(1.) THIS revision is directed against an order of the learned District Munsiff of Ernakulam holding that O. S. 757 of 1953 on his file is not barred by limitation. The suit is to enforce registration of a sale deed which the defendant to the action, petitioner herein, is alleged to have executed in favour of the plaintiff, the opposite party. The document bears the date 14. 8. 1950 and it was presented for registration before the Sub-Registrar of Mulanthuruthy by the plaintiff on 18. 8. 1950. The defendant did not appear to admit the execution and at the plaintiff's instance the Sub-Registrar issued notice to the defendant to appear before him and admit the document. On 19. 8. 1950, the defendant appeared and gave a sworn statement before the sub-Registrar to the effect that he had not executed the sale deed. Thereupon the Sub-Registrar passed an order refusing registration. Against that order an application (Application XI of 1950) was made before the District Registrar under S. 63 of the Cochin Registration Act (V of 1084) to establish the plaintiff's right to have the document registered. After due enquiry the district Registrar dismissed that application on 5. 9. 1952. Thereupon the plaintiff brought the present suit for a decree directing the document to be registered according to law. It was instituted on 13. 10. 1952.
(2.) THE defendant, besides disputing the execution of the sale deed, also contended that the suit was barred by time. THE issue raised in the suit with reference to the plea of limitation was, at the instance of the defendant heard preliminarily and the learned District Munsiff negatived the plea. Hence the revision by the defendant.
The disputed document relates to a property situate in kanayannore, within the jurisdiction of the Sub-Registrar of Mulanthuruthy. The property and the office of the Sub-Registrar are both within the Cochin area of the State. Until 1. 4. 1951 when the Indian Registration Act, 1908 (XVI of 1908)was extended to this State by the Part B States (Laws) Act, 1951 (III of 1951)the Registration Act applicable to the Cochin area was Act V of 1084 (Cochin ). S. 67 of that Act provided that when a District Registrar refuses to order a document to be registered under S. 62 or S. 63, any person claiming under such document, or his representative, assignee or agent, may within 30 days after the making of the order of refusal exclusive of the time occupied in obtaining a copy of such order, institute in the Civil Court, within the local limits of whose jurisdiction is situate the office in which the document is sought to be registered, a suit for a decree directing the document to be registered in such office, if it be duly presented for registration within 30 days after the passing of such a decree. The plaintiff brought the suit after the lapse of one month and seven days (13. 10. 1952) from the date of the order of the District registrar (5. 9. 1952 ). On 12. 9. 1952 he had however applied for a copy of the order and that was made available to him only on 4. 10. 1952. The suit was therefore instituted in time if the period occupied in obtaining a copy of the district Registrar's order is excluded in computing the "30 days after making the order of refusal" within which the suit has to be brought. S. 67 of the Cochin Registration Act, 1084, as we have noticed, permits such computation. The defendant's contention however is that it is not the Cochin registration Act, 1084, that applies to the case, but the Indian Registration act, 1908, under which the provision corresponding to S. 67 of the Cochin Act, viz. , S. 77, does not contemplate the exclusion of time occupied in obtaining a copy of the District Registrar's order in computing the 30 days' period within which the suit has to be brought. So far as relevant for our present purpose S. 77 of the Indian Registration Act, 1908, is word for word the same as S. 67 of the Cochin Registration Act, 1084, except for the difference above noticed. According to the defendant when the cause of action for the suit arose, that is when the District Registrar refused to direct the document to be registered (5. 9. 1952) the Indian Registration Act, 1908, had replaced the Cochin registration Act and the plaintiff was, therefore, not entitled to have the period occupied in obtaining a copy of the District Registrar's order excluded in computing the period of limitation. Before the lower court the plaintiff's answer to this contention was that his suit is only a continuation of the proceedings he had initiated before the District Registrar, that that proceeding was instituted under the Cochin Registration Act, 1084, that S. 67 of that Act gave him the right to have the time occupied in obtaining a copy of the District Registrar's order excluded in computing the 30 days' period and that supervening legislation can deprive him of that right. This view found favour with the learned District Munsiff who understood the exclusion of the time occupied in obtaining a copy of the order as a vested right which no subsequent legislation can take away. Before us the petitioner's learned counsel impugned the correctness of this view. Other arguments urged on behalf of the opposite party to support the lower court's order have also been challenged on the petitioner's behalf as unsustainable.
We are afraid the lower court's order is indefeasible. S. 6 of the Part B States' (Laws) Act, 1951 which deals with repeals and savings provides in the last portion thereof that anything done or any action taken under any law in force in any Part B State immediately before the appointed day, corresponding to any of the Acts or Ordinances extended to that state under the said Act, shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the corresponding provision of the Act or Ordinance extended to that State, and shall continue to be in force accordingly unless and until superseded by anything done or any action taken under the said Act or Ordinance. This, in our opinion, is express statutory authority for holding that though the proceedings before the District Registrar was initiated under the provisions of the Cochin registration Act, 1084, it must be deemed to have continued before him under the Indian Registration Act, 1908, after the latter Act became law in the State on 1. 4. 1951. The order passed by the District Registrar on 5. 9. 1952 refusing to order the document to be registered is therefore an order passed under the indian Registration Act, 1908 and S. 77 thereof does not contemplate the exclusion of the time occupied in obtaining a copy of the order of refusal in computing the period of limitation prescribed therein for a suit of the present kind. In our view this conclusion is sufficient to entail the reversal of the lower court's order.
(3.) NOR can the order be supported on general principles. When the learned District Munsiff said that the plaintiff had a vested right to have the time occupied in obtaining a copy of the order excluded in computing the period of limitation he overlooked the distinction between a right of action and the right of an action being brought within a particular time or conducted in particular way. No suitor has any vested right in a rule of procedure. Sankaranarayana Panicker v. Narayana Panicker 1952 K. L. T. 339. The general principle is that the law of limitation that is applicable to a suit is that law in force at the time, when the suit was instituted. To quote from the judgment of Benson and Sundra Iyer, JJ. , in Ramakrishna Chetty v. Subbharaya iyer (1913) 24 M. L. J. 54: "the period of limitation that the party is entitled to have is that prescribed by the statute then in force, whether it be shorter or longer than that provided in a previous statute repealed by it. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The reason of the rule is that limitation is a branch of the law of procedure and is only a condition annexed to the enforcement of a substantive right in a court of law and does not affect the right itself. And there is no injustice in requiring a person having a substantive right to seek the enforcement of it in a court of law within such time as the legislature may think fit from time to time to prescribe".
The same principle is seen discussed at page 15 of volume I of the Law of Limitation by Rustomjee (5th Edition, 1938) under the heading "new Statute: Retrospective effect of". A few sentences therefrom may usefully be extracted here: "a statute of limitation, being a law of procedure, is, as a rule, retrospective in its operation and governs all proceedings from the moment of its enactment Except where a contrary provision is made, statute of Limitation, like other laws relating to procedure, applies immediately to all steps taken (and to all suits instituted and applications made) after it has come into force. Accordingly the new Act must determine the period of limitation as well as the terminus a quo even though the cause of action accrued while the repealed Act was in existence". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .;