Limitation Act | “Sufficient Cause” under section 5 has to be given liberal construction : J&K&L High Court

jammu and kashmir high court

JAMMU AND KASHMIR: In the matter of Dr. Lahoot Hassan & Ors Vs SHO Vigilance Organization Kashmir, Jammu, and Kashmir, and Ladakh High Court observed that the word “sufficient cause” under Sec 5 of Limitation Act has to be given liberal construction and the Courts while considering the delay in filing appeal must avoid technicalities so that merit is preferred.

The bench headed by Justice Sanjay Dhar was hearing a matter in which a plea was moved in a court in which petitioners challenged an order passed by Additional Sessions Judge, Srinagar, whereby, delay in filing the appeal against the judgment and order passed by Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar has been condoned.

The plea states that the delay in filing an appeal on account of administrative reasons is not a sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 5 of the Limitation Act. Further, contended that even after the grant of sanction for filing the appeal, it took almost one year for the respondent to file the appeal and the delay in this regard has remained unexplained.

The petitioners also argued that there is no explanation tendered by the respondent as to why it took seven months to issue 2nd sanction order in favor of the Public Prosecutor and there is no explanation for the delay in filing the appeal after the grant of 2nd sanction order on 19.02.2016.

The Court observed that Section 5 provides that an appeal may be admitted after the prescribed period of limitation if the appellant satisfies the Court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal within such period.

The expression “sufficient cause” used in the provision must receive a liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice and unless there is gross negligence or deliberate inaction or lack of bonafide attributable to the parties seeking condonation of delay, such a prayer should not be declined, the bench underscored.

Discussing the matter further the bench explained that It is correct that the law of limitation binds everybody including the Government but a certain amount of leniency and leeway has been given by the Courts in the matter of condoning of delay when the party seeking condonation of delay happens to be a Government Department.

This is so, because of the peculiar functioning of Government departments where files move from one table to another and the decision making by very nature of the functioning of the bureaucracy takes a long time”, the court noted.

It is true that Section 5 of the Limitation Act envisages explanation of the delay to the satisfaction of the Court and in matters of Limitation Act made no distinction between the State and the citizen. Nonetheless adoption of strict standard of proof leads to grave miscarriage of public justice, it would result in public mischief by skillful management of delay in the process of filing the appeal. The approach of the Court would be pragmatic but not pedandic”

Court further observed that the Courts have to adopt a justice-oriented approach, particularly while dealing with cases where delay is sought to be condoned at the instance of Government functionaries. The Courts have to be guided by spirit and philosophy that State represents collective cause of the community and cannot be equated with an ordinary litigant.

Unless there is gross negligent approach of the Government functionaries in dealing with a matter, the Courts would lean in favour of condoning the delay without insisting upon explanation of each day’s delay, the bench concluded while dismissing the plea.

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