condonation of delay supreme court

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6974 of 2013
Basawaraj & Anr.
…Appellants

Versus

The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer …Respondent
WITH

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6975 of 2013
Basawaraj & Ors.
…Appellants

Versus

The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer …Respondent

J U D G M E N T

Dr. B. S. CHAUHAN, J.

1. These appeals have been preferred against the common impugned
judgment and order dated 10.6.2011 passed by the High Court of
Karnataka at Gulbarga in MFA Nos.10765 and 10766 of 2007 by which the
appeals of the appellants under Section 54 of the Land Acquisition
Act, 1894 (hereinafter referred to as `the Act’) have been dismissed
on the ground of limitation.
2. For the purpose of convenience, the facts of C.A. No. 6974 of
2013 are taken, which are as under:
A. The land of the appellants in Survey No.417/2 admeasuring 4
acres and Survey No.418 admeasuring 23 acres, 1 guntha; and 5 acres,
23 gunthas of phut kharab situated in the revenue estate of village
Mahagaon, Tehsil and Distt. Gulbarga was acquired in pursuance of
notification dated 23.4.1994 under Section 4(1) of the Act.
B. After completing the formalities as required under the Act, an
award under Section 11 of the Act was made on 23.10.1997 fixing the
market value of the land at the rate of Rs.11,500/- per acre and
Rs.100/- per acre in respect of phut kharab land.
C. The appellants preferred references under Section 18(1) of the
Act for enhancement of compensation and the reference court vide award
dated 28.2.2002 fixed the market value of the land from Rs.31,500/- to
Rs.70,000/- per acre depending upon the quality and geographical
situation of the land. For phut kharab land, assessment was made at
the rate of Rs.1,000/- per acre.
D. Aggrieved, the appellants filed appeals under Section 54 of the
Act before the High Court on 16.8.2007 with applications for
condonation of delay. The applications for condonation of delay stood
rejected as the High Court did not find any sufficient cause to
condone the delay.
Hence, these appeals.
3. Shri Basava Prabhu S. Patil, learned senior counsel appearing on
behalf of the appellants, has submitted that the High Court committed
an error in not condoning the delay as there was sufficient cause for
not approaching the High Court within time. One of the appellants was
suffering from ailments and it was in itself a good ground for
condonation of delay. The High Court ought to have kept in view that
in a large number of identical matters, huge delays had been condoned
on the condition that the claimant would not be entitled for interest
of the delay period, thus, the High Court itself has given
discriminatory and contradictory verdicts which itself is a good
ground for interference by this Court. The appeals deserve to be
allowed.
4. Per contra, Shri Naveen R. Nath, learned counsel appearing on
behalf of the respondent, has opposed the appeal contending that the
delay can be condoned keeping in mind the provisions contained in
Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 (hereinafter referred to as the
‘Act 1963’). The order of condonation of delay is to be based on
sound legal parameters laid down by this Court. No condition can be
imposed while condoning the delay. The question whether a claimant
should be awarded interest or not would arise at the time of final
hearing of the appeal and such condition cannot be imposed for
admitting a time barred appeal. If the High Court has committed such a
grave error in other cases, that cannot be a ground for interference
by this Court as it is a settled legal proposition that doctrine of
equality does not apply for perpetuating an illegal and erroneous
order. The appeals before the High Court were hopelessly time barred
as the same had been preferred after about 5-1/2 years and no
satisfactory explanation could be furnished in the applications for
condonation of delay for not approaching the court in time. Thus, the
appeals lack merit and are liable to be dismissed.
5. We have considered the rival submissions made by the learned
counsel for the parties and perused the record.
6. Admittedly, there was a delay of 5-1/2 years in filing the said
appeals under Section 54 of the Act before the High Court. The only
explanation offered for approaching the court at such a belated stage
has been that one of the appellants had taken ill.
7. Shri Patil, learned senior counsel, has taken us through a large
number of judgments of the High Court wherein delay had been condoned
without considering the most relevant factor i.e. “sufficient cause”
only on the condition that applicants would be deprived of interest
for the delay period. These kinds of judgments cannot be approved.
The High Court while passing such unwarranted and uncalled for orders,
failed to appreciate that it was deciding the appeals under the Act
and not a writ petition where this kind of order in exceptional
circumstances perhaps could be justified.
8. It is a settled legal proposition that Article 14 of the
Constitution is not meant to perpetuate illegality or fraud, even by
extending the wrong decisions made in other cases. The said provision
does not envisage negative equality but has only a positive aspect.
Thus, if some other similarly situated persons have been granted some
relief/ benefit inadvertently or by mistake, such an order does not
confer any legal right on others to get the same relief as well. If a
wrong is committed in an earlier case, it cannot be perpetuated.
Equality is a trite, which cannot be claimed in illegality and
therefore, cannot be enforced by a citizen or court in a negative
manner. If an illegality and irregularity has been committed in
favour of an individual or a group of individuals or a wrong order has
been passed by a Judicial forum, others cannot invoke the jurisdiction
of the higher or superior court for repeating or multiplying the same
irregularity or illegality or for passing a similarly wrong order. A
wrong order/decision in favour of any particular party does not
entitle any other party to claim benefits on the basis of the wrong
decision. Even otherwise, Article 14 cannot be stretched too far for
otherwise it would make functioning of administration impossible.
(Vide: Chandigarh Administration & Anr. v. Jagjit Singh & Anr., AIR
1995 SC 705, M/s. Anand Button Ltd. v. State of Haryana & Ors., AIR
2005 SC 565; K.K. Bhalla v. State of M.P. & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 898; and
Fuljit Kaur v. State of Punjab, AIR 2010 SC 1937).
9. Sufficient cause is the cause for which defendant could not be
blamed for his absence. The meaning of the word “sufficient” is
“adequate” or “enough”, inasmuch as may be necessary to answer the
purpose intended. Therefore, the word “sufficient” embraces no more
than that which provides a platitude, which when the act done suffices
to accomplish the purpose intended in the facts and circumstances
existing in a case, duly examined from the view point of a reasonable
standard of a cautious man. In this context, “sufficient cause” means
that the party should not have acted in a negligent manner or there
was a want of bona fide on its part in view of the facts and
circumstances of a case or it cannot be alleged that the party has
“not acted diligently” or “remained inactive”. However, the facts and
circumstances of each case must afford sufficient ground to enable the
Court concerned to exercise discretion for the reason that whenever
the Court exercises discretion, it has to be exercised judiciously.
The applicant must satisfy the Court that he was prevented by any
“sufficient cause” from prosecuting his case, and unless a
satisfactory explanation is furnished, the Court should not allow the
application for condonation of delay. The court has to examine whether
the mistake is bona fide or was merely a device to cover an ulterior
purpose. (See: Manindra Land and Building Corporation Ltd. v.
Bhootnath Banerjee & Ors., AIR 1964 SC 1336; Lala Matadin v. A.
Narayanan, AIR 1970 SC 1953; Parimal v.Veena @ Bharti AIR 2011 SC
1150; and Maniben Devraj Shah v. Municipal Corporation of Brihan
Mumbai AIR 2012 SC 1629.)

10. In Arjun Singh v. Mohindra Kumar, AIR 1964 SC 993 this Court
explained the difference between a “good cause” and a “sufficient
cause” and observed that every “sufficient cause” is a good cause and
vice versa. However, if any difference exists it can only be that the
requirement of good cause is complied with on a lesser degree of proof
that that of “sufficient cause”.
11. The expression “sufficient cause” should be given a liberal
interpretation to ensure that substantial justice is done, but only so
long as negligence, inaction or lack of bona fides cannot be imputed
to the party concerned, whether or not sufficient cause has been
furnished, can be decided on the facts of a particular case and no
straitjacket formula is possible. (Vide: Madanlal v. Shyamlal, AIR
2002 SC 100; and Ram Nath Sao @ Ram Nath Sahu & Ors. v. Gobardhan Sao
& Ors., AIR 2002 SC 1201.)
12. It is a settled legal proposition that law of limitation may
harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all
its rigour when the statute so prescribes. The Court has no power to
extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds. “A result
flowing from a statutory provision is never an evil. A Court has no
power to ignore that provision to relieve what it considers a distress
resulting from its operation.” The statutory provision may cause
hardship or inconvenience to a particular party but the Court has no
choice but to enforce it giving full effect to the same. The legal
maxim “dura lex sed lex” which means “the law is hard but it is the
law”, stands attracted in such a situation. It has consistently been
held that, “inconvenience is not” a decisive factor to be considered
while interpreting a statute.
13. The Statute of Limitation is founded on public policy, its aim
being to secure peace in the community, to suppress fraud and perjury,
to quicken diligence and to prevent oppression. It seeks to bury all
acts of the past which have not been agitated unexplainably and have
from lapse of time become stale.

According to Halsbury’s Laws of England, Vol. 24, p. 181:

“330. Policy of Limitation Acts. The courts have expressed at
least three differing reasons supporting the existence of
statutes of limitations namely, (1) that long dormant claims
have more of cruelty than justice in them, (2) that a defendant
might have lost the evidence to disprove a stale claim, and (3)
that persons with good causes of actions should pursue them with
reasonable diligence”.
An unlimited limitation would lead to a sense of insecurity and
uncertainty, and therefore, limitation prevents disturbance or
deprivation of what may have been acquired in equity and justice by
long enjoyment or what may have been lost by a party’s own inaction,
negligence’ or laches.

(See: Popat and Kotecha Property v. State Bank of India Staff Assn.
(2005) 7 SCC 510; Rajendar Singh & Ors. v. Santa Singh & Ors., AIR
1973 SC 2537; and Pundlik Jalam Patil v. Executive Engineer, Jalgaon
Medium Project, (2008) 17 SCC 448).

14. In P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, AIR 2002 SC 1856,
this Court held that judicially engrafting principles of limitation
amounts to legislating and would fly in the face of law laid down by
the Constitution Bench in A. R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak, AIR 1992 SC
1701.
15. The law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that where
a case has been presented in the court beyond limitation, the
applicant has to explain the court as to what was the “sufficient
cause” which means an adequate and enough reason which prevented him
to approach the court within limitation. In case a party is found to
be negligent, or for want of bonafide on his part in the facts and
circumstances of the case, or found to have not acted diligently or
remained inactive, there cannot be a justified ground to condone the
delay. No court could be justified in condoning such an inordinate
delay by imposing any condition whatsoever. The application is to be
decided only within the parameters laid down by this court in regard
to the condonation of delay. In case there was no sufficient cause to
prevent a litigant to approach the court on time condoning the delay
without any justification, putting any condition whatsoever, amounts
to passing an order in violation of the statutory provisions and it
tantamounts to showing utter disregard to the legislature.

16. In view of above, no interference is required with impugned
judgment and order of the High Court. The appeals lack merit and are,
accordingly, dismissed.

….……………………….J. (DR.
B.S. CHAUHAN)

………………………………..J.

(S.A. BOBDE)

NEWDELHI;

August 22, 2013

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Judgement