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Delay- "Rip Van Winkles Have a Place in Literature, But Not in Law": Allahabad High Court

Nupur Thapliyal
2 April 2021 11:29 AM GMT
Delay- Rip Van Winkles Have a Place in Literature, But Not in Law: Allahabad High Court
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The Allahabad High Court recently observed that the rule of delay and laches, as a policy of litigative repose, creates certainty in legal relations and curtails fruitless litigation thereby ensuring that the administration of justice is not clogged by pointless litigation. The observation came from a Single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Ajay Bhanot while dismissing a writ petition...

The Allahabad High Court recently observed that the rule of delay and laches, as a policy of litigative repose, creates certainty in legal relations and curtails fruitless litigation thereby ensuring that the administration of justice is not clogged by pointless litigation.

The observation came from a Single Judge Bench comprising of Justice Ajay Bhanot while dismissing a writ petition filed after a delay of more than 4 years, by observing it to be barred by the rule of delay and laches, without there being any satisfactory explanation as to the delay.

The petitioners not being the parties in the proceedings (third parties) assailed an order dated 9th September 2016 wherein they claimed inheritance from one Ram Avtar (deceased) who allegedly executed a will dead in their favour.

"Clearly, the writ petition is barred by delay and laches. The petitioner has approached this Court after more than four years. There is no satisfactory explanation for laches and the delay in filing the writ petition on the part of the petitioner. Further third party rights have been entrenched. The law has long set its face against indolent litigants who approach this Court after a long delay." The Court observed at the outset.

Observations on Rule of Delay and Laches

The Court observed that the while the courts have consistently declined to condone the delay and denied reliefs to litigants who are "guilty of laches", the litigants who are in long slumber and not vigilant about their rights are discouraged by court of law.

Observing that "Rip Van Winkles have a place in literature, but not in law", the Court took reference of a short classic story written in 1819 by American Author, Washington Irving wherein a man awakes 20 years later to a changed world having missed the American Revolution.

"All this is done on the foot of the rule of delay and laches. Statutes of limitation are ordained by the legislature, rule of laches was evolved by the courts. Sources of the law differ but the purpose is congruent. Statutes of limitation and the law of delay and laches are rules of repose. The rule of laches and delay is founded on sound policy and is supported by good authority. The rule of laches and delay is employed by the courts as a tool for efficient administration of justice and a bulwark against abuse of process of courts." The Court observed.

Considering the elements of public policy and practicalities of administration of justice, the Court observed thus:

"While indolent litigants revel in inactivity, the cycle of life moves on. New realities come into existence. Oblivious to the claims of the litigants, parties order their lives and institutions their affairs to the new realities. In case claims filed after inordinate delay are entertained by courts, lives and affairs of such individuals and institutions would be in a disarray for no fault of theirs. Their lives and affairs would be clouded with uncertainty and they would face prospects of long and fruitless litigation."

The Court further was of the view that such inordinate delay entrenched upon the independent third party rights which cannot be dislodged thereby subsequent events further obscures the original claim and alters the real cause.

"The rule of delay and laches by preventing the assertion of belated claims puts to final rest long dormant claims. This policy of litigative repose, creates certainty in legal relations and curtails fruitless litigation. It ensures that the administration of justice is not clogged by pointless litigation." The Court observed.

Title: Ganga Sahay & Ors. v. Deputy Director of Consolidation & 14 Ors.

Order Dated: 18.03.2021

Click Here To Read Order


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