Union Of India vs Jahangir Byramji JeejeeBhoy 2024 INSC 262 :: [2024] 4 S.C.R. 76 – S 5 Limitation Act – Delay Condonation – Length Of Delay

Limitation Act, 1963; Section 5 – The length of the delay is a relevant matter which the court must take into consideration while considering whether the delay should be condoned or not -the question of limitation is not merely a technical consideration – Once it is held that a party has lost his right to have the matter considered on merits because of his own inaction for a long, it cannot be presumed to be non-deliberate delay and in such circumstances of the case, he cannot be heard to plead that the substantial justice deserves to be preferred as against the technical considerations. While considering the plea for condonation of delay, the court must not start with the merits of the main matter. The court owes a duty to first ascertain the bona fides of the explanation offered by the party seeking condonation. It is only if the sufficient cause assigned by the litigant and the opposition of the other side is equally balanced that the court may bring into aid the merits of the matter for the purpose of condoning the delay- The rules of limitation are based on the principles of sound public policy and principles of equity- Delay should not be excused as a matter of generosity. Rendering substantial justice is not to cause prejudice to the opposite party. – It hardly matters whether a litigant is a private party or a State or Union of India when it comes to condoning the gross delay of more than 12 years. If the litigant chooses to approach the court long after the lapse of the time prescribed under the relevant provisions of the law, then he cannot turn around and say that no prejudice would be caused to either side by the delay being condoned. (Para 25-35)

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