Restitution means restoring something with was taken away from someone unjustly. Restitution basically means to restore back the party to the original position in which he/she would be if the court had not ordered the flawed decree. The doctrine of restitution states that if a decree is reversed, the law imposes an obligation on the party who has obtained unjust benefit from that flawed decree to compensate or make restitution to the other party to the suit for the loss he/she had occurred. The obligation lies on the party as soon as the flawed decree has been reversed or modified by the court to restore back the benefit to the other party who has occurred loss due to that flawed decree. The obligation or duty of the court is to restore the position of party to the same position at which they were before passing of that erroneous decree.
Illustration: If Rahul obtains decree against Tanya for possession of property, and by that decree Rahul obtains the possession of the property from Tanya. But that decree is reversed in appeal. So, it is the duty of Rahul to give possession of the property back to Tanya even though there is no mention of restitution in the decree passed by the appellate court.
Section 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure specifies the provision relating to restitution. It basically regulates the power of court, in a way that it is the duty of the court to restore back the harm done to any party that has happened due to mistake make on the part of the court.
There are three conditions that can be identified by analysing the provision of Section 144 to order restitution which are:
- There must be a flawed decree passed by the court.
- A party to the suit has benefited from that decree and the other party has faced a loss.
- The flawed decree has been reversed or modified either by the appellate court or the court that passes it.
So, if all the three conditions are fulfilled court has the obligation to order restitution of the parties back to the position to which they were before that decree was passed.
The doctrine of restitution is formed on basis of the maxim ‘Actus curiae neminem gravabit’ which means that the court shall harm nobody. It is the equitable principle that it is the duty of the court to not harm the suitors. So, if any person is harmed by the flawed decree passed by the court, then it is the duty of court to restore back that loss done to the party. An application of restitution can be filed in front of the court that has passed the decree.
The period of limitation for filing an application under Section 144 is 12 years and it starts from the date of the appellate decree. The limitation period is specified under Article 136 of the Limitation Act, which governs the limitation for execution of decree and an application under Section 144 lies under this Article.
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