Condonation of delay is a doctrine referred to in the Limitation Act , 1963. The Act shall lay down time-limits for different suits and shall specify the time-limit within which a suit, appeal or application may be brought. The expiry of such a period of time leads to the termination of the remedy of the aggrieved party.
This doctrine constitutes an exception to the limitation period. Accordingly, if the aggrieved party is able to provide a “sufficient cause” for causing a delay in the institution of the suit leading to the expiry of the limitation period, the Court may, with discretion, disregard the delay or “condone the delay” and proceed with the case.
The Limitation Act of 1963 is a law specifying the time limit within which the suit is brought and listing the provisions in the event that the suit is not filed within the time limit prescribed by the Act. The Act extinguishes the party’s redress and not the right to file delayed documents before the Court. Section 2(j) defines the “period of limitation” as the time prescribed by the Schedule to initiate any action, appeal or application and the “period of limitation” as the limitation period determined in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
The time limit has been set out in Schedule 1 of the Act. It’s as follows:
- 3 years time-period of a lawsuit relating to accounts, contracts, suits relating to movable property, recovery of a lawsuit under a contract, etc.
- Twelve years-period for suits relating to the possession of immovable property and 30 years-period for suits relating to the mortgaged property.
- One year in suit for wrongdoing (3 years in some cases for compensation). 30 to 90 days for appeals under the Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Condonation implies that the offences (by ignoring the law of time as provided for in the Act) is implicitly ignored and that the issue is dealt with as if no offences had been committed.
Doctrine of Condonation of Delay
Condonation of Delay finds its reference in Section 5 of the Act which, in some cases, elaborates on extending the specified time. According to the same, any appeal or application may be admitted after the prescribed period if the applicant / appellant is able to satisfy the Court that, within the prescribed period, they have “sufficient cause” for not instituting the appeal / application.
The term ‘sufficient cause’ is not explicitly defined and varies on a case-by – case basis. The Court of Justice has a wide discretion in determining what constitutes a sufficient cause, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. In cases of non-appearance, adjournment or stay of execution of a decree, the cause must be just and appropriate, i.e. “sufficient” otherwise these provisions will be merely a means of incessantly prolonging a dispute. This principle was advocated in the pursuit of justice, but no one should deny justice either.
In case of G. Ramagowda v. Special Land Acquisition Officer, it was held that the liberal interpretation of “sufficient cause” was to achieve considerable fairness. The Court may accept the appeal and accept the delay. Although the Court has discretionary competence, the party is not entitled to condone the delay, even though a reason enough has already been demonstrated.
Exceptions to Section 5
There are some exceptions to the scope of the doctrine::
- The doctrine applies only to criminal cases.
- The doctrine contains no “suit” and covers only appeals and appeals.
- Besides a request under any of the provisions of Order XXI of the Civil Procedure Code of 1908. All applications and appeals are covered by the doctrine.
The Amendment Act 1976 introduced Rule 3A. In the event of an appeal after the end of the prescribed period, the application must accordingly be filed. The request must state sufficient cause to cause an appeal to be delayed. The Privy Council has suggested this rule.
Privy – Council disapproved of the practice of accepting such an appeal under an opinion on limitation, stressing the need to adopt a procedure for resolving the question of limitation before the appeal is admitted.
The Supreme Court, in the case of State of M.P v. Pradeep Kumar, two objects under this rule were observed:
- To inform the appellant that his action is to be taken unless accompanied by a reasonable application, the time limit appeal must be filed.
- The appellant must be informed that he may not be ready because the condonation of delays is an essential prerequisite for hearing his appeal.
General Principles of the Condonation of delay
The Supreme Court, in the case of Collector Land Acquisition v. Mst. Katiji, certain principles have been prescribed which must be followed in the administration of the delay doctrine:
- The litigant normally does not benefit by late lodging an appeal.
- If the Court refuses to condone the delay, a meritorious case can be rejected and the roots of the court defeated. The biggest thing that may occur when the delay is pardoned is that the case has been decided on the merits, that is, a decision based not on a technical and procedural basis but on evidence.
- It must be explained each day’s delay “does not mean that doctrine is applied in an irrational way. It must not be used literally but in a sensible way.
- The former deserves to be favoured on the other side, between a substantive justice and technical considerations, not to claim that injustice is done by reason of a real delay.
- No assumption is made that the delay is intentionally caused. By recourse to delay, the litigant has no profit and is seriously exposed.
Ramlal, Motilal & Chotelal v. Rewa Coalfields Ltd.:In this case, the Court held that while interpreting Section 5 of the Limitation Act, two important considerations had to be taken into account. In the event of the expiry of the prescribed limitation period, there shall be a right in favour of the holder of the decree, according to which the decree may be regarded as binding between the parties. If sufficient cause of delay in the filing of an appeal has been given, it is the discretion of the Court to grant the delay and to admit the appeal.
The fact that the appellant has been misled by the tools of the High Court in the calculation of the limitation period is sufficient cause under Section 5 to condone that delay. The appeal has been granted.
Shakuntala Devi Jain v. Kuntal Kumari: So in this case , the question before the Court of Justice was whether the delay in filing an appeal should be condoned pursuant to Section 5 of the Limitation Act. As stated in this case, Section 5 of the Limitation Act provides for the discretion of the Court, which must be implemented in such a way that judicial power and discretion should be exercised on well-understood ideals. The words “sufficient cause” need to be given liberal construction. The Bench of Three Judges held that, unless there is a lack of good faith in such inaction or negligence as would deprive a party of the protection of Section 5, the application must not be rejected or any delay can not be refused. The appeal was granted, and the delay was condoned.
New India Insurance Co. Ltd. V. Shanti Misra: Hard and fast rules can’t define what constitutes sufficient cause. In this case, the discretion provided by section 5 was not to be defined or implemented in such a way that a discretionary matter was turned into a rigid rule of law.
Lala Mata Din v. A. Narayan: The issue before the court is whether the mistake was a bona fide one or whether it was merely a way of covering an ulterior purpose in this case. It was held that the accused was not to be accused of delaying the filing of an appeal and that it was to be attributed to the advice of his counsel. The accused had nothing underhand to do that. Apart from that, the rule had been misread by the counsel, which meant that the mistake made by the counsel was genuine and unaffected by any unfaithful intent. The delay was condoned and the appeal was rejected.
Kunwar Rajendra Singh v. Rai Rajeshwar Bali and others: In this case, the Judicial Committee pointed out that if a party is not liable for negligence in a particular way because of the wrong advice given by its legal representative, it may still be allowed to plead under Section 5 of the Limitation Act. The Committee also noted that the wrong advice given in a particular case by a legal adviser could be considered to be a sufficient cause. The appeal has been allowed.
The Condonation of Delay and Limitation Law is two effective means of effective litigation and rapid disposal of cases. The Law of Limitation ensures that the case is filed by Vigilantibus non dormentibus jura subsvenitent, within the prescribed period, in order to prevent unnecessary delay. Condition for delay, on the other hand, is a safeguard against law of constraint and prevents certain cases in which the delay in filing a lawsuit is warranted, i.e. it can be supported by “sufficient cause.” There are cases in which the Court has not allowed condonation for one day and cases in which a delay of several years was excused by the Court. It differs from case to case, and the Court has discretionary jurisdiction to determine whether or not the case is appropriate for condonation.
- The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
- The Limitation Act, 1963.
- C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure, EDN. 5 (Lucknow: Eastern Book Co. 2004).
- G. Sanan, Halsbury’s Laws of England, EDN. 4(London: Butterworths).
 1988 AIR 897, 1988 SCR (3) 198, (1988).
 (2000) 7 SCC 372
 1987 AIR 1353, 1987 SCR (2) 387
 1962 AIR 361, 1962 SCR (3) 762
 AIR 1969 SC 575, 1969 1 SCR 1006
 1976 AIR 237, 1976 SCR (2) 266
 1970 AIR 1953, 1970 SCR (2) 90
 (1937) 39 BOMLR 1021