Pundlik Jalam Patil
(D) by LRS Vs. Executive Engineer Jalgaon Medium Project & ANR  INSC
1848 (3 November 2008)
SUPREM E CO URT O F
INDIA RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS Civil Appeal Nos.............of 2008 @ SLP(C)Nos.
21011-21014 of 2007 Pundlik Jalam Patil (D) by LRS. .. Appellant(s) Versus Executive
Engineer Jalgaon Medium Project & ANR .. Respondent(s) DATE : 03/11/2008
This matter was called on for pronouncement of judgment today.
For Appellant(s) Mr.
G.B. Sathe, Adv.
For Respondent(s) Mr.
Sudhanshu S. Choudhari, Adv.
Mr. Naresh Kumar,
Mrs. Arundhati, Adv.
Ms. Asha Gopalan
--- Hon'ble Mr.
Justice B. Sudershan Reddy pronounced the judgment of the Bench comprising
Hon'ble Mr. Justice S.H. Kapadia and his Lordship.
The appeals are
allowed without any order as to costs in terms of the signed judgment which is
placed on the file.
[ S. Thapar ] [ Madhu
Saxena ] PS to Registrar Court Master [ Signed reportable judgment is placed on
the file ] 1 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL
APPEAL NOS. 6414-6417 OF 2008 (Arising out of SLP(c) Nos. 21011-21014 of 2007)
Pundlik Jalam Patil (D) by Lrs. ...Appellant Versus Exe. Eng. Jalgaon Medium
Project ...Respondents & Anr.
B.SUDERSHAN REDDY, J.
appeals, by Special Leave, are directed against the common judgment and order
dated 22/23.08.2007 of the High Court of Bombay, Bench at Aurangabad allowing
the applications filed by the first respondent under Section 5 of the
Limitation Act, 1963 (hereinafter referred to as `the said Act') to condone the
delay of 1724 days in filing appeals against the award passed by the Civil
Judge, Senior Division, Jalgaon in land acquisition cases. The High Court
accepted the explanation offered by the respondent no. 1 herein for the
apparent inordinate delay in filing the appeals against the award of the
facts needed for disposal of these appeals are as under:
lands belonging to the appellants were acquired at the instance of the respondent
for a public purpose under the draft Notification published in Maharashtra
Government Gazette on 06.03.1997. The Special Land Acquisition Officer, Upper
Tapi Project (Hatnur), Jalgaon passed the ward dated 31.3.1999. The appellant
sought for reference of the said award under Section 18 of the Act seeking
enhancement of the compensation. The learned Civil Judge, Senior Division,
Jalgaon disposed of the references vide award/judgment dated 9.3.2000 enhancing
the compensation over and above the amount fixed in the award passed by the
Special Land Acquisition Officer. Be it noted, not only the Special Land
Acquisition Officer but the first respondent herein was also impleaded as a
party respondent in the land acquisition reference case. The Executive Engineer,
Medium Project Division, Jalgaon filed appearance through its counsel but did
not lead any evidence though a written statement opposing the claim of
enhancement was filed in the Reference Court. On 24.03.2000 the Government
Pleader, Jalgaon submitted report and expressed his opinion that it is a fit
case for filing the appeal on the grounds stated in the report itself. The Law
and Judiciary Department took decision on 13.4.2000 to `acquiesce in the
decision' of the Reference Court and communicated the same to all the concerned
including the first respondent herein who is the beneficiary of the
is required to notice that neither the Special Land Acquisition Officer nor the
beneficiary of the acquisition raised little finger and objected to the
decision taken in the matter. The Special Land Acquisition Officer after about
one year vide its letter dated 31.5.2001 addressed the Principal Secretary to
Law & Judiciary Department, Government of Maharashtra for reviewing the
decision taken regarding acquiesce in the decision of Reference Court in the
matter. The government reiterated its decision and expressed its view that
under the rules the Joint Secretary Law & Judiciary Department was
competent to take appropriate decision in the matter on behalf of the
Government and found no reason to review the decision so taken by its Joint
Secretary. The Government accordingly informed not only the Special Land
Acquisition Officer but also the first respondent that more than one year had
elapsed and there were no grounds for condoning the delay in filing the
beneficiary of the acquisition who is contesting the appeals before us did not
take any steps whatsoever after receiving the said communication until
25.2.2005 on which date the appeals were preferred along with the applications
to condone the delay of 1724 days except indulging in some correspondence long
after expiry of limitation. It is required to notice that the beneficiary of
the acquisition made arrangements for the deposit of the decreetal amount to be
deposited by the Special Land Acquisition Officer in the Reference Court in
May, 2001 itself. Some further amounts towards interest etc. were of course not
deposited. The appellant executed the decree and realised the entire money deposited
into the court.
High Court having considered the applications filed under Section 5 of
Limitation Act condoned the inordinate delay of 1724 days in filing the
appeals. Hence these appeals by special leave.
Soli J. Sorabjee, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant
submitted that the approach adopted by the High Court in deciding the
applications is totally erroneous and cannot be sustained. The jurisdiction
vested in the courts to consider whether any sufficient cause has been shown to
condone delay is no doubt discretionary but the discretion must be exercised
judicially and not in any arbitrary manner. It was further contended that the
averments made in the applications filed by the respondent herein seeking
condonation of delay in preferring the appeal is full of patently false
averments. On this ground alone the applications ought to have been dismissed.
There is no explanation whatsoever forthcoming as to why respondent being
beneficiary could not have preferred the appeals if it was aggrieved by the
award passed by the Reference Court.
V.A. Mohta, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the beneficiary of
the acquisition submitted that the High Court in its discretion condoned the
delay in filing the appeal andeven if it is an erroneous one this Court should
not interfere in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 136 of the
Constitution of India. It was submitted that the Reference Court granted
exorbitant amount towards compensation thereby adversely effecting the public
revenue and the said circumstance itself requires consideration of appeals on
merits. The learned senior counsel submitted that the High Court rightly
intervened in order to protect public interest. It was also submitted that
there were no mala fides on part of the beneficiary of acquisition in not
preferring the appeal within the period of limitation.
have given our anxious consideration to the rival submissions made during the
course of hearing of these appeals.
the respondent made incorrect statement in the application seeking condonation
of delay? There is no dispute whatsoever that the respondent being the
beneficiary of the acquisition has been duly impleaded as a party respondent in
the reference cases as is required in law. It not only appeared in the matter
through a properly instructed counsel but also filed its written statement
opposing the claim for enhancement of compensation but did not choose to lead
any evidence whatsoever. In the application filed in the High Court the plea
taken by the respondent is as under:
submits that, although the applicant being Acquiring Body, was arrayed as
opponent in the said reference, the opponent no. 4 herein (Original Opponent
No. 1) S.L.A.O. or his subordinate contested the said reference by filing
written statement. Therefore, this applicant was unaware about the stand taken
by S.L.A.O. as well as the impugned judgment and award."
This averment in the
application on the face of it is totally incorrect. The Law & Judiciary
Department as early as on 13.4.2000 i.e. to say within the period of 15 days
from the date of the award of the Reference Court communicated its decision to
acquiesce in the decision of the Reference Court and communicated the same to
all the concerned including the beneficiary of the acquisition.
It is not the case
that the Executive Engineer did not receive the said communication. Having
received the said communication the respondent did not act in the matter and
initiated any steps for filing the appeals if it was really aggrieved by the
decision of the Reference Court. There is no doubt whatsoever in our mind that
the respondent made totally incorrect statement in the application filed in the
High Court. We express our reservation as to the manner in which a public
authority conducted itself in its anxiety to somehow get the relief from the
court. In our considered opinion incorrect statement made in the application
seeking condonation of delay itself is sufficient to reject the application
without any further inquiry as to whether the averments made in the application
reveal sufficient cause to condone the delay. That a party taking a false stand
to get rid of the bar of limitation should not be encouraged to get any premium
on the falsehood on his part by condoning delay. [See: (1993)1SCC 572].
the High Court properly exercised its discretion? The High Court in its order
having noticed the relevant fact in categorical terms held that there was no
substance in the plea that it was unaware about the judgment and award passed
by the Reference Court since it was a party before the Reference Court and
contested the matter. The High Court also found that the decision of the Joint
Secretary to acquiesce was communicated to the beneficiary of the acquisition
and therefore, its plea about the unawareness of the award and decision taken
by the Government cannot be accepted. The High Court in its order emphatically rejected
the ground raised by the respondent in that regard. In such view of the matter
can it be said that the High Court properly exercised its jurisdiction? It is
true that the power to condone the delay rests with the court in which the
application was filed beyond time and decide whether there is sufficient cause
for condoning the delay and ordinarily the superior court may not interfere
with such discretion even if some error is to be found in the discretion so
exercised by the court but where there is no sufficient cause for condoning the
delay but the delay was condoned, it is a case of discretion not being
exercised judicially and the order becomes vulnerable and susceptible for its
correction by the superior court. The High Court having found that the
respondent in its application made incorrect submission that it had no
knowledge of the award passed by the Reference Court ought to have refused to
exercise its discretion. The High Court exercised its discretion on wrong
principles. In that view of the matter we cannot sustain the exercise of
discretion in the manner done by the High Court.
the respondent had satisfied the court that it had sufficient cause for not
preferring the appeals within the prescribed time? Section 5 of the Limitation
Act provides for extension of prescribed period of limitation in certain cases
and confers jurisdiction upon the court to admit any application or any appeal
after the prescribed period if it is satisfied that the appellant or applicant
had sufficient cause for not preferring such appeal or application within the
the present case the Reference Court passed the award under Section 18 of the
Act on 09.03.2000. On 13.04.2000 itself the Government took decision not to
prefer any appeal against the decree and award passed by the Reference Court
and accordingly communicated its decision to all the concerned including the
respondent. The Government vide its order dated 21.05.2001 refused to review
its decision and accordingly informed the same to the respondent beneficiary of
beneficiary in its application seeking condonation of delay refers to the
letter dated 19.11.2003 issued by the Secretary, Irrigation Department,
directing it to obtain legal advice from an advocate to initiate appropriate
proceedings. The respondent instead of acting in the matter once again had
chosen to address S.L.A.O.vide letter dated 06.02.2004 with a request to
challenge the impugned judgment and award of the Reference Court. The same request
was made by repeating reminders upto 12.07.2004. On 18.05.2004, the respondent
beneficiary addressed a letter to the Collector requesting him to direct the
Land Acquisition Officer to prefer an appeal. This correspondence continued up
to 21.06.2004. Thereafter, the application along with the appeal seeking
condonation of delay was filed on 25th February, 2005.
7 The applicant
having set the machinery in motion cannot abandon it to resume it after number
of years because the authority with whom it had entered into correspondence did
not heed to its request to file appeals. The question is : Can the
respondent/applicant in this case take advantage of its negligence, after lapse
of number of years, of the decision of Government? It knew the exact grounds on
which appeals could have been preferred. The law will presume that it knew of
its right to file appeal against the award. Everybody is presumed to know law.
It was its duty to prefer appeals before the court for consideration which it
did not. There is no explanation forthcoming in this regard. The evidence on
record suggest neglect of its own right for long time in preferring appeals.
The court cannot
enquire into belated and stale claims on the ground of equity. Delay defeats
The court helps those
who are vigilant and `do not slumber over their rights.' The question for
consideration is whether the averments disclosed any sufficient cause to
condone the inordinate delay of 1724 days in filing the appeals.
Ajit Singh Thakur Singh and anr. vs. State of Gujarat [ (1981) 1 SCC 495 ] this
court observed :
is true that a party is entitled to wait until the last day of limitation for
filing an appeal. But when it allows limitation to expire and pleads sufficient
cause for not filing the appeal earlier, the sufficient cause must establish
that because of some event or circumstance arising before limitation expired it
was not possible to file the appeal within time. No event or circumstance
arising after the expiry of limitation can constitute sufficient cause."
This judgment squarely applies to the facts in hand.
respondent beneficiary of the acquisition did not initiate any steps whatsoever
before expiry of limitation and no circumstances are placed before the court that
steps were taken to file appeals but it was not possible to file the appeals
Mohta, learned senior counsel relying on the decision of this court in N.
Balakrishnan vs. M. Krishnamurthy [(1998) 7 SCC 123] submitted that length of
delay is no matter, acceptability of explanation is the only criterion. It was
submitted that if the explanation offered does not smack of mala fides or it is
not put forth as part of dilatory tactics the court must show utmost
consideration to the suitor. The very said decision upon which reliance has
been placed holds that the law of limitation fixes a life span for every legal
remedy for the redress of the legal injury suffered.
Unending period for
launching the remedy may lead to unending uncertainty and consequential
anarchy. The law of Limitation is thus founded on public policy. The decision
does not lay down that a lethargic litigant can leisurely choose his own time
in preferring appeal or application as the case may be. On the other hand, in
the said judgment it is said that court should not forget the opposite party
altogether. It is observed:
"It is enshrined
in the maxim interest reipublicae up sit finis litium ( it is for the general
welfare that a period be put to litigation). Rules of limitation are not meant
to destroy the rights of the parties. They are meant to see that parties do not
resort to dilatory tactics but seek their remedy promptly. The idea is that
every legal remedy must be kept alive for a legislatively fixed period of time."
Ramlal and others vs. Rewa Coalfields Ltd. [ AIR 1962 SC 361], this court held
that: "in construing Section 5 of the Limitation Act, it is relevant to
bear in mind two important considerations. The first consideration is that the
expiration of period of limitation prescribed for making an appeal gives rise
to right in favour of the decree holder to treat the decree as binding between
the parties and this legal right which has accrued to the decree holder by
lapse of time should not be light heartedly disturbed. The other consideration
which cannot be ignored is that if sufficient cause of excusing delay is shown
discretion is given to the court to condone the delay and admit the appeal. `It
is further necessary to emphasis that even if the sufficient cause has been
shown a party is not entitled to the condonation of delay in question as a
matter of right. The proof of a sufficient cause is a condition precedent for
the exercise of the discretionary jurisdiction vested in the court by section
5. This aspect of the matter naturally introduces the consideration of all
relevant facts and it is at this stage the diligence of the party of its bona
fides may fall for consideration." On the facts and in the circumstances,
we are of the opinion that the respondent beneficiary was not diligent in
availing the remedy of appeal. The averments made in the application seeking
condonation of delay in filing appeals do not show any acceptable cause much
less sufficient cause to exercise courts' discretion in its favour.
senior counsel for the respondent also placed reliance upon the decision of
this court in Union of India vs. Sube Ram and others [ (1997) 9 SCC 69]. This
court condoned delay of 3379 days in preferring the appeals by Special Leave.
The said decision is mostly confined to the facts of that case and does not lay
down any law as such requiring us to make any further analysis of the judgment.
based on public interest and involvement of public money:
The learned counsel
for the respondent relied upon the decision of this court in Union of India vs.
Balbir Singh and ors. [2000 (10)SCC 611] in support of his submission that the
courts should be liberal in condoning the delay particularly whenever public
interest and public money is involved. All that the said decision states is
that in the circumstances of the case the court was inclined to condone the
delay, particularly, "because it is in the public interest as public money
is involved." The facts are not evident from the judgment and as to what were
those public interest parameters that were taken into consideration to condone
the delay in filing appeals.
the laws of Limitation are founded on public policy. In Halsbury's Laws of
England,4th Ed., Vol.28,p.266,para 605, the policy of the Limitation Acts is
laid down as follows:
"The courts have
expressed at least three different reasons supporting the existence of statutes
of limitation, namely,(i) that long dormant claims have more of cruelty than
justice in them, (ii) that a defendant might have lost the evidence to dispute
the stated claim, (iii) that persons with good causes of actions should pursue
them with reasonable diligence."
of limitation are sometimes described as `statutes of peace'. An unlimited and
perpetual threat of limitation creates insecurity and uncertainty; some kind of
limitation is essential for public order. This court in Rajender Singh and
others vs. Santa Singh and others [(1973) 2 SCC 705] has observed : "the
object of law of Limitation is to prevent disturbance and deprivation of what
may have been acquired in equity and justice by long enjoyment or what may have
been lost by a party's own inaction, negligence or laches". In Motichand
vs. Munshi [(1969) 2 SCR 824], this court observed that this principle is based
on the maxim "interest republicae ut sit finis litum, that is, the
interest of the State requires that there should be end to litigation but at
the same time law of Limitation are a means to ensuring private justice
suppressing fraud and perjury, quickening diligence and preventing oppression.
It needs no
restatement at our hands that the object for fixing time limit for litigation
is based on public policy fixing a life span for legal remedy for the purpose
of general welfare. They are meant to see that the parties do not resort to
dilatory tactics but avail their legal remedies promptly.
Salmond in his
jurisprudence states that the laws come to the assistance of the vigilant and
not of the sleepy.
interest undoubtedly is a paramount consideration in exercising the courts
discretion wherever conferred upon it by the relevant statutes. Pursuing stale
claims and multiplicity of proceedings in no manner sub-serves public interest.
Prompt and timely payment of compensation to the land loosers facilitating
their rehabilitation/resettlement is equally an integral part of public policy.
Public interest demands that the State or the beneficiary of acquisition, as
the case may be, should not be allowed to indulge in any act to unsettle the
settled legal rights accrued in law by resorting to avoidable litigation unless
the claimants are guilty of deriving benefit which otherwise not entitled in
law in any fraudulent manner. One should not forget the basic fact that what is
acquired is not the land but the livelihood of the land loosers. These public
interest parameters ought to be kept in mind by the courts while exercising the
discretion dealing with the application filed under Section 5 of the Limitation
Act. Dragging the land loosers to courts of law years after the termination of
legal proceedings would not serve any public interest. Settled rights cannot be
lightly interfered with by condoning inordinate delay without there being any
proper explanation of such delay on the ground of involvement of public
revenue. It serves no public interest.
is true when the State and its instrumentalities are the applicants seeking
condonation of delay they may be entitled to certain amount of latitude but the
law of limitation is same for citizen and for Governmental authorities.
Limitation Act does not provide for a different period to the government in
filing appeals or applications as such. It would be a different matter where
the Government makes out a case where public interest was shown to have
suffered owing to acts of fraud or collusion on the part of its officers or
agents and where the officers were clearly at cross purposes with it. In a
given case if any such facts are pleaded or proved they cannot be excluded from
consideration and those factors may go into the judicial verdict. In the
present case, no such facts are pleaded and proved though a feeble attempt by
the learned counsel for the respondent was made to suggest collusion and fraud
but without any basis. We cannot entertain the submission made across the Bar
without there being any proper foundation in the pleadings.
the aforesaid reasons, we hold that the High Court gravely erred and exercised
its discretion to condone the inordinate delay of 1724 days though no
sufficient cause has been shown by the applicants. It is for that reason, we
interfere with the decision of the High Court and set aside the same. The
appeals are accordingly allowed without any orders as to costs.
(B. Sudershan Reddy)