Condoning Delay Without Sufficient Cause Amounts To Violation Of Statutory Principles – SC Dismisses Appeal Filed With Delay Of 1011 Days
A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna while holding that the High Court erred in condoning the huge delay of 1011 days in preferring Second Appeal has held that the condoning the delay without a sufficient cause amounts to a breach of statutory principles and disregard to the legislature.
Counsel Mr. Siddhartha Srivastava appeared for Respondents 1 and 2 before the Court.
The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal assailing the judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court which had condoned the delay of 1011 days in preferring the Second Appeal by the Respondent.
In this case, the Appellant-Original Plaintiff had filed a Civil Suit for a permanent injunction against the Respondents – Original Defendants. The Trial Court had dismissed the suit. The First Appellant Court, however, allowed the suit by quashing and setting aside the judgment of the Trial Court. The Original Defendants-Respondents preferred the Second Appeal after a period of 1011 days before the High Court.
The Appellant contended before the Supreme Court that no sufficient cause was shown by the Respondents before the High Court explaining the delay of 1011 days in preferring the Second Appeal.
Further, it was argued that the High Court while condoning the delay did not observe that sufficient cause was shown explaining the delay of 1011 days in preferring the Second Appeal.
While the Respondents supported the impugned order of the HC allowing the application for condonation of delay and condoning the delay in preferring the appeal.
The Apex Court noted that the finding of the High Court that if the delay is condoned no prejudice would be caused to the Appellant as the appeal would be heard on merits. In this context, the SC noted –
"From the averments in the application for condonation of delay, we are of the opinion that it was a case of a gross negligence and/or want of due diligence on the part of the respondents herein – appellants before the High Court in filing such a belated appeal."
The Court also held that there was no sufficient cause for the period till the Second Appeal was filed. Hence, the period of delay till the Second Appeal was preferred in 2021 was not at all explained. Therefore, the HC did not exercise discretion judiciously.
The Bench further placed reliance on P.K. Ramachandran Vs. State of Kerala and Anr., where it was held that in the absence of reasonable, satisfactory, or even appropriate explanation for seeking condonation of delay, the same is not to be condoned lightly. Furthermore, it was observed, that the law of limitation may harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its rigour when the statute so prescribes and the courts have no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds.
While referring to several other precedents, the Court opined that no explanation much less a satisfactory or sufficient explanation was offered by the Respondents before the High Court for condoning the delay of 1011 days in preferring the Second Appeal.
The Court further observed, "The High Court is not at all justified in exercising its discretion to condone such a huge delay. The High Court has not exercised the discretion judiciously. The reasoning given by the High Court while condoning huge delay of 1011 days is not germane."
Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside and quashed the impugned order of the High Court and dismissed the Second Appeal preferred by the Respondents on the ground of delay.