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The courts have the authority to use their discretion to excuse the delay if the justifications are open and compelling: Madras High Court

The courts have the authority to use their discretion to excuse the delay if the justifications are open and compelling is upheld by the Madras High Court in the case of T Lakshmi v. M. Vasantha (C.M.P.(MD) No. 10954 of 2021, S.A.(MD) SR No. 46901 of 2015 and S.A.(MD) SR No. 46901 of 2015) through Justice S.M. Subramaniam.

FACTS OF THE CASE

As the petitioner was elderly and ill, he or she was unable to travel to Madurai and set up the appeal filing. According to the petitioner’s attorney, the appeal was submitted to the court as early as July 31, 2008, however due to the return of the papers, it took a long time to locate the appeal papers in the court’s office.

JUDGMENT

There was no evidence to support the claim that the appeal was filed on July 31, 2008, according to the whole case bundle. The High Court ruled that simply attaching the Madras High Court seal is insufficient because the filing of the papers must also be noted in the relevant register kept by the Registry. Court said that unacceptable delays cannot be tolerated on a regular basis. The law of limitations is important.

In further explanation, the High Court stated that although the Courts have the option to excuse a delay, this does not automatically imply that a lengthy wait in filing a lawsuit or appealing a decision should be excused. However, the courts have the authority to use their discretion to excuse the delay if the justifications are open and compelling.

Costs cannot be expressed in terms of the number of delay days. It does not follow the arithmetic rule that a lengthy delay must be justified by high expenses while a short delay must be justified by low costs. This Court is unwilling to accept the idea of charging high fees for tolerating excessive delay by breaking the law of limitations, which is substantive and also the rules of the law that must be observed, because such a notion is against public policy.

The High Court concluded by saying that the courts may be tolerant if the delay is less than three months or up to five or six months, but not if the wait is longer.

As a result, the Court declined to excuse the 2575-day delay in submitting the appeal stating that the power of discretion is to be used to lessen any injustice done to the plaintiffs.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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