The Plea of Limitation IV: “First Learns”

My Lord, What is the meaning of the term ‘first learns’ as provided under Article 91(a) of The Limitation Act, 1963?

Article 91(a) of The Limitation Act reads:

Description of Suit

Period of Limitation

Time from which period begins to run

91. For compensation – a) For wrongfully taking or detaining any specific movable property lost, or acquired by theft, or dishonest misappropriation, or conversion

Three years

When the person having the right to the possession of the property first learns in whose possession it is.

While it is true that the word used in the said Article is ‘first learns’ and not ‘knowledge’, it is difficult to construe the word ‘first learns’ without attributing to it certain degree of knowledge.

We agree with the contention that the term ‘first learns’ places a burden of knowledge which is rather specific in nature. The knowledge of a specific person against whom the suit can be instituted is what is crucial here. A mere suspicion or a whisper of knowledge is not enough for the period of limitation to start running.

Hon’ble Justice V. Gopala Gowda, Standard Chartered Bank v. Andhra Bank Financial Services Ltd., [Civil Appeal Nos. 9540-9541 of 2010].