LEGAL DISABILITY

Introduction

The law of limitation outlines the timeframes within which legal proceedings must be brought. A limitation period is generally a timeframe after the expiry of which, parties are unable to pursue legal remedies. But to this, there is an exception i.e. Disability. This concept of disability can be considered as some kind of relaxation time period wherein individuals or their legal representatives cannot file suits because of any legal disability- either insanity, idiocy or minor age. This legal concept can be termed as some kind of eligibility criteria that approves or disapproves parties from contesting their legal claims. The concept of legal disability is mentioned in Section 6 of the Limitation Act, which continues till Section 7,8, and 9. To what extent does the scope of legal disability apply in the Limitation Act.

Three kinds of Legal Disability

As per section 6 (1) of the Limitation Act, 1963, there are three types of legal disability- Minor, Idiot and Insane. As described under Section 3 (1) of the Indian Majority Act, 1875, a person below the age of eighteen years is considered as a minor. The computation of age is done according to the provisions provided in section 3 (2) of the same Act as (a) That particular day on which the concerned individual is born is to be included as a whole day (b) The individual becomes major at the starting of the day of eighteenth anniversary. 

The Majority Act, 1875 is applicable to every individual professing any religion in India and hence, can be derived as a “secular” law. It is only when a personal law that states otherwise can the attainment of majority be different from that of eighteen years. 

In India, the case of insanity is analyzed in S.K. Yadav v. State of Maharashtra, wherein the Supreme Court made the distinction between legal insanity and medical insanity and the courts in India only takes account of legal insanity. 

“In the case of Hari Singh Gond V State of Madhya Pradesh, it was said that there were four sub-types of non-compos mentis i.e., (1) an idiot; (2) one made non compos by illness (3) a lunatic or a mad man and (4.) one who is drunk. Idiocy included the following characteristics which included-(a) non-sane memory from birth by a perpetual infirmity, without lucid intervals (b) idiots are unable to count twenty (c) tell the days of the week (d) who do not know their fathers or mothers, or the like”. 

Madness and lunacy are the forms of “acquired insanity”, whereas idiocy comes under “natural insanity”. In other words, an individual can acquire lunacy or madness at any point in their entire lifetime, on the other hand, an individual when termed idiot, it is since his/her birth. 

Relevant statutes concerning Legal disability

  • In Limitation Act

A significant part of the rules relating to legal disability are preserved in its parent act, which is the Limitation Act. 

Section 3 of the Limitation Act is a crucial section wherein the different time period permitted to the parties to file a suit is mentioned. The Act debars the parties from instituting a suit beyond the time limit, the only exception being is in the case of extraordinary circumstances provided in sections 4-24 of the same Act. 

Section 6 and 7 of the Limitation Act provides privilege to a minor, insane and an idiot person wherein they’re allowed to file suits beyond the time period when the disability ceases. “It is necessary for a disability to exist at the time from which period of limitation is supposed to commence”. As per section 9 of the Act, if the time period had already started, then no subsequent disability or inability to file a suit can reverse the clock. 

In the case of at least 2 or more disabilities, or a situation where an individual is recovered from one disability but is still is suffering from a new one, then according to section 6(2) of the Act, that individual could only file a suit when he/she is no longer affected by the disabilities and the application would began from the day when both the disabilities had ceased to exist and not any time before that. 

Section 8 of the Limitation Act is an exception to section 6 and 7 of the same Act and, it does not grant any substantive privilege. It does not cover within its ambit pre-emptive action. Section 8 provides that the extended period after cessation of disability or the death of disabled person would not be more than 3 years. The Supreme Court also highlighted that “in each case, the litigant is entitled to a fresh starting point of limitation from the date of cessation of disability, provided that in no case the period extended by this process under section 6,7 shall exceed three years”. 

  • In CPC
  1. Order 8 rule 5 (1) of the CPC states that “if a specific charge has not been denied specifically or not admitted by a defendant then it would be admitted specifically except against those persons suffering from legal disabilities”. 
  1. Section 6 (3) of the Limitation Act provides the option of filing a suit, to the legal representatives after the death of the person suffering from legal disability. This provision of empowering the legal representatives of deceased to be a plaintiff party to a suit is also backed by order 22 rule 3 (1) of the CPC. And in the scenario where there are no representatives, then according to order 22 rule 4A, CPC, the court may hire an administer General or a court’s officer, whoever deem fit to represent the deceased. 
  1. In the suit involving a minor or any other person to whom rules 1-14 of order 31, CPC applies, then as per order 23 rule 1 (1), the suit could be withdrawn on the grounds of formal detect or the presence of grounds to file a fresh suit (order 23 rule 3) before the court. Taking into account the case of Joannala Sura Reddy v. Tiyyaguara Srinivasa AIR 2004, the court held that in a case where previous suit is not withdrawn after the court’s assent as per order 23 rule 1 and 3, then a fresh suit cannot be instituted.
  1. Order 32 rule 12 of CPC mentions about the suits filed by minors on attaining majority. In the case of Vidya Wati (deceased) through her L.Rs. v. Hans Raj (deceased) through his L.Rs., AIR 1993, it was stated that according to this provision (as stated above) the dismissal of the suit is not required if the minor decides to not seek the relief after attaining majority. 

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