The Supreme Court observed that liberal approach should be taken regarding delay in filing of appeal

Title: Sheo Raj Singh (Deceased) through Lrs & Ors. v. Union of India & Anr

Decided on: 9th October, 2023

CA 5867/2015

CORAM: Hon’ble Justices Bela M. Trivedi and Dipankar Datta


The Supreme Court observed on 9th October that such an exercise of discretion does, at times, call for a liberal and justice-oriented approach by the Courts, wherein certain leeway could be provided to the State, in its decision regarding a discretionary order of the High Court granting the prayer for condonation of delay.

Facts of the Case

A land purchase case served as the inspiration for the appeal. The records on file reveal that the Reference Court increased the amount of compensation due to landowners. The first respondent attempted to contest this order in an appeal to the High Court. The first respondent requested a delay condonation because the appeal was 479 days past its deadline and so time was restricted

The High Court determined that the first respondent, acting as the appellant, had provided sufficient justification for why it was unable to file the appeal in a timely manner after carefully reviewing the pleadings and other papers on record; as a result, it allowed the appeal pursuant to the impugned order.

Courts analysis and decision

The Supreme Court reiterated that while courts have the authority to excuse delays, such discretion must inevitably depend on the strength of the justification provided and the level of acceptance of the explanation, with the duration of the delay being irrelevant. The courts must distinguish between an ‘explanation’ and an ‘excuse’.

The Court stated, “It is important to bear in mind that we are not hearing an application for condonation of delay but sitting in appeal over a discretionary order of the High Court granting the prayer for condonation of delay. In the case of the former, whether to condone or not would be the only question whereas in the latter, whether there has been proper exercise of discretion in favour of grant of the prayer for condonation would be the question.”

The High Court’s use of discretion must be judged against the liberal and just-minded principles outlined in the various precedents that have been referred to by the court. 

The Court relied on the principles that the law of limitations was established in accordance with public policy, and a single mistake made by a litigant would not be enough to prevent a delay from being tolerated because it would result in an injustice. It is up to the courts to decide if there is sufficient justification for the delay, and if there is, the duration of the delay need not always be a deciding factor. Further said, “We do not consider discretion to have been exercised by the High Court in an arbitrary manner. The order under challenge had to be a clearly wrong order so as to be liable for interference, which it is not.”

The appeal was accordingly dismissed.

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Written by- Aashi Narayan

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