Delay of 1011 days condoned by Andhra Pradesh HC! What a grave error, holds Supreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Andhra Pradesh High Court had condoned a delay of 1011 days even though no sufficient cause was shown explaining the delay, the bench of MR Shah* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that the High Court has not exercised the discretion judiciously.

Factual Background

  • The appellant herein – original plaintiff filed a civil suit for permanent injunction against the respondents herein – original defendants.
  • Trial Court dismissed the said suit by judgment and decree dated 23.04.2016.
  • First Appellate Court allowed the suit by quashing and setting aside the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court, by judgment and decree dated 01.02.2017.
  • Original defendants – respondents herein applied for the certified copy of the judgment and order on 04.02.2017. The same was ready for delivery on 10.03.2017.
  • After a period of approximately 1011 days, the respondents herein – original defendants preferred the Second Appeal before the High Court. Application to condone the delay was also filed .
  • By the impugned order, the High Court has condoned the delay of 1011 days in preferring the Second Appeal, which is the subject matter of appeal before this Court.
  • While condoning the delay, the High Court has observed as under:

“… when there are certain questions, which require a debate in the second appeal, it is not necessary that this matter be rejected at this stage, without inviting a decision on merits. lf the delay is condoned though enormous, what happens at best is to give an opportunity to the parties to canvass their respective case. Since this question being of procedure, the attempt of the court should be to encourage a healthy discussion on merits than rejecting at threshold. Viewed from such perspective, accepting the reasons assigned by the petitioner, the delay in presenting this second appeal should be condoned.”

Analysis

Holding that the High Court has committed a grave error in condoning huge delay of 1011 days in preferring the appeal, the Cout noticed that as such no sufficient cause was shown by the respondents herein ¬ appellants before the High Court, explaining the huge delay of 1011 days in preferring the Second Appeal. Further, the High Court has also not observed that sufficient cause has been shown explaining the delay of 1011 days in preferring the Second Appeal.

Further, in the application seeking condonation of delay it was stated that she is aged 45 years and was looking after the entire litigation and that she was suffering from health issues and she had fallen sick from 01.01.2017 to 15.03.2017 and she was advised to take bed rest for the said period. However, there is no explanation for the period after 15.03.2017. Thus, the period of delay from 15.03.2017 till the Second Appeal was filed in the year 2021 has not at all been explained. Therefore, it was held that the High Court has not exercised the discretion judiciously.

On the reasoning given by the High Court, the Court noticed that the High Court has observed that if the delay is condoned no prejudice will be caused to the appellant as the appeal would be heard on merits and that there is no wilful negligence on the part of the respondents herein nor it suffers from want of due diligence. However, from the averments in the application for condonation of delay, the Court held that it was a case of a gross negligence and/or want of due diligence on the part of the respondents herein – appellants before the High Court in filing such a belated appeal.

It was, hence, held that,

“The High Court is not at all justified in exercising its discretion to condone such a huge delay. The High   Court has not exercised the discretion judiciously. The reasoning given by the High Court while condoning huge delay of 1011 days is not germane.”

[Majji Sannemma v. Reddy Sridevi, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1260, decided on 16.12.2021]


Counsel: Advocate Siddhartha Srivastava for respondents


*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah

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