Collector Land Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr Vs. Mst. Katiji & Ors
 INSC 52 (19
M.P. (J) Thakkar, M.P. (J) Ray, B.C. (J)
1987 AIR 1353 1987 SCR (2) 387 1987 SCC (2) 107 JT 1987 (1) 537 1987 SCALE
INFO : R 1988 SC 897 (7)
Limitation Act, 1963; s.5--Condoning delay in filing appeal--Existence of
'sufficient cause'--Determination of--State seeking condonation of delay----To
be treated equitably.
appeal by the State. against a decision enhancing compensation in respect of
acquisition of lands for a public purpose, raising important questions as
regards principles of valuation, was dismissed by the High Court as time
barred, being four days beyond time, by rejecting an application for condonation
State appealed to this Court by special leave.
the appeal, HLED: 1.1 The expression 'sufficient cause' employed by the
legislature in s.5 of the Indian Limitation Act, 1963 is adequately elastic to
enable the Courts to do substantial justice to parties by disposing of matters
on merits. [388E-F]
The State which represents the collective cause of the community. does not
deserve a litigant-non-grata status. The doctrine of equality before law
demands that all litigants, including the State as a litigant, are accorded the
same treatment and the law is administered in an equitable manner. The Courts,
therefore, have to be informed with the spirit and philosophy of the provision
in the course of the interpretation of the expression 'sufficient cause'. So
also the same approach has to be evidenced in its application to matters at
hand with the end in view to do even handed justice on merits in preference to
the approach which scuttles a decision on merits. [390B-C]
the instant case, sufficient cause exists for delay in instituting the appeal
in the High Court. Delay is, therefore, condoned. The matter is remitted to the
High Court for disposal on merits. [390C-D]
APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 460 of 1987.
From the Judgment and Order dated 14.4. 1986 of the Jammu & and Kashmir High Court in Civil 1st Appeal No.
54 of 1985.
Adv. General and S.K. Bhattacharya for the Appellants.
and Shakeel Ahmed for the Respondents.
Order of the Court was delivered by THAKKAR, J. To condone, or not to condone,
is not the only question. Whether or not to apply the same standard in applying
the "sufficient cause" test to all the litigants regardless of their
personality in the said context is another.
appeal preferred by the State of Jammu & Kashmir arising out of a decision
enhancing compensation in respect of acquisition of lands for a public purpose
to the extent of nearly 14 lakhs rupees by making an upward revision of the order
of 800% (from Rs. 1000 per kanal to Rs.8000 per kanal) which also raised
important questions as regards principles of valuation was dismissed as time
barred being 4 days beyond time by rejecting an application for condonation of
delay. Hence this appeal by special leave.
legislature has conferred the power to condone delay by enacting Section 51 of
the Indian Limitation Act of 1963 in order to enable the Courts to do
substantial justice to parties by disposing of matters on 'merits'. The
expression "sufficient cause" employed by the legislature is
adequately elastic to enable the courts to apply the law in a meaningful manner
which subserves the ends of justice--that being the life-purpose for the
existence of the institution of Courts. It is common knowledge that this Court
has been making a justifiably liberal approach in matters instituted in this
Court. But the message does not appear to have percolated down to all the other
Courts in the hierarchy.
such a liberal approach is adopted on principle as it is realized that:" Any
appeal or any application, other than an application under any of the
provisions of Order XXI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. may be admitted
after the prescribed period if the appellant or the applicant satisfies the
court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or making the
application within such period." 389
Ordinarily a litigant does not stand to benefit by lodging an appeal late.
Refusing to condone delay can result in a meritorious matter being thrown out
at the very threshold and cause of justice being defeated. As against this when
delay is condoned the highest that can happen is that a cause would be decided
on merits after hearing the parties.
"Every day's delay must be explained" does not mean that a pedantic
approach should be made. Why not every hour's delay, every second's delay? The
doctrine must be applied in a rational common sense pragmatic manner.
When substantial justice and technical considerations are pitted against each
other, cause of substantial justice deserves to be preferred for the other side
cannot claim to have vested right in injustice being done because of a
There is no presumption that delay is occasioned deliberately, or on account of
culpable negligence, or on account of mala fides. A litigant does not stand to
benefit by resorting to delay. In fact he runs a serious risk.
must be grasped that judiciary is respected not on account of its power to
legalize injustice on technical grounds but because it is capable of removing
injustice and is expected to do so.
a justice-oriented approach from this perspective, there was sufficient cause
for condoning the delay in the institution of the appeal. The fact that it was
the 'State' which was seeking condonation and not a private party was
altogether irrelevant. The doctrine of equality before law demands that all
litigants, including the State as a litigant, are accorded the same treatment
and the law is administered in an even handed manner. There is no warrant for
according a stepmotherly treatment when the 'State' is the applicant praying
for condonation of delay. In fact experience shows that on account of an
impersonal machinary (no one in charge of the matter is directly hit or hurt by
the judgment sought to be subjected to appeal) and the in390 herited
bureaucratic methodology imbued with the note-making, file pushing, and
passing-on-the-buck ethos, delay on its part is less difficult to understand
though more difficult to approve. In any event, the State which represents the
collective cause of the community, does not deserve a litigant-non-grata
status. The Courts therefore have to be informed with the spirit and philosophy
of the provision in the course of the interpretation of the expression
"sufficient cause". So also the same approach has to be evidenced in
its application to matters at hand with the end in view to do even handed
justice on mertis in preference to the approach which scuttles a decision on merits.
Turning to the facts of the matter giving rise to the present appeal, we are
satisfied that sufficient cause exists for the delay.
order of the High Court dismissing the appeal before it as time barred, is
therefore. set aside. Delay is condoned.
the matter is remitted to the High Court. The High Court will now dispose of
the appeal on merits after affording reasonable opportunity of hearing to both
is allowed accordingly. No costs.