1. Nikhil Prasad Singh, 4th Sem, BALLB (Hons.), National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi
2. Himanshu Prasad Singh, 6th Sem, BLS. LLB, Government Law College, Mumbai
The maxims “Interest Reipublicae Ut Sit Finis Litium” (in the interest of the state, litigation should be limited) and “vigilantibus non dormientibus Jura subveniunt” (the law will only support those who are cautious with their rights, not those who sleep on it) serve as the cornerstone of the law of limitations. The statutory window of time for filing a lawsuit or initiating a judicial procedure is set by the statute of limitations. The Limitation will forbid filing a case if the allocated time has past. It implies that a lawsuit filed with the Court after the window for filing a lawsuit has closed will have its options limited.
The law of limitations establishes an expiration date for when a right can be exercised in court. The Act’s timetable includes the time frame for a number of lawsuits. This Act’s primary goal is to avoid lengthy courtroom battles and swift case resolutions that result in successful lawsuits. In accordance with the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the Limitation Act’s rules will now be applicable to all of India. The Limitation Act of 1963 has sections that deal with things like forgiving delays and computing the length of the limitation period.
The Supreme Court made it clear in BK Education Services Private Limited v. Parag Gupta and Associates that the law of limitations will be implemented retrospectively because it is procedural in character[i]. In Thirumalai Chemicals Ltd v. Union of India, the Supreme Court noted that laws of limitations are retrospective insofar as they apply to all judicial actions initiated after their operations for upholding earlier-accrued causes of action[ii].
Principles For Extension of Time Under Section 5
Condonation of delay means a longer duration of time is granted if there is a good enough reason for it. Section 5 discusses the possibility of extending the deadline in specific circumstances[iii]. It states that an appeal or application may be filed after the deadline if the petitioner or applicant can demonstrate to the judge that he had a good reason for delaying filing it within that time frame. Additionally, this Section states that any claim submitted in accordance with Order XXI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908). According to the clarification, the petitioner or appellant has been deceived by any order, practice, or decision of the High Court when determining or calculating the time required. It will qualify as an adequate reason for purposes of this section.
The court will, however, deny the application, lawsuit, or appeal if a party fails to present any convincing justification for the delay. According to the court’s ruling in State of Kerala v. K. T. Shaduli Yussuff, the existence of adequate reason for a delay’s condonation depends on the specifics of each case[iv].
The Supreme Court also provided some guidelines that courts must abide by when deciding and reading the matter of accepting delays in the case of Collector Land Acquisition v. Ms. Katij.[v] These guidelines have been listed as follows:
- An applicant typically does not have the right to profit from a late appeal submission.
- If the delay is condoned, the matter must be settled after both sides have had a chance to be addressed in court. However, if condonation is declined, there is a possibility that a deserving case will be dismissed due to details.
- When discussing a reason for the delay, it is not necessary to be overly formal. It is necessary to apply the theory in a logical and practical way.
- When choosing between substantial justice and technical factors, substantial justice should come first because the other party cannot argue that they have greater rights when an injustice is committed due to a genuine error.
Since no party resorts to delaying the submission of his application, the court should not assume that the delay was caused on purpose, with malice aforethought, or by the applicant’s culpable negligent conduct.
Literal Interpretation Of Sufficient Cause
The need and use of the limitation act has not been disputed. The statute of limitation is meant for creating peace and justice because it functions on the presumption that a right that has not been exercised or utilized for a long period of time then that right does not exist. Another reason for the act is to resolve the issue of keeping the rights of the parties in a flux and uncertainty.
The statutes of limitation work on two legal maxims
- It is in the interest of the state to put an end to all litigation (interest reipublicaeut sit finislitium)
- The law helps the vigilant and not those who sleep over their rights (vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt)
However, Section 5 of the Limitations Act allows the court to condone a delay in submitting an appeal or application if the applicant can persuade the court that there was a good reason why they were unable to do so before the deadline. While considering an application for the consideration of condonation of delay, the court must keep the following considerations-
- The court should listen to the matter on merits instead of throwing the matter out on the mere ground of delay.
- The court must also consider the fact that the non-filing of the appeal or application has created a right in the favor of the other party, which cannot be taken lightly.
A detailed discussion on the determination of sufficient cause has been made in the case of Brahampal @ Sammay and Anr. v. National Insurance Company[vi] where the parents of the deceased, aged 26 had an accident on 15.04.2011 due to a truck parked negligently without any backlight indication and died due to injuries while on the way to the hospital.
The parents of the deceased (the appellant) file a petition for seeking compensation of Rs 10,00,000 before the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal. The tribunal as per their order 07.02.2014, awarded a total sum of Rs 2.24 lakhs along with interest @ 6% p.a. The appellants being aggrieved approached the High Court seeking for enhancement of the compensation however, such an application was filed with a 45-day delay.
To explain such delay the appellants approached the High Court by filing a condonation of delay application seeking the court to condone the delay on the ground that the wife of the appellant of the wife was sick and this prevented the appellant to appeal in time.
The high court dismissed this application and thus, the appellants approached the Supreme Court via a special leave petition. In this case the court raised the question whether the condonation of delay should be relaxed since the law in question is a beneficial legislation which is remedial in nature. The court in this case examined Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act which provided the limitation of 90 days to approach the high court for entertaining an application for appeal.[vii] The court in this situation mentioned that the second proviso within the statute used the word ‘may’ which indicates that the high court had the discretionary powers to entertain the appeal beyond a period of 90 days.
Moreover, the court mentioned that an act like the Motor Vehicles Act which is a beneficial legislation whose goal is to give compensation to the victims and secure the claims, the interpretation should be liberal and not be strict like commercial claims. The same has also been held in Bombay Anand Bhavan Restaurant v. Deputy Director, Employees State Insurance Corporation where the court while deciding in the purview of The Employees’ State Insurance Act, stated that The Employees’ State Insurance Act is a social security legislation, and the courts must not take a strict interpretation as it would defeat the purpose of the statute and rather promote a liberal construction.[viii]
The Supreme Court further ruled that even though the law gives it authority to condone the delay, it also puts the onus on the party in question to demonstrate that he had a legitimate reason to delay. To establish such sufficient cause the courts must take into account the conduct of the parties even while taking a liberal approach whether the delay was due to negligence or lackadaisical attitude or because of a legal disability.
The principle of sufficient cause has also been examined in-
Perumon Bhagvathy Devaswom Perinadu Village v. Bhargavi Amma (Dead) by LRs where the court held that the words ‘sufficient cause’ while making an application for condoning the delay should receive a liberal construction where the delay is not a result of delaying tactics or malafide intentions of the parties but rather on a bona fide legal disability[ix].
In the case of Balwant Singh (Dead) v. Jagdish Singh, the court determined that even though the word “sufficient cause” had a broad meaning, it should be weighed with the rationality principle[x]. It is important to remember that once a right has been granted to one party, it is unreasonable to revoke it at the request of the petitioner, particularly if the delay was caused by the other party’s silence.
A contrary view to the Brahmpal case is given in P Radha Bai v. P Ashok Kumar case where the court had to interpret Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act to allow an application for the condonation of delay[xi]. Here the court delved into the purpose of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act while examining the provision under section 34[xii]. Here the court held that since the purpose of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act was to provide for a speedy remedy, as provided under The Statements of Objects and Reasons, the finality of the awards is a crucial need mentioned under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and for such finality it is important to ensure that there exists a definitive time limit for challenging the Arbitral award. Therefore, if the finality of the award is in limbo, then this would defeat the purpose of having an alternative dispute resolution system as envisioned under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
Therefore, it is feasible to conclude that the statute of limitations and the condonation of delay are two useful tools in the quick settlement of cases without resorting to long suits. The law of limitations sets a timetable for both the beginning of a lawsuit and the availability of a simple remedy, preventing cases from being created out of thin air. The law of condonation of delay maintains the idea of natural justice while also stating that different individuals may have unique issues, making it possible for one phrase or one rule to not apply equally to all of them. It is crucial to hear them, consider whether they meet the standards of the rule, and then decide whether they deserve a second opportunity. The court should employ its discretions in furtherance of justice but these discretions also should not supersede the concept that “Justice delayed is justice denied”.
[i] BK Education Services Private Limited v. Parag Gupta and Associates, (2019) 11 SCC 633.
[ii] Thirumalai Chemicals Ltd v. Union of India, (2011) 6 SCC 739.
[iii] The Limitations Act, 1963, Section 5.
[iv] State of Kerala v. K. T. ShaduliYussuff,(1977) 39 STC 478 (SC).
[v] Collector Land Acquisition v. Mst. Katij, AIR 1987 SC 1353.
[vi] Brahampal @ Sammay and Anr v. National Insurance Company, Civil Appeal No. 2926 of 2020
[vii] The Motor vehicles Act, 1988, S. 173, Act No. 59 of 1988, Acts of Parliament, 1988 (India).
[viii] Bombay Anand Bhavan Restaurant v. Deputy Director, Employees State Insurance Corporation.,(2009) 9
[ix] Perumon Bhagvathy Devaswom, Perinadu Village v. Bhargavi Amma (Dead) by LRs, (2008) 8 SCC 321
[x] Balwant Singh (Dead) v. Jagdish Singh, (2010) 8 SCC 685
[xi] P. Radha Bai v. P. Ashok Kumar, (2019) 13 SCC 445
[xii] The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, S. 34, Act No. 26 of 1996, Acts of Parliament, 1996 (India)