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ACT: Limitation Act, 1963: Section 5-Appeals filed by Government- Condonation of delay- 'Sufficient cause' - Expression to receive liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice-Lapse on part of Government Pleader- How far a 'sufficient cause'. Constitution of India, 1950: Article 136 -Appeal to Supreme Court against order of High Court condoning delay in filing appeal-High Court meanwhile disposing the main appeal on merit-Does not bar Supreme Court of consideration of correctness of High Court order condoning delay.=This is an instance of what are called "dependent orders". If the order excusing the delay is itself set aside in these appeals, the further exercise, made in the meanwhile, by the High Court finally disposing of the appeals, would be rendered nugatory.= G. RAMEGOWDA, MAJOR, ETC. Vs. RESPONDENT: SPECIAL LAND ACQUISITION OFFICER, BANGALORE.= 1988 ( March. Part ) http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=8397

ACT:
     Limitation  Act, 1963:  Section 5-Appeals  filed  by
Government-  Condonation  of  delay-  'Sufficient  cause'  -
Expression to  receive liberal construction so as to advance
substantial justice-Lapse on part of Government Pleader- How
far a 'sufficient cause'.
     Constitution of  India, 1950:  Article 136  -Appeal  to
Supreme Court against order of High Court condoning delay in
filing appeal-High Court meanwhile disposing the main appeal
on merit-Does  not bar Supreme Court  of  consideration  of
correctness of High Court order condoning delay.=
This  is an  instance of  what are called "dependent
orders". If the order excusing the delay is itself set aside
in  these   appeals,  the  further  exercise,  made  in  the
meanwhile, by  the  High  Court  finally  disposing  of  the
appeals, would be rendered nugatory.
1988 ( March. Part ) http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=8397
VENKATACHALLIAH, M.N. (J)

PETITIONER:
G. RAMEGOWDA, MAJOR, ETC.

Vs.

RESPONDENT:
SPECIAL LAND ACQUISITION OFFICER, BANGALORE.

DATE OF JUDGMENT10/03/1988

BENCH:
VENKATACHALLIAH, M.N. (J)
BENCH:
VENKATACHALLIAH, M.N. (J)
NATRAJAN, S. (J)

CITATION:
 1988 AIR  897  1988 SCR  (3) 198
 1988 SCC  (2) 142  JT 1988 (1) 524
 1988 SCALE  (1)479


ACT:
     Limitation Act, 1963:  Section 5-Appeals  filed  by
Government-  Condonation  of  delay-  'Sufficient  cause'  -
Expression to  receive liberal construction so as to advance
substantial justice-Lapse on part of Government Pleader- How
far a 'sufficient cause'.
     Constitution of  India, 1950:  Article 136 -Appeal  to
Supreme Court against order of High Court condoning delay in
filing appeal-High Court meanwhile disposing the main appeal
on merit-Does  not bar Supreme Court  of  consideration  of
correctness of High Court order condoning delay.



HEADNOTE:
%
     The lands of the appellants  were  acquired  for the
purpose of  the 'University  of Agricultural  Sciences'  at
Bangalore.
     The Civil Judge in  Land Acquisition  References under
Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act passed a common award
in the three  Land  Acquisition  References  on  17.7.1970.
Application for certified copies  was made  on  31.8.1971.
Copies were  obtained on 5.1.1972 and appeals were lodged in
the High  Court on  19.1.1972 in one appeal and on 10.4.1972
in the two other  appeals. There  was substantial  delay in
preferring the three appeals.
     The Government in support of its prayer for condonation
of delay  narrated the chronological sequence of events and
the protracted correspondence between the Government-Pleader
and the Government,  and  the difficulties  faced  by the
administration in  even ascertaining  the correct  state  of
affairs owing  to the  negative and  evasive attitude of the
Government Pleaders.
     In its  appeals the  State contended that both the Land
Acquisition officer and the Civil Judge had steeply enhanced
the compensation  for the lands of the appellants. The lands
that had been purchased by the claimant in the year 1962 for
a sum  of Rs.  7,000 per acre, were acquired pursuant to the
notification dated 2.3.1963, that the Award of the Land
199
Acquisition Officer  granting Rs.58,000 per acre was unduly
generous for the acquisition was just about a year after the
purchase. and  that the further enhancement  by  the  Civil
Court to  Rs. 1,45,200 per acre.  clearly suffered from the
vice of extreme excessiveness.
     The High  Court noticed that the Government Pleader who
was in office till  15.12.1970 had  applied  for  certified
copies on  20.7.1970, but  the application was allowed to be
dismissed for  default and  that in  one case he appeared to
have taken  away the certified copy even after he had ceased
to be  a Government  Pleader.  After  consideration  of the
matter the  Division Bench  of the  High Court condoned the
delay in the filing in the appeals.
     In the  appeals  to  this Court by  the appellants-
claimants it  was contended  that the High Court fell into a
manifest  error in  condoning the  inordinate and  wholly
unjustified delay  and that  the explanation  offered before
and accepted  by the  High Court  cannot. in law. be held to
constitute 'sufficient cause' for  purposes and  within the
meaning of.  Section 5 of the Limitation Act. 963. The State
contested the appeals. by contending that the High Court had
heard and  disposed of the appeals before it on the merits.
substantially  reducing  the  compensation   and  that the
appellants had already preferred  Special  leave  Petitions
against the  final order  as  such,  and  that the  appeals
against the  mere condonation of delay do not survive at all
and must  be held to have become infructuous. It was further
contended that the Government Pleader whom  the Government
had necessarily to and did trust  had let down that trust,
and  there   was  therefore   sufficient  ground   for the
condonation of the delay  so as  to promote public interest
and do substantial justice.
     Declining to  interfere with the High Court's order and
dismissing the Appeals,
^
     HELD: 1. The fact that the main appeals are themselves,
in the meanwhile, disposed  of finally on the merits by the
High Court  would not  by itself  detract from and bar the
consideration of  the correctness of the order condoning the
delays. This  is an  instance of  what are called "dependent
orders". If the order excusing the delay is itself set aside
in  these   appeals,  the  further  exercise,  made  in the
meanwhile, by  the  High  Court finally  disposing  of the
appeals, would be rendered nugatory. [203H; 204A-B]
     2. There  is no general principle saving the party from
all mistakes of its counsel. [205F]
200
     3. Each case  will  have  to  be  considered-on the
particularities of its own special facts. [205G]
     4. If there is negligence, deliberate or gross inaction
or lack of bona  fides on  the part  of the  party  or its
counsel there  is no  reason why the opposite side should be
exposed to a time-barred appeal. [205F-G]
     5. The  expression 'sufficient  cause' in Section 5 of
the Limitation Act, 1963 must receive a liberal construction
so as to advance substantial justice and generally delays in
preferring appeals  are required  to  be  condoned  in the
interest of justice where no gross negligence or deli berate
inaction or  lack of  bona fides  is imputable to the party
seeking condonation of the delay. [205G-H]
     6(i) The  law of  limitation is, no doubt, the same for
private citizen as for Governmental-authorities. Government,
like any  other. litigant  must take  responsibility for the
acts or omissions of its officers. But a somewhat different
complexion is  imparted to the matter where Government makes
out a  case where public interest was shown to have suffered
owing to  acts of  fraud or  bad faith on the part of its
officers or  agents and where the  officers were clearly at
cross purposes with it. [206D-E]
     (ii) If appeals brought by Government are lost for such
default, no  person is individually affected; but what, in
the ultimate analysis, suffers is public interest. [206C]
     7(i).  In assessing  what,   in a  particular  case,
constitutes 'sufficient cause'. for purpose of Section 5 it
might, perhaps be somewhat  unrealistic to exclude from the
considerations that  go into  the judicial  verdict, factors
which are  peculiar to and characteristic of the functioning
of  the  Government.  Implicit  in  the   very  nature  of
Governmental functioning  is procedural delay incidental to
the decision making process. [206E-H]
     (ii) Due recognition of these limitations on Government
functioning-within a reasonable limit-is necessary. It would
be unfair  and unrealistic  to put  Government and  private
parties on the same footing in all respects in such matters.
[206G]
     8. In the opinion of the High Court, the conduct of the
law officers  of the  Government placed the Government in a
predicament and that it  was one  of those  cases where the
malafides of the officers should
201
not be imputed to Government. It relied upon and trusted its
law officers.  It took quite some time for the Government to
realise that  the law  officers failed that  trust.  [206H;
207A,C]
     9. The  criticism that  the delay on the part of the
Government even after 20.1.1971 for over one year cannot be
said to be either  bonafide or compelled by reasons beyond
its control  is not  without substance. Government could and
ought to  have moved  with greater  diligence  and  dispatch
consistent with the urgency of the situation. The conduct of
the Government was perilously close to  such inaction  as
might, perhaps have justified rejection of  its prayer for
condonation. But  in the  interest of  keeping the stream of
justice pure and clean the awards under appeal should not be
permitted to assume finality without an examination of their
merits. [207D-F]
     Shakuntala Devi Jain v. Kuntal Kumari,[1969] 1 SCR 106;
Concord of  India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Nirmala Devi & Ors.,
[1979] 3  SCR 694;  Lala Mata  Din v. A. Narayanan, [1970] 2
SCR 90; Collector, Land Acquisition v. Katiji, [1987] 2 SCC
107; National  Bank of Wales Ltd.,  [1899] 2 L.R.629 at 673
and Special  Land Acquisition Officer v. B.M. Krishnamurthy,
[1985] 1 SCC 469, referred to.



JUDGMENT:
     CIVIL APPELLATE  JURISDICTION Civil Appeal Nos. 856 and
857 of 1974 Etc.
     From the  Judgment and  order dated 13/14.6.1973 of the
Mysore High  Court in  Misc. First Appeal Nos 290 and 293 of
1973
     R.B. Datar and Ravi P Wadhwani for the Appellants.
     M. Veerappa for the Respondent.
     The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
     VENKATACHALIAH,  J.   These  three  appeals,  by the
claimant-respondents in certain  Land Acquisition  Appeals
before the  High Court, are preferred, by  Special  Leave,
against the  common order  dated 14.6 1973 of the High Court
of Mysore  (Karnataka) condoning,  under Section  5  of the
Limitation Act, 1963, certain delays on the part of the Land
Acquisition officer  in preferring  the three  corresponding
appeals in  M.F.A. No. 290 of 1973, M.F.A. 293 of 1973 and
M.F.A. No. 289 of 1973 respectively
202
     The appeals before the High Court were directed against
the  common-award   made  by   the  Civil  Judge,  Bangalore
District,  in  certain Land  Acquisition  References  under
Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act steeply enhancing the
compensation for  the lands  of the  appellants acquired for
the purpose  of the  University of Agricultural Sciences' at
Bangalore. The circumstances leading upto and necessitating
the prayer for the condonation of the delays before the High
Court seem  somewhat unfortunate,  casting, as they do,  as
persions on  the probity  and rectitude of the conduct and
good faith  of the  Government Counsel entrusted  with the
conduct of land acquisition cases.
     2. The  common award,  in the  three  land acquisition
references  was  passed  by  the  learned  Civil  Judge  on
17.7.1970. Application for certified  copies  was  made  on
31.8.1971; copies obtained on 5.1.1972 and M.F.A. No. 289 of
1973 was  lodged before the High Court on 19.1.1972 and the
other two  appeals viz.,  M.F.A. 290 of 1973 and 293 of 1973
on  10.4.1972. There  were,  thus,  substantial  delays  in
preferring the appeals.
     The Land Acquisition officer, appellant before the High
Court, filed  applications to have these delays excused. The
Division-Bench of  the High  Court was persuaded to make an
order condoning the delay.
     The grievance  of the State in the appeals was that the
lands which had been purchased in the year 1962 for a sum of
Rs.7,000 per acre, were acquired pursuant to the preliminary
notification dated  2.3.1963  and  the award  of  the Land
Acquisition officer  granting Rs.58,000 per acre was itself
unduly generous   having  regard   to the  fact  that the
acquisition was just about an year after the purchase by the
claimants and  that the further enhancement  by  the  Civil
Court to Rs.1,45,200 per acre clearly suffered from the vice
of extreme excessiveness
     3. Sri.  R.B.  Datar,  learned  counsel  appearing  in
support of  these appeals  assailed the order of  the High
Court on the ground that the High Court fell into a manifest
error in  condoning these  inordinate and wholly unjustified
delays and that explanation offered before, and accepted by,
the High  Court sarnat,  in  law,  be held  to  constitute
'sufficient cause'  for purposes  and within the meaning of,
Section 5. Learned Counsel strenuously urged that the rights
vesting in  the successful  parties to a litigation  by the
expiry of  the period  of limitation  should not  lightly be
interferred with unless it was established that the
203
appeal could  not have been  lodged  in  time despite the
exercise  of   reasonable  diligence  on  the  part  of the
appellant. Learned  counsel further  contended that the fact
that the  Government Pleaders  had not discharged their duty
to the Government, even if true, would be wholly beside the
point as  that would be a matter of internal administration.
If Government  was not able to set its own house in order,
says learned  counsel, the  opposite  party,  who  had the
benefit of  the adjudication should not be exposed to a time
barred appeal. There cannot,  says counsel, be one standard
for an ordinary litigant and another for Government.
     On the merits of the cause shown, learned counsel said,
the explanation served only  to aggravate  the negligence;
that the  explanation might,  at best, amount to sufficient-
cause for  the delay  upto 20.1.1971  when the Civil  Judge
wrote to  the Government and the latter, admittedly, was put
on notice  of the  award and  decree passed in the cases and
that the  subsequent delays  of over  an year  thereafter in
preferring the appeals cannot, even on  the  most  liberal
construction of 'sufficient cause', be said to be justified.
     4. Shri Veerappa, learned counsel for the State, on the
other hand,  while seeking to support the order under appeal
submitted that the circumstances of the case disclosed that
the Government was put in a  predicament by  its own law-
officers and  that where,  as here, public interest had come
to suffer  owing to  the bad-faith  and divided loyalties on
the part  of the  officers and advisers of  Government, the
technicalities of  procedure should  yield to considerations
which would promote public interest and substantial justice.
Shri  Veerappa submitted  that in  the  present  case the
Government-Pleaders whom  Government had  necessarily to and
did trust  had let  down that  trust and  this was a case of
'salt having lost its savour'.
     Shri Veerappa  submitted that,  during the pendency of
the present  appeals, the  High Court had heard and disposed
of  the appeals  before  it  on  the  merits  substantially
reducing the  compensation;  that  appellants  have  already
preferred SLP  Nos. 2319,  2320, 2493  of 1974 against that
Judgment and that the present appeals, preferred as they are
against the mere condonation of delay, do not survive at all
and must he held to have become infructuous.
     5. We  might, perhaps,  deal with the latter submission
of Shri Veerappa first.  The fact that the main appeals are
themselves, in the meanwhile, disposed of  finally on the
merits by the High Court would
204
not by itself detract from and bar the consideration of the
correctness of the order  condoning the  delays. This is an
instance of  what are  called 'dependant-orders'  and if the
order excusing the delays  is itself  set  aside  in  these
appeals, the  further exercise, made in  the mean while, by
the High  Court finally disposing of  the appeals, would be
rendered nugatory.  The submission  of Shri  Veerappa is,
therefore, insubstantial.
     6. In  support of its prayer before the High Court for
condonation  of  the  delays, Government   narrated the
chronological  sequence  of  events   and   the   some-what
protracted correspondence between Government-Pleader and the
Government and the difficulties faced by the administration
in even ascertaining the  correct state of affairs owing to
the  negative and  evasive  attitude of  the Government-
Pleaders. These events and  correspondence are referred to
and evaluated  in paragraphs  5, 6 and 7 of the High Court's
order. After  a consideration  of the matter, the High Court
was pursuaded  to the view that in the circumstances of this
case,  it   could  not be  said  that the  Government was
negligent. High Court observed:
 "Taking into account all the circumstances of the
 case, we  hold that  there was not such negligence
 or inaction  on the  part of the  L.A.O.,  as  to
 induce as  not to  exercise our  discretion  under
 Section 5  of the  Limitation Act  to condone the
 delay in presenting the appeal."
     Adverting to  the conduct of the Government-Pleader the
High Court observed:
 "But how  could the  L.A.O.  anticipate  that the
 Government Pleader  or  the  Assistant  Government
 Pleader would fail to  do such  elementary duties
 like applying for such certified copies, obtaining
 them and  forwarding them  to the  Government with
 his opinion? To say the least, the conduct of the
 Government  Pleader and  / or,  the  Assistant
 Government   Pleader appears   to us   to  be
 extraordinary."
     (emphasis supplied)
     Indeed in the counter-affidavits filed on behalf of the
State Government  in these  appeals,  the  Land Acquisition
officer avers:
 "I beg  to submit  that due to the unusual conduct
 of the  District Government  Pleaders who  were in
 office during a
205
 particular  period  Government  had  to  face the
 problem of  delay in filing of appeals in hundreds
 of cases.  The Government was not able to know the
 real state of  affairs   till   the   concerned
 Government Pleaders  relinquished their office. In
 fact, for some time, there was utter confusion and
 it became practically impossible to find out as to
 which are  the Land  Acquisition cases  which has
 been disposed of and in which  appeals were not
 filed though appeals ought  to have been filed ..
 It is humbly submitted  that  the  case  of the
 Government for  condonation of  delay was  that on
 account of  the  fraud  played  by  the  concerned
 Government Pleaders  delay in filing the  appeals
 has occurred and more than a crore of rupees would
 be a loss to the Government on account of the said
 fraud played by the Government Pleaders. In fact,
 in innumerable  cases the  Hon'ble High  Court has
 condoned the delay  in  filing  of  the  appeals,
 taking into consideration the most unusual conduct
 of  Government   Pleaders  which  had landed the
 Government  in  difficulties. I  beg to  further
 submit that  almost all the appeals which had been
 entertained  by   the Hon'ble  High Court  after
 condoning  the   delay,  have  been allowed  on
 consideration of their merits ........ "
(emphasis supplied)
     7. The contours of the area of discretion of the Courts
in the matter of condonation of delays in filing appeals are
set out in a  number of  pronouncements of this Court. See:
Ramlal, Motilal and Chhotelal v. Rewa Coalfield Ltd., [1962]
2 SCR  762; Shakuntala Devi Jain  v.Kuntal Kumari, [1969] 1
SCR 1006;  Concord of  India Insurance Co. Ltd.  v. Nirmala
Devi and  ors., [1979] 3 SCR  694;  Lala  Mata Din  v.  A.
Narayanan, [1970]  2 SCR  90 and Collector, Land Acquisition
v. Katiji,  [1987] 2  SCC 107  etc. There is, it is true, no
general principle  saving the party from all mistakes of its
counsel.  If   there  is  negligence,  deliberate  or  gross
inaction or  lack of  bona fides on the part of the party or
its counsel  there is no reason why the opposite side should
be exposed  to a  time-barred appeal. Each case will have to
be considered  on the  particularities of  its own  special
facts. However, the expression 'sufficient cause' in Section
5 must receive a  liberal construction so  as to  advance
substantial  justice  and  generally  delays  in  preferring
appeals are  required to  be condoned  in  the interest  of
justice where  no gross negligence or deliberate inaction or
lack of bona  fides  is  imputable  to the  party  seeking
condonation of the delay.  In Katiji's case, (supra), this
Court said:
206
 "When  substantial justice    and   technical
 considerations are  A 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
 non deliberate delay."
 "It must  be grasped that judiciary is respected
 not on  account of its power to legalise injustice
 on technical grounds but because it is capable of
 removing injustice and is expected to do so."
     8. In  litigations to which Government is a party there
is yet another aspect which, perhaps, cannot be ignored. If
appeals brought by Government are lost for such defaults, no
person is  individually affected;  but what, in the ultimate
analysis, suffers  is  public  interest.  The  decisions  of
Government are collective and institutional decisions and do
not  share  the characteristics  of  decisions of  private
individuals.
     The law  of limitation  is, no  doubt, the same for  a
private citizen as for Governmental-authorities. Government,
like any  other litigant  must take  responsibility for the
acts or omissions of its officers. But a somewhat different
complexion is  imparted to the matter where Government makes
out a  case where public interest was shown to have suffered
owing to  acts of  fraud or  bad faith on the part of its
officers or  agents and where the  officers were clearly at
cross-purposes with it.
     Therefore, in  assessing what,  in a  particular  case,
constitutes 'sufficient cause' for purposes of Section 5 it
might, perhaps, be some what unrealistic to exclude from the
considerations that  go into  the  judicial  verdict,  these
factors which  are peculiar  to and  characteristic  of the
functioning of the Government. Governmental decisions are
proverbially slow encumbered, as they are, by a considerable
degree of  procedural  red-tape in  the  process  of  their
making. A  certain amount  of latitude is,  therefore, not
impermissible. It  is  rightly said  that  those  who bear
responsibility of Government must have 'a little play at the
joints'.   Due recognition   of   these   limitations  on
Governmental  functioning-of  course,  within  a  reasonable
limits-is necessary if the judicial approach is not rendered
unrealistic. It would, perhaps, be unfair and unrealistic to
put Government and private  parties on the same footing in
all respects in such matters. Implicit in the very nature of
Governmental functioning  is procedural delay incidental to
the decision  making process.  In the  opinion of  the High
Court, the  conduct of the law-officers  of the  Government
placed the
207
Government in  a predicament  and that it was one of these
cases where  the mala  fides of the officers  should not be
imputed to  Government. It  relied upon and trusted its law-
officers. Lindley,  M.R., in  the Re: National Bank of Wales
Ltd., 1899  J 2 L.R. 629  at  673  observed,  though  in  a
different context:
 "Business cannot be carried on, upon principles of
 distrust. Men in responsible positions  must  be
 trusted by  those above  them, as well as by those
 below them,  until there  is reason to  distrust
 them."
In the opinion of the High Court, it took quite sometime for
the Government to realise that the law-officers failed that
trust.
     While a  private person  can take instant decision  a
"bureaucratic or  democratic organ"  it is said by a learned
Judge "hesitates and debates, consults and considers, speaks
through paper, moves horizontally  and vertically  till  at
last it gravitates towards  a conclusion, unmindful of time
and impersonally."  Now at the end, should we interfere with
the discretion exercised by  the  High Court? Shri  Datar
criticised that the delay  on the  part of  Government even
after 20.1.1971 for over an year cannot be said to be either
bonafide or  compelled by  reasons beyond  its control. This
criticism is  not without  substance. Government  could and
ought to  have moved  with greater  diligence  and  dispatch
consistent with the urgency of the situation. The conduct of
Government was perilously close  to such inaction as might,
perhaps,  have justified  rejection of  its prayer for
condonation. But as is implicit in the reasoning of the High
Court, the  unarticulated thought,  perhaps was that in the
interest of keeping the stream of justice pure and clean the
awards under  appeal  should  not  be  permitted  to  assume
finality without  an examination  of their  merits. The High
Court noticed  that the Government pleader who was in office
till  15.12.1970   had applied  for  certified  copies  on
20.7.1970, but the application was allowed to be dismissed
for default.  In one case, however, he appears to have taken
away the  certified copy  even after  he  ceased  to  be  a
Government Pleader.  In a  similar context  where delay had
been condoned  by the  High Court,  this Court declined  to
interfere and observed:
 "Having   regard    to   the entirety   of the
 circumstances, the  High Court  thought  that the
 State should not be penalised for  the lapses of
 some of  its officers and that  in the particular
 circumstances there were sufficient   grounds
 justifying
208
 the condonation of delay in filing the appeals. It
 was a matter for the discretion of the High Court.
 We are  unable to  say  that the  discretion was
 improperly exercised .. "
 (See C.A.  No. 992/1971,  1127/1974  and  SLP (C)
 3450/1974 dated 22.1.1985)
We think  in the  circumstances of this case, we should also
decline to  interfere. Appeals are dismissed, but without an
order as to costs.
N.V.K.   Appeals dismissed.
209



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