Condonation of delay cannot be arbitrary, there should be reasons to support such condonation: Supreme Court of India

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, the High Court has not exercised the discretion judiciously. Such an observation was made by the Hon’ble Supreme Court before Hon’ble Justice M. R. SHAH & Hon’ble Justice B. V. NAGARATHNA in the matter of Majji Sannemma @ Sanyasirao vs Reddy Sridevi & Ors. [CIVIL APPEAL NO.7696 OF 2021].

The facts that gave rise to the present appeal were that the appellant herein filed a civil suit for a permanent injunction against the respondents herein. The Trial Court dismissed the said suit. The First Appellate Court allowed the suit by quashing and setting aside the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court. The original defendants applied for the certified copy of the judgment and order on 04.02.2017. The same was ready for delivery on 10.03.2017. That after a period of approximately 1011 days, the respondents herein 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. Aggrieved the appellant had preferred the present appeal.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed after perusing the impugned order that “it can be seen that the High Court has not observed that any sufficient cause explaining the huge delay of 1011 days has been made out.” Thereafter going through the averments in the application for the condonation of delay the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that there is no sufficient explanation for the period from 15.03.2017 till the Second Appeal was preferred in the year   2021. 

Additionally, the Hon’ble Supreme Court referred to the case of P.K. Ramachandran Vs. State of Kerala and Anr., (1997) 7 SCC 556 wherein it was held while refusing to condone the delay of 565 days, that in the absence of reasonable, satisfactory, or even appropriate explanation for seeking condonation of delay, the same is not to be condoned lightly. It was further observed that the law of limitation may harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its rigor when the statute so prescribes and the courts have no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds. It was further observed that while exercising discretion for condoning the delay, the court has to exercise discretion judiciously.

Furthermore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court referred to the case of Basawaraj and Anr. Vs.   Special Land Acquisition Officer., (2013) 14 SCC 81 wherein it was observed and held by this Court that the discretion to condone the delay has to be exercised judiciously based on facts and circumstances of each case.   It was further observed that the expression “sufficient cause” cannot be liberally interpreted if negligence, inaction, or lack of bona fides is attributed to the party. It was further observed that even though limitation may harshly affect the rights of a party but it has to be applied with all its rigor when prescribed by statute. It was further observed that in case a party has acted with negligence, lack of bona fides, or there is inaction then there cannot be any justified ground for condoning the delay even by imposing conditions. It was further observed that each application for condonation of delay has to be decided within the framework laid down by this Court. It was further observed that if courts start condoning delay where no sufficient cause is made out by imposing conditions then that would amount to a violation of statutory principles and showing utter disregard to the legislature.

Finally, the Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed the present appeal, and the impugned order of the High Court condoning the delay of 1011 days in filing the second appeal was quashed and set aside. However, there was no order as to cost.

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Judgment Reviewed by: Rohan Kumar Thakur

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