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Friday, August 23, 2013

Delay of 5 1/2 years - denied = Aggrieved, the appellants filed appeals under Section 54 of the Act before the High Court on 16.8.2007 with applications for condonation of delay. The applications for condonation of delay stood rejected as the High Court did not find any sufficient cause to condone the delay. Hence, these appeals.= Admittedly, there was a delay of 5-1/2 years in filing the said appeals under Section 54 of the Act before the High Court. The only explanation offered for approaching the court at such a belated stage has been that one of the appellants had taken ill.= The law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that where a case has been presented in the court beyond limitation, the applicant has to explain the court as to what was the “sufficient cause” which means an adequate and enough reason which prevented him to approach the court within limitation. In case a party is found to be negligent, or for want of bonafide on his part in the facts and circumstances of the case, or found to have not acted diligently or remained inactive, there cannot be a justified ground to condone the delay. No court could be justified in condoning such an inordinate delay by imposing any condition whatsoever. The application is to be decided only within the parameters laid down by this court in regard to the condonation of delay. In case there was no sufficient cause to prevent a litigant to approach the court on time condoning the delay without any justification, putting any condition whatsoever, amounts to passing an order in violation of the statutory provisions and it tantamounts to showing utter disregard to the legislature. 16. In view of above, no interference is required with impugned judgment and order of the High Court. The appeals lack merit and are, accordingly, dismissed.

                       published in   http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40680                                     
  REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6974 of 2013




      Basawaraj & Anr.
      …Appellants

                                   Versus

      The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer                          …Respondent




                                    WITH

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6975 of 2013




      Basawaraj & Ors.
      …Appellants

                                   Versus

      The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer                          …Respondent







                               J U D G M E N T

      Dr. B. S. CHAUHAN, J.



      1.    These appeals have been preferred against  the  common  impugned
      judgment and order  dated  10.6.2011  passed  by  the  High  Court  of
      Karnataka at Gulbarga in MFA Nos.10765 and 10766 of 2007 by which  the
      appeals of the appellants under Section 54  of  the  Land  Acquisition
      Act, 1894 (hereinafter referred to as `the Act’) have  been  dismissed
      on the ground of limitation.


      2.    For the purpose of convenience, the facts of C.A.  No.  6974  of
      2013 are taken, which are as under:
      A.    The land of the appellants  in  Survey  No.417/2  admeasuring  4
      acres and Survey No.418 admeasuring 23 acres, 1 guntha; and  5  acres,
      23 gunthas of phut kharab situated in the revenue  estate  of  village
      Mahagaon, Tehsil and Distt. Gulbarga  was  acquired  in  pursuance  of
      notification dated 23.4.1994 under Section 4(1) of the Act.
      B.    After completing the formalities as required under the  Act,  an
      award under Section 11 of the Act was made on  23.10.1997  fixing  the
      market value of the land at the  rate  of  Rs.11,500/-  per  acre  and
      Rs.100/- per acre in respect of phut kharab land.
      C.    The appellants preferred references under Section 18(1)  of  the
      Act for enhancement of compensation and the reference court vide award
      dated 28.2.2002 fixed the market value of the land from Rs.31,500/- to
      Rs.70,000/- per acre  depending  upon  the  quality  and  geographical
      situation of the land.  For phut kharab land, assessment was  made  at
      the rate of Rs.1,000/- per acre.
      D.    Aggrieved, the appellants filed appeals under Section 54 of  the
      Act  before  the  High  Court  on  16.8.2007  with  applications   for
      condonation of delay.  The applications for condonation of delay stood
      rejected as the High Court  did  not  find  any  sufficient  cause  to
      condone the delay.
            Hence, these appeals.


      3.    Shri Basava Prabhu S. Patil, learned senior counsel appearing on
      behalf of the appellants, has submitted that the High Court  committed
      an error in not condoning the delay as there was sufficient cause  for
      not approaching the High Court within time.  One of the appellants was
      suffering from ailments and  it  was  in  itself  a  good  ground  for
      condonation of delay.  The High Court ought to have kept in view  that
      in a large number of identical matters, huge delays had been  condoned
      on the condition that the claimant would not be entitled for  interest
      of  the  delay  period,  thus,  the  High  Court  itself   has   given
      discriminatory and contradictory  verdicts  which  itself  is  a  good
      ground for interference by this Court.   The  appeals  deserve  to  be
      allowed.


      4.    Per contra, Shri Naveen R. Nath, learned  counsel  appearing  on
      behalf of the respondent, has opposed the appeal contending  that  the
      delay can be condoned keeping in  mind  the  provisions  contained  in
      Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 (hereinafter referred to as  the
      ‘Act 1963’).  The order of condonation of delay  is  to  be  based  on
      sound legal parameters laid down by this Court.  No condition  can  be
      imposed while condoning the delay.  The question  whether  a  claimant
      should be awarded interest or not would arise at  the  time  of  final
      hearing of the  appeal  and  such  condition  cannot  be  imposed  for
      admitting a time barred appeal. If the High Court has committed such a
      grave error in other cases, that cannot be a ground  for  interference
      by this Court as it is a settled legal proposition  that  doctrine  of
      equality does not apply for  perpetuating  an  illegal  and  erroneous
      order.  The appeals before the High Court were hopelessly time  barred
      as the same  had  been  preferred  after  about  5-1/2  years  and  no
      satisfactory explanation could be furnished in  the  applications  for
      condonation of delay for not approaching the court in time.  Thus, the
      appeals lack merit and are liable to be dismissed.


      5.    We have considered the rival submissions  made  by  the  learned
      counsel for the parties and perused the record.


      6.    Admittedly, there was a delay of 5-1/2 years in filing the  said
      appeals under Section 54 of the Act before the High  Court.  The  only
      explanation offered for approaching the court at such a belated  stage
      has been that one of the appellants had taken ill.


      7.    Shri Patil, learned senior counsel, has taken us through a large
      number of judgments of the High Court wherein delay had been  condoned
      without considering the most relevant factor i.e.  “sufficient  cause”
      only on the condition that applicants would be  deprived  of  interest
      for the delay period.  These kinds of judgments  cannot  be  approved.
      The High Court while passing such unwarranted and uncalled for orders,
      failed to appreciate that it was deciding the appeals  under  the  Act
      and not a writ petition  where  this  kind  of  order  in  exceptional
      circumstances perhaps could be justified.


      8.    It is a  settled  legal  proposition  that  Article  14  of  the
      Constitution is not meant to perpetuate illegality or fraud,  even  by
      extending the wrong decisions made in other cases.  The said provision
      does not envisage negative equality but has only  a  positive  aspect.
      Thus, if some other similarly situated persons have been granted  some
      relief/ benefit inadvertently or by mistake, such an  order  does  not
      confer any legal right on others to get the same relief as well.  If a
      wrong is committed in an  earlier  case,  it  cannot  be  perpetuated.
      Equality is a  trite,  which  cannot  be  claimed  in  illegality  and
      therefore, cannot be enforced by a citizen  or  court  in  a  negative
      manner.  If an illegality  and  irregularity  has  been  committed  in
      favour of an individual or a group of individuals or a wrong order has
      been passed by a Judicial forum, others cannot invoke the jurisdiction
      of the higher or superior court for repeating or multiplying the  same
      irregularity or illegality or for passing a similarly wrong order.   A
      wrong order/decision in  favour  of  any  particular  party  does  not
      entitle any other party to claim benefits on the basis  of  the  wrong
      decision.  Even otherwise, Article 14 cannot be stretched too far  for
      otherwise it would make functioning of administration impossible.
      (Vide: Chandigarh Administration & Anr. v. Jagjit Singh  &  Anr.,  AIR
      1995 SC 705, M/s. Anand Button Ltd. v. State of Haryana  &  Ors.,  AIR
      2005 SC 565; K.K. Bhalla v. State of M.P. & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 898; and
      Fuljit Kaur v. State of Punjab, AIR 2010 SC 1937).


      9.   Sufficient cause is the cause for which defendant could  not  be
      blamed for his absence.  The  meaning  of  the  word  "sufficient"  is
      "adequate" or "enough", inasmuch as may be  necessary  to  answer  the
      purpose intended. Therefore, the word "sufficient"  embraces  no  more
      than that which provides a platitude, which when the act done suffices
      to accomplish the purpose intended  in  the  facts  and  circumstances
      existing in a case, duly examined from the view point of a  reasonable
      standard of a cautious man. In this context, "sufficient cause"  means
      that the party should not have acted in a negligent  manner  or  there
      was a want of bona  fide  on  its  part  in  view  of  the  facts  and
      circumstances of a case or it cannot be alleged  that  the  party  has
      "not acted diligently" or "remained inactive". However, the facts  and
      circumstances of each case must afford sufficient ground to enable the
      Court concerned to exercise discretion for the  reason  that  whenever
      the Court exercises discretion, it has to  be  exercised  judiciously.
      The applicant must satisfy the Court that  he  was  prevented  by  any
      “sufficient  cause”  from  prosecuting  his   case,   and   unless   a
      satisfactory explanation is furnished, the Court should not allow  the
      application for condonation of delay. The court has to examine whether
      the mistake is bona fide or was merely a device to cover  an  ulterior
      purpose.  (See:  Manindra  Land  and  Building  Corporation  Ltd.   v.
      Bhootnath Banerjee & Ors., AIR  1964  SC  1336;  Lala  Matadin  v.  A.
      Narayanan, AIR 1970 SC 1953; Parimal v.Veena  @  Bharti  AIR  2011  SC
      1150; and Maniben Devraj  Shah  v.  Municipal  Corporation  of  Brihan
      Mumbai AIR 2012 SC 1629.)



      10.    In Arjun Singh v. Mohindra Kumar, AIR 1964 SC  993  this  Court
      explained the difference between a  “good  cause”  and  a  “sufficient
      cause” and observed that every “sufficient cause” is a good cause  and
      vice versa. However, if any difference exists it can only be that  the
      requirement of good cause is complied with on a lesser degree of proof
      that that of “sufficient cause”.


      11. The expression  “sufficient  cause”  should  be  given  a  liberal
      interpretation to ensure that substantial justice is done, but only so
      long as negligence, inaction or lack of bona fides cannot  be  imputed
      to the party concerned, whether  or  not  sufficient  cause  has  been
      furnished, can be decided on the facts of a  particular  case  and  no
      straitjacket formula is possible. (Vide:  Madanlal  v.  Shyamlal,  AIR
      2002 SC 100; and Ram Nath Sao @ Ram Nath Sahu & Ors. v. Gobardhan  Sao
      & Ors., AIR 2002 SC 1201.)


      12.    It is a settled legal proposition that 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.  “A  result
      flowing from a statutory provision is never an evil. A  Court  has  no
      power to ignore that provision to relieve what it considers a distress
      resulting from its  operation.”  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  legal
      maxim “dura lex sed lex” which means “the law is hard but  it  is  the
      law”, stands attracted in such a situation. It has  consistently  been
      held that, “inconvenience is not” a decisive factor to  be  considered
      while interpreting a statute.




      13. The Statute of Limitation is founded on  public  policy,  its  aim
      being to secure peace in the community, to suppress fraud and perjury,
      to quicken diligence and to prevent oppression. It seeks to  bury  all
      acts of the past which have not been agitated unexplainably  and  have
      from lapse of time become stale.

           According to Halsbury's Laws of England, Vol. 24, p. 181:

           "330. Policy of Limitation Acts. The courts  have  expressed  at
           least  three  differing  reasons  supporting  the  existence  of
           statutes of limitations namely, (1)  that  long  dormant  claims
           have more of cruelty than justice in them, (2) that a  defendant
           might have lost the evidence to disprove a stale claim, and  (3)
           that persons with good causes of actions should pursue them with
           reasonable diligence".




           An unlimited limitation would lead to a sense of insecurity  and
      uncertainty,  and  therefore,  limitation  prevents   disturbance   or
      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.

      (See: Popat and Kotecha Property v. State Bank of  India  Staff  Assn.
      (2005) 7 SCC 510; Rajendar Singh & Ors. v. Santa  Singh  &  Ors.,  AIR
      1973 SC 2537; and Pundlik Jalam Patil v. Executive  Engineer,  Jalgaon
      Medium Project, (2008) 17 SCC 448).



      14.    In P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, AIR 2002 SC  1856,
      this Court held that judicially engrafting  principles  of  limitation
      amounts to legislating and would fly in the face of law laid  down  by
      the Constitution Bench in A. R. Antulay v. R.S.  Nayak,  AIR  1992  SC
      1701.


      15.   The law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that  where
      a case  has  been  presented  in  the  court  beyond  limitation,  the
      applicant has to explain the court as  to  what  was  the  “sufficient
      cause” which means an adequate and enough reason which  prevented  him
      to approach the court within limitation. In case a party is  found  to
      be negligent, or for want of bonafide on his part  in  the  facts  and
      circumstances of the case, or found to have not  acted  diligently  or
      remained inactive, there cannot be a justified ground to  condone  the
      delay. No court could be justified in  condoning  such  an  inordinate
      delay by imposing any condition whatsoever. The application is  to  be
      decided only within the parameters laid down by this court  in  regard
      to the condonation of delay. In case there was no sufficient cause  to
      prevent a litigant to approach the court on time condoning  the  delay
      without any justification, putting any condition  whatsoever,  amounts
      to passing an order in violation of the statutory  provisions  and  it
      tantamounts to showing utter disregard to the legislature.

      16.   In view of above, no  interference  is  required  with  impugned
      judgment and order of the High Court.  The appeals lack merit and are,
      accordingly, dismissed.

                                       ….………………..........J.            (DR.
                                       B.S. CHAUHAN)



                                      …...................................J.

        (S.A. BOBDE)

      NEWDELHI;

      August 22, 2013

















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