To condone the delay, discretion should not be based on the length of the delay but on sufficient and satisfactory explanation. The Hon’ble High Court of Jharkhand before The Hon’ble Acting Chief Justice Pradip Kumar Mohanty and The Hon’ble Justice Ananda Sen held such an opinion regarding the case of M/s Central Coalfields Limited Vs. Sarlu Mahato [I.A. No. 5437 of 2016 IN L.P.A. No. 209 of 2016 ].
The facts of the case were associated with the respondent’s interlocutory application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act, wherein it was prayed to condone the delay of 38 days for filing the instant petition. It was stated that it was not an intentional delay. A certified copy of the order was collected and thereafter the file was scrutinised by the respective department of the appellant company and some legal opinion was obtained. Afterwards, the file was sent to the Finance Director who was pleased to grant approval for filing the instant appeal. The counsel representing the respondent objected to the prayer of condoning the delay of 38 days and preferred to file a counter-affidavit and submitted that the limitation petition was frivolous, misconceived and not maintainable. He submitted that to frustrate the very object of Section 17(b) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the appellant-company preferred LPA.
The case of Maniben Devraj Shah Vs. Municipal Corporation of Brihan Mumbai, (2012) 5 SCC 157 was referred wherein it was held that in cases of delay there might be a lapse on the part of the litigant concerned. However, if the delay was intentionally occasioned by the party to gain time, then the court must lean against the acceptance of the explanation. It was also reported that no proof or document was presented to support that the file was ever moved to place before the Finance Director.
Considering all the facts and submissions The Hon’ble Court held “In view of the aforesaid judgments cited hereinabove, this Court comes to a finding that the appellant-company has committed gross negligence in delaying and processing the matter for preferring the instant Letters Patent Appeal before this Court. leisurely moving the file from one department to another department after knowing the fact that the workman obtained interim order and, therefore, delay of 38 days has deliberately occurred due to latches on the part of the appellant-company. Therefore, this Court is not inclined to condone the delay of 38 days in preferring the present Letters Patent Appeal. Accordingly, I.A. No. 5437 of 2016 stands dismissed.”
Judgment reviewed by Bipasha Kundu