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Section 5: condonation of delay under The Limitation Act, 1963

Background of The Limitation Act, 1963

In India, [1]the legislation which governs and regulates the period within which a suit is supposed to be instituted is known as the Limitation Act, 1963. This legislation enumerates relevant provisions regarding the delay in filing application, suit and appeal under competent jurisdiction and how that delay can be condoned. This legislation extinguishes the remedy to the party and not the right to file delayed documents in court which substantially prevents the legal right from getting defeated.

The limitation Act works on the principle of two legal maxims which can be stated as follows:

  1. Interest republicae ut sit finis litium which means that for the public interest, litigation must come to an end.
  2. Vigilantibus non dormentibus jura subveninet which means that court protect those who are vigilant about their own rights.

Objective And Applicability Of The Limitation Act, 1963

The main objective that the Limitation Act, 1963 serves is to primarily provide a bar upon the time limit within which the aggrieved party can institute a suit, application or appeal in the court. If legislation[2] upon limitation is not enacted, then it would lead to an unconditional and never-ending litigation procedure, as no party would be concerned to refer a timely litigation and the party will file suit for a cause of action that has been executed a long time back and which may have no relevance in the present time.

In Balakrishnan v. M.A. Krishnamurthy[3], the apex court held that the limitation Act, 1963 is primarily based on public policy to fix a time during which the aggrieved party can ask for a legal remedy for the general welfare.

Meaning of Limitation
The term limitation should be literarily interpreted as the term itself states it’s meaning i.e. restriction or the rule or circumstances which are limited. It means that the circumstance under which legal remedy is obtained is barred by time as per the law. The law of limitation[4] specifically prescribes a particular time limit during which an aggrieved party shall approach the court to receive the legal remedy.

As per the law of limitation, no court shall have the jurisdiction to try a suit, or entertain an application or appeal, if it is filed after the prescribed period. This prescribed period has been specifically highlighted under the schedule of the Limitation Act, 1963 with the head “period of limitation”.

Meaning Of Condonation Of Delay
The condonation of delay means the extension of prescribed time in certain cases subject to sufficient cause. The concept of condoning a delay is primarily preferred to the applications and appeal and does not cover the suits. The rationale behind the doctrine not including the suit is that this doctrine is regarded as an exception to the general rule that is Bar of limitation under the legislation and hence, it does not include suit.

The term condonation means an implied pardon of an offense by treating the offender as if it had not been committed[5]. Here, the referred offense is the offense of ignoring the law of period that has been prescribed by the Limitation Act, 1963. The legal representatives of the party pray and humbly requests to the Hon’ble court to pardon their offense of ignoring the law of limitation and proceed as if no offense has been committed by the party.

Condonation of Delay Under The Indian Limitation Act, 1963- Primary Focus On Section 5
Section 5[6] of the Limitation Act, 1963 dealt with the extension of the prescribed period in a certain case. It states that if the appellant or the applicant satisfies the court that he had a sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or making the application within such period, then such an application or appeal shall be admitted after the prescribed period.

In Ram Kali Kuer v. Indradeo Chaudhary[7] it was held that section 5 does not provide that an application in writing must be filed before relief under the said provision can be granted. In Ashok v. Rajendra Bhausaheb Mulak[8] it was held that a bona fide mistake on the part of the councel in pursuing a remedy is a good ground for condonation of delay in approaching the right forum in the right kind of proceedings.

In IOCL v. Subrata Borah Chowlek[9] it was held that though section 5 envisages the explanation of delay to the satisfaction of the court, and makes no distinction between the state and the citizens, nonetheless adoption of a strict standard of proof in case of Government, which is dependent on the actions of its official, who often do not have any personal interest in its transactions may lead to grave miscarriage of justice and therefore, certain amount of latitude is permissible in such cases.

The court should not be lenient enough which would permit the parties to tamper with the legal right so acquired. The condonation of delay is a remedy and not a right to the aggrieved party. Even if the party successfully provides a sufficient cause, the courts have the discretionary power to deal with the application of condonation of delay.

The expression sufficient cause’ must be literarily construed by the court. In G. Ramagowda v. Special Land Acquisition Officer[10] it was held that the expression sufficient cause must receive a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice and generally delays in preferring appeals are inaction or lack of bona fide is imputable to the party seeking condonation of delay.

In Shakuntala Devi Jain v. Kuntal Kumari[11] section 5 gives the court a discretion with respect to jurisdiction is to be exercised in the way in which judicial power and secretion ought to be exercised upon principles which are well understood. The term sufficient cause’ receiving a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice when no negligence nor inaction nr want of bona fides is imputable to the appellant.

General Principles[12] to Be Followed:

In Collector Land Acquisition v. Mst. Katiji[13] The Supreme Court also gave certain principle which binds the Courts to follow while adjudicating and interpreting the issue regarding condonation of delay. These are
  1. Ordinarily, a litigant does not have the right to receive benefit from filing a late appeal.
  2.  If the delay is condoned, then the case must be decided after both parties have been provided with an opportunity of being heard before the court. But if condonation is refused, then there is a chance that a meritorious matter would be thrown out on the basis of technicalities.
  3. It is not required to take a pedantic approach while dealing with an explanation of the delay. The doctrine has to be applied in a rational and pragmatic manner.
  4. Between substantial justice and technical considerations, the substantial justice should be preferred before since the other side cannot contend to have a superior right in injustice being done under a bona fide mistake.

The court should not presume that the delay is occasioned deliberately or on account of mala fide or the applicant is guilty of culpable negligence since no litigant takes recourse to delay the filing of his application.

In State (NCT of Delhi) v. Ahmed Jaan[14] the expression sufficient cause’ should be considered with pragmatism in a justice-oriented approach rather than the technical detection of sufficient cause for explaining every day’s delay

Following are the instances when the delay can be condoned:

  1. Subsequent changes in the law
  2. Illness of the party
  3. Party being a Pardanishin Lady
  4. Imprisonment of a party
  5. The party belongs to a minority group who has insufficient funds
  6. Poverty or paupers
  7. Party is a government servant
  8. The delay is caused due to pendency of writ petition
  9. The party is illiterate

Section 5 applies to all applications except an application under 21 of code civil procedure. Order 21 of the code deals with the law relating to the execution of decrees and orders. To obtain an extension of time by invoking the provisions of section 5 of the Act, the party seeking extension must satisfy the court that he had sufficient cause for not filing the suit, appeal, revision or objections within the prescribed period.

In Ram Lal v. Rewa Coalfields Ltd[15], SC held that there are two important considerations which have to be borne in mind while considering the condonation of delay:

  1. The expiration of the period of limitation gives rise to the legal rights in favor of the decree-holder to treat the decree passed in their favor as binding between the parties. The legal right which is accrued to the decree-holder by lapse of time should not be lightly disturbed.
  2. If sufficient cause for the execution of delay is shown, then the discretion is given to the court to condone the delay and admit the appeal. Even if sufficient cause has been shown, the party is not entitled to the condonation of delay in question as a matter of right. Proof of sufficient cause is a condition precedent in the exercise of the discretionary jurisdiction.

Therefore there is no exhaustive list of grounds on which the delay can be condoned. It has to be decided on the facts and circumstances of each case.

The main objective that the Limitation Act, 1963 serves is to primarily provide a bar upon the time limit within which the aggrieved party can institute a suit, application or appeal in the court. The term limitation’ should be literarily interpreted as the term itself states it’s meaning i.e. restriction or the rule or circumstances which are limited.

Condonation of delay is the remedy provided to the parties if they fail to approach the court during the limit that the law has provided to them. This remedy is exercised at the discretion of the court. There are instances where the court didn’t allow condoning an application for a single day which there are instances where the court condoned the application after years.

Hence, condonation of delay is a remedy where a meritorious case be heard after providing a sufficient cause to the court when the prescribed period has ended.

[3] (1998)7 SCC 123
[6] Sec 5 extension of prescribed period in certain cases- The Limitation Act, 1963, bare act.
[7] AIR 1985 Pat 148
[8] 2012 (11) JT 18: 2012 (10) SCALE 430
[9] (2010) 12 SCALE 209: 2010 (262) ELT 3
[10] AIR 1988 SC 897
[11] AIR 1869 SC 575
[13] AIR 1987 SC 1353
[14] 2008 (10) JT 179 : 2008 (11) SCALE 455
[15] AIR 1962 SC 361

Articles Related to Condonation of Delay

  1. Condonation of Delay and Law of limitation
  2. Condonation of Delay in case Appeals
  3. Practice of Supreme Court In Respect of Condonation of Delay In Filing Special Leave Petition

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