Case BriefsSupreme 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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Rajendra Chandra Singh Samant, J., allowed the petition and set aside the impugned order.

The facts of the case are such that the respondents were Malgujars of Malkharauda Jagirdari, who were holders of the land in question and the petitioners are the persons in possession of the land in question on the ground of grant or purchase or by sikhmi rights or by a registered sale deed. Proceeding was drawn against the respondents under the M.P. Ceiling of Agriculture Holdings Act, 1960 (i.e. “Act, 1960”). The petitioners filed their objections which came to be dismissed by the Sub-Divisional Officer (Revenue) vesting the disputed land with the State Government. Subsequent to that the petitioners and the various villagers made representation before the Sub-Divisional Officer, Sakti, for allotment of land from the government. The applications of some of the villagers were entertained and lease was granted in favour of some of the villagers, but the case of the petitioners was not considered. The petitioners then preferred an appeal before the Board of Revenue and Additional Tahsildar, Malkharauda submitted report making recommendations in favour of the petitioners for grant of government land on lease. The Board of Revenue has dismissed the appeal only on the ground of limitation. Being aggrieved by the said order instant petition was filed.

Counsel for the petitioners Mr Rajeev Shrivastava submitted that the order passed by the Board of Revenue is cryptic order, by taking technical approach, without considering that the petitioners have been prosecuted their claim since the very beginning by raising their objections. Hence, the order passed is erroneous without any justification.

Counsel for the respondents Mr Adil Minhaj submitted that the appeal was clearly delayed by two years, before it was filed in the Board of Revenue, regarding which, day to day explanation was required and there had been no such explanation given by the petitioners’ side. Hence, the impugned order has been correctly passed, which needs no interference.

The Court relied on Oriental Aroma Chemical Industries Ltd. v. Gujrat Industrial Development Corpn., (2010) 5 SCC 459 wherein it was held “law of limitation is founded on public policy. The legislature does not prescribe limitation with the object of destroying the rights of the parties, but to ensure that they do not resort to dilatory tactics and seek remedy without delay, therefore, the expression sufficient cause must receive a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice.”

The Court further relied on State of Karnataka v. Y. Moideen Kunhi (dead) by LRS., (2009) 13 SCC 192 wherein it was held that “the Court must not be pedantic in deciding delay condonation petition, which should not be dismissed on mere ground of longer delay, if the, explanation offered is bonafide.”

The Court observed that Section 44 of the Act, 1960 provides for limitation of 60 days from the order against which appeal or revision is to be preferred. It is further provided that the provisions of Section 4, 5, 12 and 14 of the Indian Limitation Act shall also apply to the filing of such appeal or application for revision. It was further observed that Section 5 of the Indian Limitation Act provides for extension of prescribed period, in certain cases, where in, the applicant satisfies the Court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal within the prescribed period.

It was further observed that that the petitioners have a claim for allotment of surplus land vested with the State in ceiling proceeding, in their favour on the basis of their entitlement and that despite there being recommendation in their favour, the same was not considered by the Sub-Divisional Officer and also the reasons for delay mentioned in their memo of appeal and application for condonation of delay, which appears to be bonafide.

The Court thus held that “learned Board of Revenue has failed to exercise the jurisdiction and dismissed the application for condonation of delay of the petitioners in mechanical and arbitrary manner.” 

In view of the above, petition was allowed.[Rajendra Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 445, decided on 03-03-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.