Legal Disability to Sue
Legal disability is inability to sue owing to minority, lunacy or idiocy. Law recognizes no other ground as sufficient for extending the period of limitation. The effect of legal disability is that it extends the period of limitation; but it does not prevent the period from running. The provisions as to disability apply only when the plaintiff is under a disability (and not when the defendant is under it); and they apply only to suits and applications for execution of decrees.
Generally, limitation begins to run from the accrual of the cause of the action. This section is one of the exceptions to the general rule. In this and similar cases the period of limitation does not run form the date of the accrual of the cause of action, but runs from a subsequent date, i.e., the day on which the disabilities cease. It is clear from the section that minority or lunacy would not prevent limitation from running against the minor or lunatic. It simply gives to the minor or lunatic an extended period for filing a suit or application.
The section will not grant an indulgence to a minor entitled to prefer an appeal; it provides only for suit or applications for execution of decrees. This section applies only to cases dealt with by the Act itself i.e., to those suits and applications for execution of decrees which are mentioned in the First schedule.
Minors having guardians may claim under Section 6:
The benefit of Section 6 is not limited to the period after the cessation of the disability but applies also to the period during which disability exists. Persons under disability are not forbidden to use or apply (by their next friends) before the cessation of disability; their next friend may sue or apply at any time during the continuance of the disability, whether the ordinary period of limitation has already expired or not.
Disabilities to which section applies:
The only grounds on which limitation can be saved under this section are minority, lunacy and idiocy of the person entitled to sue or make an application for execution.
A temporary loss of memory or understanding or a mere weakness of intellect is not an insanity within the meaning of this section. On the other hand, lucid intervals do not constitute cessation of insanity unless they are of sufficient length of time.
Disability must be continuous:
The plaintiff can claim an exemption only if there is a continuous disability. If a person entitled to file a suit is a minor and before he attains majority, he becomes insane, time would be extended. Again if he died during his insanity, and his legal representative is a minor, the extension of time would be allowed both to the minor and his legal representative. But the disabilities must overlap each other. If there is any interval, however, short, between the termination of the first disabilities and the supervening disability, time will begin to run on termination of the first disability and the second disability would have no effect. If for instance, the minor becomes insane even two days after he attained majority, he would lose the benefit of this section.
Disability must be initial, no subsequent:
In order to be effectual to suspend the operation of the statute, the disability must have existed at the time when the right of action first accrued. When the statue has been once attached to the claim, it overrides all after-accruing disabilities and intermediate acts and events, and therefore, disability superventing after the right of action accrues a man is of full age, the fact that he shortly afterwards became insane will not check the operation of the statue.
Where several disabilities co-exist concurrently in the plaintiff, time does not commence to run against him till all have ceased. If the plaintiff is under one disability at the time the action accrued, and afterwards (and while the first disability continues) he comes under another disability, time will not commence to run till the last of the disabilities has ceased.
A lunatic’s property was improperly sold in 1880. He died a lunatic, and was succeeded by his wife as heir who died in 1910. In a suit brought by the reversioners in 1917, it was held that as the lunatic died without attaining sanity, a suit to recover the property ought to have been filed by his widow within 3 years after the lunatic’s death; and that is she failed to do so, the reversioner was barred to do so.
This sub-section contemplates a case in which an extension in favour of one person may be tacked on to an extension in favour of another. Such a case arises only where the first person dies while still under a disability, and the second person is his legal representative who is also under a disability at the time of the first person’s death.
Section 7 only lays down conditions under which the disability of one of the joint plaintiffs or applicants shall or shall not entitle any them to the exemption to which the former, if he were a sole plaintiff or sole applicant, would be entitled. Where one of several persons jointly entitled to institute a suit or proceeding or make an application for the execution of a decree is under any such disability, and a discharge can be given without the concurrence of such person, time will run against them all; but, where no such discharge can be given, time will not run as against any of them until one of them becomes capable of giving such discharge without the concurrence of the others or until the disability has ceased.
Where two brothers institute a suit with same cause of action and subsequently one of them becomes insane, it is presumed that other one can protect the interest of the brother legally disabled. But if there is clash between two brothers, time shall not run until disability ceases to exist.
Disability or inability to sue:
“Disability” has been defined as want of legal qualification to act and “inability” as the want of physical power to act. The expression “disability or inability to sue” refer to something which pertains to the plaintiff. Thus, the fact that a plaintiff, an alien, is prevented from bringing an action on account of the outbreak of war between his mother-country and Pakistan will amount to either a disability or inability within the meaning of this section.
Disability or inability to sue includes disability to make application for execution as well; disability is want of legal qualification to act; inability is want of physical power to act. This disability is the state of being a minor, insane or an idiot; whereas illness, poverty, etc., are instances of inability.
The rule as to the continuous running of the time is one of the fundamental principles of the law of limitation. That rule says that where once time has begun to run, it runs continuously and without any breaks or interruptions until the entire prescribed period has run out, and no disability or inability to sue occurring subsequent to the commencement will stop it running. This rule is embodied in section 9 of Act, which applies to suits as well as applications although the words used are “inability to sue”