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Limitation Period Cannot Be Extended On Equitable Grounds: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
1 March 2022 4:13 AM GMT
Limitation Period Cannot Be Extended On Equitable Grounds: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that an application for condonation of delay has to be dismissed if it is found that the delay is not properly explained and that the period of limitation cannot be extended on equitable ground.Otherwise, it would be giving a premium to a person who fails to explain the delay and who is guilty of delay and laches, the bench comprising Justices MR Shah and BV...

The Supreme Court observed that an application for condonation of delay has to be dismissed if it is found that the delay is not properly explained and that the period of limitation cannot be extended on equitable ground.

Otherwise, it would be giving a premium to a person who fails to explain the delay and who is guilty of delay and laches, the bench comprising Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna said.

In this case, the trial Court condoned the huge delay of 467 days in preferring the application filed by defendants for setting aside the ex-parte decree. The Trial Court found that there are no merits in the application but still condoned the delay by observing that an opportunity of fair trial should be given to both the parties to put-forth their case on merits. It noted that no prejudice will be caused to the plaintiff and, therefore, the delay can be condoned by compensating the plaintiff by way of heavy costs. Allowing the Revision Petition filed by the plaintiffs, the Madras High Court set aside the Trial Court order.

"Once it was found even by the learned trial Court that delay has not been properly explained and even there are no merits in the application for condonation of delay, thereafter, the matter should rest there and the condonation of delay application was required to be dismissed. The approach adopted by the learned trial Court that, even after finding that, in absence of any material evidence it cannot be said that the delay has been explained and that there are no merits in the application, still to condone the delay would be giving a premium to a person who fails to explain the delay and who is guilty of delay and laches. ", the Apex Court bench observed while agreeing with the High Court judgment.

The bench referred to the judgment in Bahiru Goverdhane v. Land Acquisition Officer, reported in (2013) 10 SCC 765  in which it was held 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.

"The Court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds. 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 court said.

The court also noted the following observations made in Maniben Devraj Shah v. Municipal Corporation of Brihan Mumbai, (2012) 5 SCC 157, while dismissing the SLP: 

"The law of limitation is founded on public policy. The limitation Act, 1963 has not been enacted with the object of destroying the rights of the parties but to ensure that they approach the court for vindication of their rights without unreasonable delay. The idea underlying the concept of limitation is that every remedy should remain alive only till the expiry of the period fixed by the legislature. At the same time, the courts are empowered to condone the delay provided that sufficient cause is shown by the applicant for not availing the remedy within the prescribed period of limitation."

Headnotes

Limitation Act, 1963 - Section 5 - Delay Condonation - When it is found that the delay is not properly explained, the application to condone delay is required to be dismissed - he Court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds - Still to condone the delay would be giving a premium to a person who fails to explain the delay and who is guilty of delay and laches. (Para 5)

Summary: SLP Against High Court order which set aside the Trial Court order condoning delay of 465 days even after finding that delay has not been properly explained - Dismissed - Once it was found even by the trial Court that delay has not been properly explained and even there are no merits in the application for condonation of delay, thereafter, the matter should rest there and the condonation of delay application was required to be dismissed.

Case: Lingeswaran vs Thirunagalingam | SLP 2054-2055/2022 | 25 Feb 2022

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 227

Coram: Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna

Counsel: Adv K.V. Sriwas Narayanan , AOR K.V. Vijayakumar, AOR 


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