“Sufficient Cause” In Section 5 Limitation Act – Meaning & Scope

Section 3 of the Limitation Act provides that “Subject to the provisions contained in sections 4 to 24 (inclusive), every suit instituted, appeal preferred, and application made after the prescribed period shall be dismissed, although limitation has not been set up as a defence.”

Section 5 reads as follows: “Any appeal or any application, other than an application under any of the provisions of Order XXI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 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.”

So what is the meaning of this term “sufficient cause” ?

This post contains observations made in caselaws in this regard.

 The words “sufficient cause” under Section 5 of the Limitation Act should receive a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice [ Shakuntala Devi Jain v. Kuntal Kumari (1969) 1 SCR 1006 and State of W.B. v. Administrator, Howrah Municipality (1972) 1 SCC 366 ]

The expression “sufficient cause” within the meaning of Section 5 of the Act or Order 22 Rule 9 of the Code or any other similar provision should receive a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice when no negligence or inaction or want of bona fide is imputable to a party. In a particular case whether explanation furnished would constitute “sufficient cause” or not will be dependant upon facts of each case. There cannot be a straitjacket formula for accepting or rejecting explanation furnished for the delay caused in taking steps. But one thing is clear that the courts should not proceed with the tendency of finding fault with the cause shown and reject the petition by a slipshod order in over jubilation of disposal drive. Acceptance of explanation furnished should be the rule and refusal an exception more so when no negligence or inaction or want of bona fide can be imputed to the defaulting party. On the other hand, while considering the matter the courts should not lose sight of the fact that by not taking steps within the time prescribed a valuable right has accrued to the other party which should not be lightly defeated by condoning delay in a routine like manner. However, by taking a pedantic and hyper technical view of the matter the explanation furnished should not be rejected when stakes are high and/or arguable points of facts and law are involved in the case, causing enormous loss and irreparable injury to the party against whom the lis terminates either by default or inaction and defeating valuable right of such a party to have the decision on merit. While considering the matter, courts have to strike a balance between resultant effect of the order it is going to pass upon the parties either way.

Ram Nath Sahu v. Gobardhan Sao AIR 2002 SC 1201

‘Sufficient Cause’ is the cause for which a party could not be blamed – (Para 25 of Sabarmati Gas Limited vs Shah Alloys Limited | Supreme Court )

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *