Section 5 Limitation Act| Court Must Not Discriminate Against Government Agencies, Government Has Special Obligation To Perform Duties: High Court of Delhi

Title:  Department of Health v. Kamla Mehndiratta and Ors.
Ordered on:  4th August, 2023

+  CM APPL. Nos. 20019/2019 and 20017/2019 in W.P.(C) 3613/2004 & CM APPL. 20068/2022 & CM APPL. 20069/2022




The Delhi High Court recently declined to condone an inordinate delay of 691 days in an application seeking restoration of a petition filed by a government agency. The Court emphasized that government agencies, despite facing bureaucratic delays, must provide valid reasons for such delays. The case raised questions about the admissibility of the application given the substantial delay and the requirement for sufficient cause to condone delay under Section 5 of the Limitation Act.


The petitioner, a government agency, sought restoration of a petition that had been dismissed in default by the Labour Court. The petition had challenged an order of the Labour Court concerning the appointment and promotion of the respondent, who was initially appointed on a temporary basis and later worked as a regular staff member. The petitioner filed the restoration application after a delay of 691 days.

Analysis and Held

Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, a Single Judge Bench, underscored the significance of providing sufficient cause to condone delay under Section 5 of the Limitation Act. While acknowledging that government agencies may encounter procedural delays, the Court emphasized that unexplained delays of such magnitude could set a precedent for more similar applications.

The Court acknowledged the petitioner’s argument, which cited frequent changes in panel advocates and the resulting delay in restoration application filing. However, the Court expressed dissatisfaction with the petitioner’s failure to act in a timely manner despite ample resources at its disposal.

Justice Singh highlighted the special obligation of government agencies to perform duties diligently and committedly. Condonation of delay should be an exception and not a convenience for government departments. The Court emphasized that the phrase “sufficient cause” is pivotal in seeking extension of the prescribed period, requiring the petitioner to justify the delay convincingly.

In light of these considerations, the Delhi High Court held that the petitioner failed to satisfy the court that there existed a sufficient cause justifying the delay of 691 days in filing the application seeking restoration. Consequently, the Court declined to condone the delay and upheld the dismissal of the application for restoration.

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Written by- Ankit Kaushik

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