Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K Agrawal, J.,  condoned the delay and set aside the impugned order by adopting a justice-oriented approach in considering the application for condonation of delay

The facts of the case are such that the plaintiff’s suit was decreed decreeing an amount of Rs 34,400 in his favour with interest at the rate of 6%, against which, the defendants preferred first appeal with 7 days’ delay along with an application for condonation of delay. The first appellate Court rejected the application for condonation of delay holding that there is no affidavit in support of application for condonation of delay and consequently, dismissed the appeal, against which, this instant second appeal under Section 100 of the Civil Procedure Code has been preferred by the appellants/defendants challenging the impugned order of Court of First Appeal.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that the first appellate Court went too technical in rejecting 7 days’ delay application as sufficient cause has been shown for not preferring the appeal within time as DSP, officer incharge, remained busy in administrative work and could not prefer appeal right in time. Therefore, the first appellate Court ought to have condoned the delay of 7 days’ in filing the appeal as there is no counter-affidavit controverting the statement made in the application for condonation of delay.

The Court relied on judgment N. Balakrishnan V. M. Krishnamurthy, (1998) 7 SCC 123 wherein it was observed

“11. Rules of limitation are not meant to destroy the right of parties. They are meant to see that parties do not resort to dilatory tactics, but seek their remedy promptly. The object of providing a legal remedy is to repair the damage caused by reason of legal injury. The law of limitation fixes a lifespan for such legal remedy for the redress of the legal injury so suffered. Time is precious and wasted time would never revisit. During the efflux of time newer causes would sprout up necessitation newer persons to seek legal remedy by approaching the Courts. So a life span must be fixed for each remedy. Unending period for launching the remedy may lead to unending uncertainty and consequential anarchy. The law of limitation is thus founded on public policy. It is enshrined in the maxim interest reipublicae up sit finis litium ( it is for the general welfare that a period be putt to litigatin). Rules of limitation are not meant to destroy the rights of the parties. They are meant to see that parties do not resort to dilaory tactics but seek their remedy promptly. The idea is that every legal remedy must be kep alive for a legislatively fixed period of time.”

In the matter of Esha Bhattacharjee v. Managing Committee of Raghunathpur Nafar Academy, JT 2013 (2) SC 450 and Pradeep Majumdar v. Duvas Bai, 2013 (4) B.L.J. 433

21. From the aforesaid authorities the principles that can broadly be culled out are:

i) There should be a liberal, pragmatic, justice-oriented, non pedantic approach while dealing with an application for condonation of delay, for the Courts are not supposed to legalise injustice but are obliged to remove injustice.
ii) The terms “sufficient cause” should be understood in their proper spirit, philosophy and purpose regard being had to the fact that these terms are basically elastic and are to be applied in proper perspective to the obtaining fact situation.
Iii) Substantial justice being paramount and pivotal the technical considerations should not be given undue and uncalled for emphasis.
iv) No presumption can be attached to deliberate causation of delay but, gross negligence on the part of the counsel or litigant is to be taken note of.
v) Lack of bona fides imputable to a party seeking condonation of delay is a significant and relevant fact.
vi) It is to be kept in mind that adherence to strict proof should not affect public justice and cause public mischief because the Courts are required to be vigilant so that in the ultimate eventuate there is no real failure of justice.
vii) The concept of liberal approach has to encapsule the conception of reasonableness and it cannot be allowed a totally unfettered free play.
viii) There is a distinction between inordinate delay and a delay of short duration or few days, for to the former doctrine of prejudice is attracted whereas to the latter it may not be attracted. That apart, the first one warrants strict approach whereas the second calls for a liberal delineation.
ix) The conduct, behavior and attitude of a party relating to its inaction or negligence are relevant factors to be taken into consideration. It is so as the fundamental principle is that the Courts are required to weigh the scale of balance of justice in respect of both parties and the said principle cannot be given a total go by in the name of liberal approach.
x) If the explanation offered is concocted or the grounds urged in the application are fanciful, the Courts should be vigilant not to expose the other side unnecessarily to face such litigation.
xi) It is to be borne in mind that no one gets away with fraud, misrepresentation or interpolation by taking recourse to the technicalities of law of limitation.
xii) The entire gamut of facts are to be carefully scrutinized and the approach should be based on the paradigm of judicial discretion which is founded on objective reasoning and not on individual perception.
xiii) The State or a public body or an entity representing a collective cause should be given some acceptable latitude.”

The Court thus observed that it is well-settled law the Courts should adopt a justice-oriented approach in considering the application for condonation of delay. However, the Court while allowing such application has to draw a distinction between delay and inordinate delay for want of bona fides of inaction or negligence would deprive a party of the protection of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963.

The Court held that that sufficient cause has been shown as 7 days’ delay has been explained in filing the appeal as DSP concerned remained busy in the official work/government work and could not prefer the appeal right in time.

In view of the above, the impugned order was set aside and delay condoned.[Divisional Sports Officer v. Umashankar Sahu, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 623, decided on 02-11-2020]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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