Supreme Court Rules Against Applying Equity Principle in Condonation of Delay Cases
The Limitation Act of 1963 mentions the doctrine of condonation of delay. The Act specifies the period of time within which a suit, appeal, or application may be filed and establishes time limits for various suits. The aggrieved party’s remedy is null and void upon expiration of this time period.
The limitation period is not applicable to this doctrine. This states that the Court has the discretionary authority to disregard the delay or “condone the delay” and proceed with the case if the aggrieved party can provide “sufficient cause” for causing a delay in the institution of the suit that occurs prior to the expiration of the limitation period.
Limitation Act, 1963
Section 5 of the Limitation Act of 1963 states that an appeal or application may be accepted even after the limitation period has expired if the appellant or applicant proves to the court that he did not have sufficient cause to file the appeal or application within the limitation period. Regardless of whether the party is a state or a private one, the delay in filing the appeal or application can be tolerated if the court is satisfied.
The concept of “sufficient cause” is not explicitly defined and varies from case to case. Depending on the facts and circumstances of each case, the Court has a lot of leeway in deciding what constitutes sufficient cause.
In cases with respect to non-appearance, deferment or remain of execution of a declaration, the reason should be simple and satisfactory for example “adequate” generally these arrangements will simply be an approach to unending dragging out cases. This principle has been advocated in support of the pursuit of justice, but it should not prevent anyone from receiving justice.
It was decided in the case of G. Ramagowda v. Special Land Acquisition Officer that “sufficient cause” should be interpreted broadly in order to achieve substantial justice.
Principle of Equity in Condonation of Delay Cases
The Supreme Court in the case of Majji Sannemma @ Sanyasirao Vs Reddy Sridevi & Ors.(CIVIL APPEAL NO.7696 OF 2021) has dismissed the notion that equity principle should be considered when dealing with condonation of delay, stating that such pleas should be rejected if the delay is not adequately explained. The Bench, consisting of Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna, noted that the period of limitation cannot be extended on equitable grounds.
In the case at hand, the petitioner challenged a High Court order that overturned a Trial Court order condoning a 467-day delay in applying to set aside an ex-parte decree. The Trial Court had initially observed that, in the absence of material evidence, the delay could not be explained but condoned it, giving both parties an opportunity for a fair trial.
The Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s view and cited rulings from Popat Bahiru Govardhane Etc. Vs. Special Land Acquisition Officer & ANR., 2013 Latest Caselaw 570 SC, and Maniben Devraj Shah & Vs. Municipal Corporation of Brihan Mumbai, 2012 Latest Case Law 217 SC. The court emphasised that the law of limitation is based on public policy and exists to ensure parties seek legal recourse without unreasonable delay. The petition was ultimately dismissed
For efficient litigation and quick case resolution, the Law of Limitation and the Condonation of Delay are useful tools. The Law of Limitation is the embodiment of the maxim Vigilantibus non dormentibus jura subvenitent and ensures that the case is filed within the stipulated time frame to avoid unnecessary delays. On the other hand, condonation of delay is the safeguard to the law of limitation and bars certain cases in which the delay in filing the suit is justifiable, i.e. can be backed by having “sufficient cause”.
In some cases, the Court has not allowed even a delay of one day, while in others, it has allowed delay of even several years. It differs from case-to-case and the Court has optional purview to decide if a case is reasonable for approbation or not.