules
           made in this behalf.”




      We have already held that the  Limitation  Act  including  Section  14
      would not apply to appeals filed before a quasi-judicial Tribunal such
      as the Collector (Appeals) mentioned in Section  128  of  the  Customs
      Act.  However, this does not conclude the issue.  There  is  authority
      for the proposition that even where Section  14  may  not  apply,  the
      principles on which  Section  14  is  based,  being  principles  which
      advance the cause of justice, would nevertheless apply.  We must never
      forget, as stated in Bhudan Singh & Anr. v. Nabi Bux & Anr., (1970)  2
      SCR 10, that justice and reason is at the heart of all legislation  by
      Parliament.  This was put in very  felicitous  terms  by  Hegde,J.  as
      follows:

           “Before  considering  the  meaning  of  the   word   "held"   in
           Section 9, it is necessary to  mention  that  it  is  proper  to
           assume that the lawmakers who are  the  representatives  of  the
           people enact laws which the society considers  as  honest,  fair
           and equitable. The object of every  legislation  is  to  advance
           public welfare. In other words as observed by  Crawford  in  his
           book on Statutory Constructions the entire  legislative  process
           is influenced by considerations of justice and  reason.  Justice
           and reason constitute the great general  legislative  intent  in
           every piece of legislation.  Consequently  where  the  suggested
           construction operates harshly,  ridiculously  or  in  any  other
           manner contrary to prevailing conceptions of justice and reason,
           in most instances, it would seem that the apparent or  suggested
           meaning of the statute, was not the one  intended  by  the  law-
           makers. In the absence of some other indication that  the  harsh
           or ridiculous effect was actually intended by  the  legislature,
           there is  little  reason  to  believe  that  it  represents  the
           legislative intent.”




      32.   This is why the principles of Section  14  were  applied  in  J.
      Kumaradasan Nair v. Iric Sohan,  (2009)  12  SCC  175  to  a  revision
      application filed before the High Court of Kerala.  The Court held:

           “16. The provisions contained  in  Sections  5  and  14  of  the
           Limitation Act are meant for grant of relief where a person  has
           committed some mistake. The provisions of Sections 5 and  14  of
           the Limitation Act alike should, thus, be  applied  in  a  broad
           based  manner.  When  sub-section  (2)  of  Section  14  of  the
           Limitation Act per se is not applicable, the same would not mean
           that  the  principles  akin  thereto  would  not   be   applied.
           Otherwise, the provisions of Section 5  of  the  Limitation  Act
           would apply. There cannot be any doubt whatsoever that the  same
           would be applicable to a case of this nature.

           17. There cannot furthermore be any doubt whatsoever that having
           regard to the definition of “suit” as contained in Section  2(l)
           of the Limitation Act, a revision application  will  not  answer
           the said description. But, although the provisions of Section 14
           of the Limitation Act per se are not applicable, in our opinion,
           the principles thereof would be applicable for  the  purpose  of
           condonation  of  delay  in  filing  an  appeal  or  a   revision
           application in terms of Section 5 thereof.

           18. It  is  also  now  a  well-settled  principle  of  law  that
           mentioning  of  a  wrong  provision  or  non-mentioning  of  any
           provision of law would, by itself, be  not  sufficient  to  take
           away the jurisdiction of a court if it is otherwise vested in it
           in law. While  exercising  its  power,  the  court  will  merely
           consider whether it has the source to  exercise  such  power  or
           not. The court will not apply  the  beneficent  provisions  like
           Sections 5 and 14 of the Limitation Act in  a  pedantic  manner.
           When the provisions are meant to apply and in fact found  to  be
           applicable to the facts and circumstances  of  a  case,  in  our
           opinion, there is no reason as to why the court will  refuse  to
           apply  the  same  only  because  a  wrong  provision  has   been
           mentioned. In a case of this nature, sub-section (2) of  Section
           14 of the Limitation Act per se may not be applicable,  but,  as
           indicated  hereinbefore,  the  principles   thereof   would   be
           applicable for the purpose of condonation of delay in  terms  of
           Section 5 thereof.”

      The Court further quoted from Consolidated Engineering Enterprises  an
      instructive passage:

           “21. In Consolidated     Engg.     Enterprises v.     Irrigation
           Deptt. [(2008) 7 SCC 169] this Court held: (SCC p. 181, para 22)

           “22. The policy of the section is  to  afford  protection  to  a
           litigant against the bar of  limitation  when  he  institutes  a
           proceeding which by reason of some technical  defect  cannot  be
           decided on  merits  and  is  dismissed.  While  considering  the
           provisions of Section 14 of the Limitation Act, proper  approach
           will have to be adopted and  the  provisions  will  have  to  be
           interpreted so as to advance the cause of  justice  rather  than
           abort the proceedings. It will be well to bear in mind  that  an
           element of mistake is inherent in the invocation of Section  14.
           In fact, the section is intended to provide relief  against  the
           bar of limitation in cases of mistaken remedy or selection of  a
           wrong forum. On reading Section 14 of the Act it  becomes  clear
           that the legislature has enacted the said section  to  exempt  a
           certain period covered by a bona fide litigious  activity.  Upon
           the words used in the section, it is not possible to sustain the
           interpretation that the principle underlying the  said  section,
           namely, that the bar of limitation should not  affect  a  person
           honestly doing his best to get his  case  tried  on  merits  but
           failing because the court is unable to give him  such  a  trial,
           would not be applicable to an application filed under Section 34
           of the Act of 1996. The principle is clearly applicable not only
           to a case in which a litigant  brings  his  application  in  the
           court, that is, a court having no jurisdiction to  entertain  it
           but also where he brings the suit  or  the  application  in  the
           wrong court in consequence of bona fide mistake or (sic of)  law
           or defect of procedure. Having regard to the  intention  of  the
           legislature this Court is of the firm opinion  that  the  equity
           underlying Section 14 should be applied to  its  fullest  extent
           and time taken diligently pursuing a remedy, in a  wrong  court,
           should  be   excluded.   See Shakti   Tubes   Ltd. v. State   of
           Bihar [(2009) 1 SCC 786].”




      33.   Various provisions of the Limitation Act are based on  advancing
      the cause of justice.  Section 6 is one such.  It reads as follows:-
           “6. Legal disability.—(1) Where a person entitled to institute a
           suit or make an application for the execution of a decree is, at
           the time from which the prescribed period is to be  reckoned,  a
           minor or insane, or an idiot, he may institute the suit or  make
           the application within the same period after the disability  has
           ceased, as would otherwise  have  been  allowed  from  the  time
           specified therefor in the third column of the Schedule.

           (2) Where such person is, at the time from which the  prescribed
           period is to be reckoned, affected by two such disabilities,  or
           where, before his disability  has  ceased,  he  is  affected  by
           another disability, he  may  institute  the  suit  or  make  the
           application within the same period after both disabilities  have
           ceased, as would otherwise have been allowed from  the  time  so
           specified.

           (3) Where the disability continues  up  to  the  death  of  that
           person, his legal representative may institute the suit or  make
           the application within the same period after the death, as would
           otherwise have been allowed from the time so specified.

           (4) Where the legal representative referred  to  in  sub-section
           (3) is, at  the  date  of  the  death  of  the  person  whom  he
           represents, affected by any such disability, the rules contained
           in sub-sections (1) and (2) shall apply.

           (5) Where a person under disability dies  after  the  disability
           ceases but within the period allowed to him under this  section,
           his legal representative may institute  the  suit  or  make  the
           application within the same period after  the  death,  as  would
           otherwise have been available to that person had he not died.

           Explanation.—For the purposes of this section, ‘minor’  includes
           a child in the womb.”




      On the assumption that Section 6 does not apply  on  the  facts  of  a
      given case, can it be said that the principles on which  it  is  based
      have no application?  Suppose, in a given case, the person entitled to
      institute a proceeding not governed  by  the  Limitation  Act  were  a
      minor, a lunatic or an idiot, would he not be  entitled  to  institute
      such proceedings after such disability has ceased,  for  otherwise  he
      would  be  barred  by  the  period  of  limitation  contained  in  the
      particular statute governing his rights.   This  Section  again  is  a
      pointer to the fact that courts always lean in favour of advancing the
      cause of justice where a clear case is made out for so doing.

      34.   However, it remains to consider whether Shri Sanghi is right  in
      stating  that  Section  128  is  a  complete  code  by  itself   which
      necessarily excludes the application of Section 14 of  the  Limitation
      Act.  For this proposition he relied strongly on  Parson  Tools  which
      has been discussed hereinabove.  As has already  been  stated,  Parson
      Tools was a judgment which turned on the three features  mentioned  in
      the said case.  Unlike the U.P. Sales Tax Act, there is  no  provision
      in the Customs Act which enables  a  party  to  invoke  suo  moto  the
      appellate power and grant relief to a person who institutes an  appeal
      out of time in an appropriate case.  Also,  Section  10  of  the  U.P.
      Sales Tax Act dealt with the filing of a  revision  petition  after  a
      first appeal had already been rejected, and not to a case of  a  first
      appeal as provided under Section 128  of  the  Customs  Act.   Another
      feature, which is of direct  relevance  in  this  case,  is  that  for
      revision petitions filed under the U.P. Sales Tax Act  a  sufficiently
      long period of 18 months had been given beyond which it was the policy
      of the legislature not to extend limitation any further.  This  aspect
      of Parson Tools has been explained in Consolidated Engineering in some
      detail by both the main judgment as well as the  concurring  judgment.
      In the latter judgment, it has been pointed out that there is a  vital
      distinction between extending time and condoning delay.  Like  Section
      34 of the Arbitration Act, Section 128 of the Customs Act is a Section
      which lays down that delay cannot be condoned beyond a certain period.
       Like Section 34 of the Arbitration Act, Section 128  of  the  Customs
      Act does not lay down a long period.  In these circumstances, to infer
      exclusion of Section 14 or the  principles  contained  in  Section  14
      would be unduly harsh and would not advance the cause of justice.   It
      must not be forgotten as is pointed out in the concurring judgment  in
      Consolidated Engineering that:

           “Even when there is cause to apply Section  14,  the  limitation
           period continues to  be  three  months  and  not  more,  but  in
           computing  the  limitation  period  of  three  months  for   the
           application under Section 34(1) of the AC Act, the  time  during
           which the applicant was prosecuting such application before  the
           wrong court is excluded, provided the proceeding  in  the  wrong
           court was prosecuted  bona  fide,  with  due  diligence. Western
           Builders [(2006) 6 SCC 239]  therefore  lays  down  the  correct
           legal position.”




      35.   Merely because Parson Tools also dealt with a provision in a tax
      statute does not make the ratio  of  the  said  decision  apply  to  a
      completely differently worded tax statute with a much  shorter  period
      of limitation – Section 128 of the Customs Act.  Also,  the  principle
      of Section 14 would apply not merely in  condoning  delay  within  the
      outer period prescribed for condonation but would apply de  hors  such
      period for the reason pointed out in Consolidated  Engineering  above,
      being the difference between exclusion of a certain period  altogether
      under Section 14 principles and condoning delay.  As has been  pointed
      out in the said  judgment,  when  a  certain  period  is  excluded  by
      applying the principles contained in Section 14, there is no delay  to
      be attributed to the appellant and the limitation period  provided  by
      the concerned statute continues to be the stated period and  not  more
      than the stated period.  We conclude, therefore, that the principle of
      Section 14 which is a  principle  based  on  advancing  the  cause  of
      justice would certainly apply to exclude  time  taken  in  prosecuting
      proceedings which are bona fide and with due diligence pursued,  which
      ultimately end without a decision on the merits of the case.

      36.   Shri Sanghi also cited Ranbaxy Laboratories  Ltd.  v.  Union  of
      India, (2011) 10 SCC 292. He relied upon paragraph 14 of this judgment
      which reads as follows:-

           “14. It is a well-settled  proposition  of  law  that  a  fiscal
           legislation has to be construed strictly and  one  has  to  look
           merely at what is said  in  the  relevant  provision;  there  is
           nothing to be read in; nothing to be implied  and  there  is  no
           room     for     any      intendment.      (See Cape      Brandy
           Syndicate v. IRC [(1921)   1   KB   64]    and Ajmera    Housing
           Corpn. v.CIT [(2010) 8 SCC 739] .)”.




      37.   We do not see how this judgment furthers the  argument  of  Shri
      Sanghi.  This is only reiteration of  the  classic  statement  of  law
      contained in the Cape Brandy Syndicate case.  Further, the context  of
      this paragraph is that a literal meaning has to be given to a charging
      Section in a tax statute.  When it comes to  machinery  provisions  in
      tax  statutes  and  provisions  which  provide  for  appeals  and  the
      limitation period within which such appeals have to be  filed,  it  is
      clear that  the  aforesaid  observations  would  have  no  application
      whatsoever.

      38.   Shri Sanghi then referred us to Sree  Balaji  Nagar  Residential
      Assn. v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2015) 3 SCC 353 and read out paragraphs
      10 and 11 from the said judgment.  What was held by this Court in that
      case was that Section 24(2) of the  Right  to  Fair  Compensation  and
      Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act,
      2013 does not exclude any  period  during  which  a  land  acquisition
      proceeding which might have remain stayed on account of an  injunction
      granted by any Court.  This was so held by contrasting the language of
      section 24(2) with the language of Section 19 and Section  69  of  the
      same Act.  This judgment again would have no  direct  bearing  on  the
      proposition canvassed by Shri Sanghi that Section 128 of  the  Customs
      Act forms a complete code by itself.

      What periods are to be excluded under Section 14

      39.   Shri Viswanathan,  learned  senior  counsel  appearing  for  the
      appellant, placed before us a judgment  of  the  Andhra  Pradesh  High
      Court in which it was held that even prior to  the  institution  of  a
      particular proceeding, time taken in steps taken for prosecuting  such
      proceedings should also be excluded.  In Tirumareddi Rajarao & Ors. v.
      The State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors., AIR  1965  A.P.  388,  the  Andhra
      Pradesh High Court held that the period taken  for  preparatory  steps
      before instituting proceedings should also be excluded.  It said:

           “13.  We  may  now  turn  to  the  Chambers  Twentieth   Century
           Dictionary for the meanings of the expression "to prosecute". It
           means:
           To follow onwards or pursue in order to reach or accomplish;  to
           engage in practise to follow up to pursue, chase, to  pursue  by
           law; to bring before a Court.

           14. These meanings do not vouch the construction of the  section
           advanced by the learned Government Pleader. In our opinion,  the
           section does not render it essential that the prosecution of the
           proceedings should be continued exclusively in the  Court,  i.e.
           the actual proceeding in the Court. There is  justification  for
           the  view  that  it  is  only  the  actual  period  between  the
           presentation  of  a  proceedings  and  the  disposal   of   that
           particular proceeding should be allowed under  the  sub-section.
           The time during which a party has been taking the  indispensable
           and necessary steps preparatory to initiate the proceedings in a
           court should also be regarded as the time during  which  he  has
           been prosecuting the civil proceeding.
           It is also to be borne in mind that  sub-section  (1)  makes  no
           reference  to  the  pendency  of  the  suit,  appeal  or   other
           proceeding in a Court of law. The legislature had used words  of
           general import and of widest amplitude. So, we do not  find  any
           justification for reading a restriction  into  that  sub-section
           and to hold that the time during which a party  was  engaged  in
           taking steps for invoking the aid of the Court falls outside the
           contemplation urged on behalf  of  the  respondents,  while  the
           pendency of a  proceeding  in  a  Court  could  be  deducted  in
           computing  the  period  of  limitation,  the  time  occupied  in
           obtaining certified copies of the judgment which is an essential
           requisite for the filing of an appeal or revision in the  higher
           Court has to be disregarded for purposes of S.  14.  We  do  not
           think that  the  legislature  would  have  contemplated  such  a
           situation. It would certainly result in an anomaly to hold  that
           the time covered by taking the steps  absolutely  necessary  for
           initiating  proceedings  in  a  Court  should  be  included   in
           calculating the period of limitation while the time during which
           a former suit or application was pending in a  Court  should  be
           excluded. In our considered judgment the section does  not  make
           any distinction between the steps which a litigant has  to  take
           to initiate proceedings in a Court and the  actual  pendency  of
           those proceedings in the Court.”




      40.   In Mst. Duliyabai & Ors. v. Vilayatali & Ors., AIR 1959 MP  271,
      a Division Bench of the High Court held:-
           “What would be the time during  which  the  plaintiff  has  been
           prosecuting with due diligence another  civil  proceeding  in  a
           Court of appeal? Certainly the time requisite for obtaining  the
           certified copies under Section 12 of the Limitation Act would be
           included within the meaning of the section. Also the  limitation
           prescribed for the filing of an appeal would be included, if the
           appeal be filed on the last day of limitation.

           But if the appeal be filed earlier, the time from  the  date  of
           the order impugned upto the actual date of filing of the  appeal
           would certainly be the time during which the  plaintiff  can  be
           said to be prosecuting another civil proceeding in  a  court  of
           appeal. We are unable to endorse the view of the  learned  trial
           Judge on this point. A Division Bench of this  Court  consisting
           of Sir Gilbert Stone, C. J. and  Niyogi,  J.,  in  the  case  of
           Kasturchand v. Wazir Begum' : (AIR 1937 Nag 1) : ILR (1937)  Nag
           291, held with reference to Article 11 (1) of the Limitation Act
           as follows:

           "Then it is said that the plaintiff is out of time owing to  the
           operation of Article 11 (1) of the Limitation Act which, in  the
           case of a suit by a person against whom an order  is  passed  on
           his objection in execution  proceedings,  fixes  one  year.  The
           dates are as follows: the objection order  was  passed  on  5-3-
           1928. The plaint was presented in one  Court  on  15-9-1928,  of
           course in time. That was returned by that Court  on  14-12-1928,
           for presentation to what that Court held to be the proper Court.
           The plaintiff challenging the correctness of that order appealed
           on 6-2-1929 and the appeal was dismissed on  2-9-1929,  and  the
           plaint was presented to the Court as decided by die first Court,
           on 25-11-1929. In our opinion the plaintiff has been  litigating
           the matter in a Court which she bona fide  believed  to  be  the
           correct tribunal, believing, to the extent of incurring costs of
           an appeal against the decision  that  it  was  not  the  correct
           tribunal, for something like 10 months.

           Those 10 months must be taken into account  in  considering  the
           period that has elapsed between the date of suit  and  the  date
           when the plaint was eventually filed in the correct  Court,  and
           if this is so taken into account the time that  has  expired  is
           less than a  year.  The  limitation  point,  therefore,  in  our
           opinion, fails."

           In the case of Abdul Sattar v. Abdul Husan, AIR  1936  Cal  400,
           the plaintiffs had applied for execution of  their  decree.  The
           judgment-debtors raised  objections  to  the  execution  on  the
           ground of adjustment of the decree. The question  of  adjustment
           was fought in appeals upto the highest Court. Ultimately it  was
           decided against the plaintiffs by the final appellate Court. The
           learned Judges constituting the Division  Bench  held  that  the
           plaintiffs were entitled to exclude the entire period  from  the
           date of the order recording the adjustment upto the date of  the
           final order of the highest appellate Court. We  feel  that  this
           interpretation of Section 14 is in consonance with  the  wording
           of the Section. Therefore,  differing  from  the  learned  trial
           Judge, we hold that the appellants were entitled to exclude  the
           period from 18-9-1948 to 15-12-1948.”


      41.   The language of Section 14, construed in the light of the object
      for which the provision  has  been  made,  lends  itself  to  such  an
      interpretation.    The object of Section 14 is that if its  conditions
      are otherwise met, the plaintiff/applicant should be put in  the  same
      position as he was when he started an  abortive  proceeding.  What  is
      necessary is the absence of negligence or inaction.  So  long  as  the
      plaintiff or applicant is bonafide pursuing a legal remedy which turns
      out to be abortive, the time beginning from the date of the  cause  of
      action of an appellate proceeding is to be excluded if such  appellate
      proceeding is from an  order  in  an  original  proceeding  instituted
      without jurisdiction or which has not resulted  in  an  order  on  the
      merits of the case. If this  were  not  so,  anomalous  results  would
      follow.  Take the case of a plaintiff or applicant who  has  succeeded
      at the first stage of what turns out to  be  an  abortive  proceeding.
      Assume that, on a given state of facts, a  defendant  –  appellant  or
      other appellant takes six months more than the prescribed  period  for
      filing an appeal. The delay in filing the appeal is  condoned.   Under
      explanation  (b)  of  Section  14,  the  plaintiff  or  the  applicant
      resisting  such  an  appeal  shall  be  deemed  to  be  prosecuting  a
      proceeding.  If the six month period together with the original period
      for filing the appeal is not to be  excluded  under  Section  14,  the
      plaintiff/applicant would not get a hearing on merits for no fault  of
      his, as he  in  the  example  given  is  not  the  appellant.  Clearly
      therefore, in such a case, the entire period of nine months  ought  to
      be excluded.  If this is so for an appellate proceeding, it  ought  to
      be so for an original proceeding as well with this difference that the
      time already taken to file the  original  proceeding,  i.e.  the  time
      prior to institution of the original proceeding  cannot  be  excluded.
      Take a case where the limitation period for the original proceeding is
      six months. The plaintiff/applicant files such  a  proceeding  on  the
      ninetieth day i.e. after three months are over.  The  said  proceeding
      turns out to be abortive after it has gone through a chequered  career
      in the appeal courts.  The same plaintiff/applicant now files a  fresh
      proceeding before a court  of  first  instance  having  the  necessary
      jurisdiction.  So long as the said  proceeding  is  filed  within  the
      remaining three month period, Section 14 will  apply  to  exclude  the
      entire time taken starting from the ninety first day  till  the  final
      appeal is ultimately dismissed.  This example also goes to  show  that
      the  expression  “the  time  during  which  the  plaintiff  has   been
      prosecuting with due diligence another civil proceeding” needs  to  be
      construed in a manner which advances the object sought to be achieved,
      thereby advancing the cause of justice.

      42. Section 14 has been interpreted by this Court extremely  liberally
      inasmuch as it is a provision which furthers  the  cause  of  justice.
      Thus, in Union of India v. West Coast Paper Mills Ltd., (2004)  3  SCC
      458, this Court held:

           “14. … In the submission of the learned Senior  Counsel,  filing
           of civil writ petition claiming money relief cannot be  said  to
           be a proceeding instituted in good faith and secondly, dismissal
           of writ petition on the ground that it was  not  an  appropriate
           remedy for seeking money relief cannot be said to be ‘defect  of
           jurisdiction or other cause of a like nature’ within the meaning
           of Section 14 of the Limitation Act. It is true  that  the  writ
           petition was not dismissed by the High Court on  the  ground  of
           defect of jurisdiction. However, Section 14  of  the  Limitation
           Act is wide in its application, inasmuch as it is  not  confined
           in its applicability only to cases of defect of jurisdiction but
           it is applicable also to cases where the prior proceedings  have
           failed on account of other causes of like nature. The expression
           ‘other cause of like nature’ came up for  the  consideration  of
           this   Court   in Roshanlal   Kuthalia v. R.B.    Mohan    Singh
           Oberoi[(1975) 4 SCC 628] and it was held that Section 14 of  the
           Limitation Act is wide enough to  cover  such  cases  where  the
           defects are not merely jurisdictional  strictly  so  called  but
           others  more  or  less  neighbours  to  such  deficiencies.  Any
           circumstance, legal or factual, which inhibits entertainment  or
           consideration by the court of the dispute on  the  merits  comes
           within the scope of the section and a liberal touch must  inform
           the interpretation of the  Limitation  Act  which  deprives  the
           remedy of one who has a right.”




            Similarly, in India Electric Works Ltd. v. James Mantosh, (1971)
      1 SCC 24, this Court held:

             “7.  It  is  well  settled  that  although  all  questions  of
           limitation must be decided by the provisions of the Act and  the
           courts cannot travel beyond them the words ‘or other cause of  a
           like nature’ must be construed liberally. Some clue is furnished
           with regard to the intention of the legislature  by  Explanation
           III in Section 14(2). Before the enactment of the Act  in  1908,
           there was a conflict amongst the High  Courts  on  the  question
           whether misjoinder  and  non-joinder  were  defects  which  were
           covered by the words ‘or other cause of a like nature’.  It  was
           to set at rest this conflict that Explanation III was added.  An
           extended  meaning  was  thus  given  to  these  words.  Strictly
           speaking misjoinder or non-joinder of parties  could  hardly  be
           regarded as a defect of jurisdiction  or  something  similar  or
           analogous to it.”



      43.   As has been already noticed, Sarathy’s case i.e.  (2000)  5  SCC
      355 has also held that the court  referred  to  in  Section  14  would
      include a quasi-judicial tribunal.  There appears to be no reason  for
      limiting the reach of the expression “prosecuting with due  diligence”
      to institution of a proceeding alone and not to the date on which  the
      cause of action for  such  proceeding  might  arise  in  the  case  of
      appellate or revisional proceedings from  original  proceedings  which
      prove to be abortive.  Explanation (a)  to Section 14 was  only  meant
      to clarify that the day on which a proceeding is  instituted  and  the
      day on which it ends are also  to  be  counted  for  the  purposes  of
      Section 14. This does not lead to the conclusion that the period  from
      the cause of action to the institution of such  proceeding  should  be
      left out.  In fact, as has been noticed above, the explanation expands
      the scope of Section 14 by liberalizing it.  Thus,  under  explanation
      (b) a person resisting an appeal is also deemed to  be  prosecuting  a
      proceeding. But for explanation (b), on a literal reading  of  Section
      14, if a person has won in the first round of litigation and an appeal
      is filed by his opponent, the period  of  such  appeal  would  not  be
      liable to be excluded under the Section, leading to an absurd  result.
      That is why a plaintiff or an applicant resisting an appeal filed by a
      defendant shall also be deemed to prosecute a proceeding so  that  the
      time taken in the appeal can also be the subject matter  of  exclusion
      under Section 14. Equally, explanation (c) which deems  misjoinder  of
      parties or a cause of action to be a  cause  of  a  like  nature  with
      defect of jurisdiction, expands the scope  of  the  section.  We  have
      already noticed that the India Electric Works Ltd. judgment  has  held
      that strictly speaking misjoinder of parties or of  causes  of  action
      can hardly be regarded  as  a  defect  of  jurisdiction  or  something
      similar to it.  Therefore properly  construed,  explanation  (a)  also
      confers a benefit and does not by a side wind seek to  take  away  any
      other benefit that a purposive reading of Section 14 might give.   We,
      therefore, agree with the decision of the Madhya  Pradesh  High  Court
      that the period from the cause  of  action  till  the  institution  of
      appellate or revisional proceedings from  original  proceedings  which
      prove to be abortive are also liable to exclusion under  the  Section.
      The view of the Andhra Pradesh High Court is too broadly stated.   The
      period  prior  to  institution  of  the  initiation  of  any  abortive
      proceeding cannot be excluded for the simple reason  that  Section  14
      does  not  enable  a  litigant  to  get  a  benefit  beyond  what   is
      contemplated by the Section - that is to put the litigant in the  same
      position as if the abortive proceeding had never taken place.




      What applies to the facts of  this  case:  the  limitation  period  in
      Section 128 pre-amendment or post amendment




      44.   Shri A.K. Sanghi, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf  of
      the revenue, has strongly contended before us that the present  appeal
      must attract the limitation period as on the date of its filing.  That
      being so, it is clear that the present appeal having been filed before
      CESTAT only on 23.5.2003, it is Section 128 post amendment that  would
      apply and therefore the maximum  period  available  to  the  appellant
      would be 60 plus  30  days.   Even  if  time  taken  in  the  abortive
      proceedings is to be excluded, the appeal filed will be  out  of  time
      being beyond the aforesaid period.

      45.   It is settled law that periods of limitation are  procedural  in
      nature  and  would  ordinarily  be  applied  retrospectively.    This,
      however, is subject to a rider. In New India  Insurance  Co.  Ltd.  v.
      Shanti Misra, (1975) 2 SCC 840, this Court held:

           “5. On the plain language of  Sections  110-A  and  110-F  there
           should be no difficulty in taking the view that  the  change  in
           law was merely a change of forum i.e. a change of adjectival  or
           procedural law and  not  of  substantive  law.  It  is  a  well-
           established proposition that  such  a  change  of  law  operates
           retrospectively and the person has to go to the new  forum  even
           if his cause of action or right of action accrued prior  to  the
           change of forum. He will have a vested right of action but not a
           vested right of forum. If by express words the new forum is made
           available only to causes of action arising after the creation of
           the forum, then the retrospective operation of the law is  taken
           away. Otherwise the general rule is to make it retrospective.”




      46.   In answering a question which arose under Section  110A  of  the
      Motor Vehicles Act, this Court held:

           “7.....“(1) Time for the purpose of filing the application under
           Section 110-A did not start running before the  constitution  of
           the tribunal. Time had started running for  the  filing  of  the
           suit but before it had expired the forum was  changed.  And  for
           the purpose of the changed forum, time could not  be  deemed  to
           have started running before a remedy of going to the  new  forum
           is made available.

           (2) Even though by and large the law of limitation has been held
           to be a procedural law, there are exceptions to this  principle.
           Generally the law of limitation which is in vogue on the date of
           the commencement of the action governs it. But there are certain
           exceptions  to  this  principle.  The  new  law  of   limitation
           providing a longer period cannot revive a dead remedy.  Nor  can
           it suddenly extinguish a vested right of action by providing for
           a shorter period of limitation.”



      47.   This statement of the law was referred to with approval in Vinod
      Gurudas Raikar v. National Insurance Co. Ltd., (1991)  4  SCC  333  as
      follows:-

           “7. It  is  true  that  the  appellant  earlier  could  file  an
           application even more than six months after the  expiry  of  the
           period of limitation, but can this be  treated  to  be  a  right
           which the appellant had acquired. The answer is in the negative.
           The claim to compensation which the appellant was  entitled  to,
           by reason of the accident was certainly enforceable as a  right.
           So  far  the  period  of  limitation  for  commencing  a   legal
           proceeding is concerned, it is adjectival in nature, and has  to
           be governed by the new Act — subject to two conditions. If under
           the repealing Act the remedy suddenly stands barred as a  result
           of a shorter period of limitation, the same cannot  be  held  to
           govern the case, otherwise the result will  be  to  deprive  the
           suitor of an accrued right. The second exception  is  where  the
           new enactment leaves the claimant with such a short  period  for
           commencing the legal proceeding so as to make it unpractical for
           him to avail of the remedy. This principle has been followed  by
           this Court in many cases and by way  of  illustration  we  would
           like  to  mention New  India  Insurance  Co.  Ltd. v.Smt  Shanti
           Misra [(1975) 2 SCC 840 : (1976) 2 SCR 266] . The husband of the
           respondent in that case died in an accident in 1966. A period of
           two years was available to the respondent for instituting a suit
           for recovery of damages. In  March,  1967  the  Claims  Tribunal
           under  Section  110  of  the  Motor  Vehicles  Act,   1939   was
           constituted, barring the jurisdiction of  the  civil  court  and
           prescribed 60 days as the period of limitation.  The  respondent
           filed the application in July, 1967. It was held that not having
           filed  a  suit  before  March,  1967  the  only  remedy  of  the
           respondent was by way of an application before the Tribunal.  So
           far the period of limitation was concerned, it was observed that
           a new law of limitation providing for a  shorter  period  cannot
           certainly extinguish a vested right of action. In  view  of  the
           change of the law it was held  that  the  application  could  be
           filed within a reasonable time after  the  constitution  of  the
           Tribunal; and, that the time of about four months taken  by  the
           respondent in approaching the Tribunal after  its  constitution,
           could be held to be either reasonable time or the delay of about
           two months could be condoned under the proviso to  Section  110-
           A(3).”

            Both these judgments were referred to and followed in  Union  of
      India v. Harnam Singh, (1993) 2 SCC 162, see paragraph 12.

      48.   The aforesaid principle is also contained in  Section  30(a)  of
      the Limitation Act, 1963.

              “30. Provision for suits,  etc.,  for  which  the  prescribed
           period is shorter than  the  period  prescribed  by  the  Indian
           Limitation Act, 1908.—Notwithstanding anything contained in this
           Act,—

           (a) any suit for which the period of limitation is shorter  than
           the period of limitation prescribed  by  the  Indian  Limitation
           Act, 1908, may be instituted within a  period  of [seven  years]
           next after the commencement of this Act  or  within  the  period
           prescribed for such suit by the  Indian  Limitation  Act,  1908,
           whichever period expires earlier:”




      49.   The reason for the said principle is not far  to  seek.   Though
      periods of  limitation,  being  procedural  law,  are  to  be  applied
      retrospectively, yet if a shorter period of limitation is provided  by
      a later amendment to a statute,  such period would  render the  vested
      right of action contained in the statute nugatory  as  such  right  of
      action would now become time barred under the amended provision.

      50.   This aspect  of  the  matter  is  brought  out  rather  well  in
      Thirumalai Chemicals Ltd. v. Union of  India,  (2011)  6  SCC  739  as
      follows:

           “22. Law is well settled that the manner in which the appeal has
           to be filed, its form and the period within which the  same  has
           to be filed are matters of procedure, while the right  conferred
           on a party to  file  an  appeal  is  a  substantive  right.  The
           question is, while dealing with a belated appeal  under  Section
           19(2) of FEMA, the application for condonation of delay  has  to
           be dealt with under the first  proviso  to  sub-section  (2)  of
           Section 52 of FERA or under the proviso to  sub-section  (2)  of
           Section 19 of FEMA. For answering that question it is  necessary
           to examine the law on the point.

           Substantive and procedural law

           23. Substantive law refers to a  body  of  rules  that  creates,
           defines and regulates rights and liabilities. Right conferred on
           a party to prefer an appeal against an order  is  a  substantive
           right  conferred  by  a  statute  which  remains  unaffected  by
           subsequent changes in  law,  unless  modified  expressly  or  by
           necessary implication. Procedural law  establishes  a  mechanism
           for determining those rights and liabilities and a machinery for
           enforcing them. Right of appeal being a substantive right always
           acts prospectively. It  is  trite  law  that  every  statute  is
           prospective unless it is expressly or by  necessary  implication
           made to have retrospective operation.

           24. Right of appeal may be a substantive right but the procedure
           for filing the appeal including the period of limitation  cannot
           be called a substantive right, and an  aggrieved  person  cannot
           claim any vested right claiming that he should  be  governed  by
           the old provision pertaining to period of limitation. Procedural
           law is retrospective meaning thereby that it will apply even  to
           acts or transactions under the repealed Act.

           25. Law on the subject has also been elaborately dealt  with  by
           this Court in various decisions and reference may be made  to  a
           few of those decisions. This Court  in Garikapati  Veeraya v. N.
           Subbiah Choudhry [AIR 1957 SC 540]  , New  India  Insurance  Co.
           Ltd. v. Shanti  Misra [(1975)  2  SCC  840],   Hitendra   Vishnu
           Thakur  v. State of Maharashtra [(1994) 4 SCC  602  :  1994  SCC
           (Cri) 1087] , Maharaja Chintamani Saran Nath Shahdeo v. State of
           Bihar [(1999) 8 SCC 16] and Shyam Sunder v. Ram Kumar [(2001)  8
           SCC 24] , has elaborately discussed the scope and  ambit  of  an
           amending legislation and its retrospectivity and held that every
           litigant has a vested right in substantive law but no such right
           exists in procedural law. This  Court  has  held  that  the  law
           relating to forum and limitation is procedural in nature whereas
           law  relating  to  right  of  appeal  even  though  remedial  is
           substantive in nature.

           26. Therefore, unless the language  used  plainly  manifests  in
           express terms or by necessary implication a contrary intention a
           statute  divesting  vested  rights  is  to   be   construed   as
           prospective, a statute merely procedural is to be  construed  as
           retrospective and  a  statute  which  while  procedural  in  its
           character, affects vested rights adversely is to be construed as
           prospective.”




      51.   This judgment was strongly relied upon by Shri A.K.  Sanghi  for
      the proposition that the law in force on the date of  the  institution
      of an appeal, irrespective of the date of  accrual  of  the  cause  of
      action for filing an appeal, will govern  the  period  of  limitation.
      Ordinarily, this may well be the case.  As  has  been  noticed  above,
      periods  of  limitation  being  procedural  in  nature   would   apply
      retrospectively.  On the facts in the judgment in the Thirumalai case,
      it was held that the  repealed  provision  contained  in  the  Foreign
      Exchange Regulation Act, namely, Section 52  would  not  apply  to  an
      appeal filed long after 1.6.2000 when the Foreign Exchange  Management
      Act came into force, repealing the Foreign  Exchange  Regulation  Act.
      It is significant to note that  Section  52(2)  of  the  repealed  Act
      provided a period of limitation of 45 plus 45 days and no more whereas
      Section 19(2) of FEMA provided for 45  days  with  no  cap  thereafter
      provided sufficient cause to condone delay is  shown.   On  facts,  in
      that case, the appeal was held to be properly instituted under Section
      19, which as has been stated earlier, had no  cap  to  condonation  of
      delay.  It was, therefore, held that the Appellate  Tribunal  in  that
      case could entertain the appeal even after the period of 90  days  had
      expired provided sufficient cause for the delay was made out.




      52.   The present case stands on a slightly  different  footing.   The
      abortive appeal had been filed against orders passed in March-  April,
      1992.  The present appeal was filed under Section 128,  which  Section
      continues on the statute book till date. Before its amendment in 2001,
      it provided a maximum period of 180 days within which an appeal  could
      be filed. Time  began  to  run  on  3.4.1992  under  Section  128  pre
      amendment when the appellant received the order of the  Superintendent
      of Customs intimating it about an order passed  by  the  Collector  of
      Customs on 25.3.1992.  Under Section 128 as it  then  stood  a  person
      aggrieved by a decision or order passed by a Superintendent of Customs
      could appeal to the Collector (Appeals) within three months  from  the
      date of communication to him  of  such  decision  or  order.   On  the
      principles contained in Section 14 of  the  Limitation  Act  the  time
      taken in prosecuting an abortive proceeding would have to be  excluded
      as the appellant was prosecuting bona  fide  with  due  diligence  the
      appeal before CEGAT which was  allowed  in  its  favour  by  CEGAT  on
      23.6.1998.  The Department preferred an appeal against the said  order
      sometime in the year 2000 which appeal was decided in their favour  by
      this court only on 12.3.2003 by which CEGAT’s order was set  aside  on
      the ground that CEGAT had no jurisdiction to  entertain  such  appeal.
      The time taken from 12.3.2003 to 23.5.2003, on which date the  present
      appeal was filed before the Commissioner (Appeals) would be within the
      period of 180 days provided by the pre amended Section 128, when added
      to the time taken between 3.4.1992 and 22.6.1992.  The amended Section
      128 has now reduced this period, with effect from  2001,  to  60  days
      plus 30 days, which is 90 days.  The order that is challenged  in  the
      present case was passed before 2001.  The right  of  appeal  within  a
      period of 180 days (which includes  the  discretionary  period  of  90
      days) from the date of the said order was a right which vested in  the
      appellant. A shadow was cast by the abortive appeal  from  1992  right
      upto 2003.  This shadow was lifted  when  it  became  clear  that  the
      proceeding filed in1992 was a proceeding before the wrong forum.   The
      vested right of appeal within the period of 180 days had not  yet  got
      over.  Upon the lifting of the  shadow,  a  certain  residuary  period
      within which a proper appeal could  be  filed  still  remained.   That
      period  would  continue  to  be  within  the  period   of   180   days
      notwithstanding the amendment made in 2001 as otherwise the  right  to
      appeal itself would vanish given  the  shorter  period  of  limitation
      provided by Section 128 after 2001.




      53. We, therefore, set aside the order dated 25.2.2004 and remand  the
      case to CESTAT for a decision on merits. The appeal is allowed in  the
      aforesaid terms.  There will be no order as to costs.

                                              …..………………J.
                                              (A.K. Sikri)




                                              …..………………J.
                                              (R.F. Nariman)


      New Delhi;
      April 23, 2015.





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