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Brief Compilatino of Judgements on Calculation of Time Limit- How to count time limit when an act is to be done within so many days after a given event; Time Limit where certain thing has to be done within a specified period; Meaning of the Time limit having words “not less than”; Time limit using “not later than”; Time limit using “not earlier than”; Time limit providing “by a said date”

In this post, we have tried compile some of the landmark judgements relating to calculation of time limit. The terms have been used very frequently in the GST Act.

How to count time limit when an act is to be done within so many days after a given event-Jitender Tyagi vs Delhi Administration & Anr on 3 October, 1989-Equivalent citations: 1990 AIR 487, 1989 SCR Supl. (1) 341


It has been stated in Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary, Third Edition, Volume I, page 86, as follows:

“Where an act has to be done within so many days “after” a given event, the day of such event is not to be reckoned In Smt. Manjuli v. Civil Judge, AIR 1970 Bom. 1, the provision of section 15(1) of the Village Panchayats Act, 1958 came up for interpretation before the Nagput Bench of the Bombay High Court. Section 15(1), inter alia, provides that any person who is qualified to vote is entitled to challenge the validity of the election “within 15 days after the date of the declaration of the result of the election”. The High Court in interpreting the provision rightly laid stress on the word “after” and held that the day of which the result was declared must be excluded.

This Court had also occasion to construe rule 119 of the Election Rules framed under the Representation of the People Act in T.C. Basappa v. T. Nagappa, [1955] SCR 250. Rule 119 provides, inter alia, that an election petition against a returned candidate is to be presented at any time after the publica- tion of the name of such candidate under section 67 of the Act, but not later than 14 days from the date of publication of the notice in the official gazette under rule 113. Mukh- erjea, J. (as he than was) speaking for the Bench observed as follows:

The High court seems to think that in computing period of 14 days the date of publication is to be included. This seems to us to be an unwarranted view to take which is opposed to the ordinary canons of construction. Dr. Tek Chand appearing for the respondent No. 1, plainly confessed his inability to support this view and we must hold therefore that there is no question of the Tribunal’s enter- taining election petition after the prescribed period in the present case.”

Held-Be that as it may, we have no hesitation in holding that in computing the period of twelve days referred to in sub-section (4) of section 3 of the Act, the day on which the order of detention was passed should be excluded and, upon such computation, it must be held that the approval of the order of detention was made within twelve days after the making of the order of detention.

Time Limit where certain thing has to be done within a specified period -Haru Das Gupta vs State Of West Bengal on 1 February, 1972 Equivalent citations: 1972 AIR 1293, 1972 SCR (3) 329

There is, however, a volume of authority in England showing that where a certain thing has to be done within a specified period, the day on which the cause of action arose, is to be excluded from computation and the day on which such action is taken is to be included.

Thus, as a general rule the effect of defining a period from such a day until such a day within which an act is to be done is to exclude the first day and to include the last day. (see Halsbury’s Laws of England, (3rd ed.) vol. 37, pp. 92 and 95) There is no reason why the aforesaid rule of construction followed consistently and for so long should not also be applied here.

In computing the period of three months from the date of detention, which was February 5, 1971, before the expiration of which the order or decision for confirming the detention order and continuation of the detention thereunder had to be made, the date of the commencement of detention, namely, February 5, 1971, has to be excluded. So done, the order of confirmation was made before the expiration of the period of three months from the date of detention.

Meaning of the Time limit having words “not less than”- The Pioneer Motors (Private) Ltd vs The Municipal Council, … on 27 January, 1961 Equivalent citations: 1967 AIR 684, 1961 SCR (3) 609

The words ” not being ‘less than one month ” do imply that clear one month’s notice was necessary to. be given, that is, both the first day and the last day of the month had to be excluded. To put it in the language used by Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 10th Edition, p. 351 :- “..when…….. not less than’ so many days are to intervene, both the terminal days are excluded from the computation,”

Time limit using “not later than”-H. H. Raja Harinder Singh vs S.Karnail Singh on 20 December, 1956 Equivalent citations: 1957 AIR 271, 1957 SCR 208

Now, it cannot be denied that the period of fourteen days provided in Rule I 1 9 (a) for presentation of an election petition is a period prescribed, and that is its true character, whether the words used are ” within fourteen days” or “not later than fourteen days”. That the distinction sought to be made by the appellant between these two expressions is without substance will be clear beyond all doubt, when regard is had to s. 81 of the Act. Section 81 (1) enacts that the election petition may be presented “within such time as may be prescribed, and it is under this section that Rule 119 has been framed. It is obvious that the rule- making authority could not have intended to go further than what the section itself had enacted, and if the language of the Rule is construed in conjunction with and under the coverage of the section under which it is framed, the words “not later than fourteen days” must be held to mean the same thing as “within a period of fourteen days”. Reference in this connection should be made to the heading of Rule 119 which is, ” Time within which an election petition shall be presented “.

Time limit using “not earlier than”- Jai Charan Lal vs State Of U.P. & Ors on 5 May, 1967 Equivalent citations: 1968 AIR, 5 1967 SCR (3) 981

In our judgment the expression “not earlier than thirty days” is not to be equated to the expression ,.not less than thirty days”. It is no doubt true that where the expression is “not less than so many days” both the terminal days have to be excluded and the number of days mentioned must be clear days but the force of the words “not earlier than thirty days” is not the same. “Not earlier than thirty days” means that it should not be the 29th day, but there is nothing to show that the language excludes the 30th day from computation. In other words, although October 26 had to be excluded the date on which the meeting was to be called need not be excluded provided by doing so one did not go in breach of the expression “not earlier than thirty days.”. The 25th of November was the 30th day counting from October 26 leaving out the initial day and therefore it cannot be described as earlier than thirty days. In other words, it was not earlier than thirty days from the date on which the (1) A.I.R. 1957 A.P. 229 notice under sub-section (2) was delivered to the-District- Magistrate. This. reading is also bome out by the other expression “not later than thirty-five days” which is used in the section. In this Court(-‘) the expression “not later than 14 days” as used in rule 119 under Representation of the People Act was held to mean the same thing as “within a period of fourteen days”. In that expression the number of days, it was held, should not exceed the number fourteen. In the sub-section we are dealing with the number of days that should not exceed thirty-five days. On a parity of reasoning not earlier than thirty days would include the 30th day but not the 29th day because 29th day must be regarded as earlier than thirty days. If the provision were “not earlier than thirty days and not later, than thirty days” it is obvious that -only the 30th day could be meant. This proves that the fixing of the date of the meeting was therefore in accordance with law. We respectfully disapprove of the view taken in the Andhra Pradesh case.

Time limit providing “by a said date”..- B.N. Agarwalla vs State Of Orissa on 16 October, 1995 Equivalent citations: 1996 AIR 385, 1995 SCC (6) 509

Learned counsel for the appellant has referred to some decisions wherein the word ‘by’ has been construed to mean that it includes the end or the expiry of the date or period indicated. As we have indicated, the meaning of the word ‘by’ is both ‘before’ as well as ‘on or before’ and, therefore, the context in which it has been used becomes decisive. Where the context does not exclude the date specified and permits its inclusion the word ‘by’ can be construed to mean ‘on’ and not ‘before’; and in that situation, specification of the limit of time by saying “by that date” would require including the specified date upto the expiry of that date for computation of the permitted period. P.C. Muthu Chettiar vs. Narayanan Chettiar and others, AIR 1928 Madras 528; Sheikh Nuroo vs. Seth Meghraj Ramkaran Marwadi, AIR 1937 Nagpur 139; T.A. Janakuara Nainar vs. Periaswamy Goundan and others, AIR 1949 Madras 376; and Dharamraj Mahadeo vs. Additional Deputy Commissioner Akola and others, AIR 1957 Bombay 154 are all decisions in which the context required the word `by’ to be read as `on’ and not `before’ to permit inclusion of the period upto the expiry of the date specified. We have already indicated that the context in the present case excludes the date specified and, therefore, excludes the meaning `on’ and requires the word `by’ to be read as `before’. Eastaugh and others vs. Macpherson, [1954] 3 All E.R. 214 supports the view we have taken that the meaning of the word `by’ in the phrase `by’ the date’ can mean `on or before the date’ or `before the date’ depending on the context in which the word `by’ has been used and the meaning to be preferred should be that which it has in the given context.