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The doctrine of Condonation of Delay is the extension of the prescribed period in certain cases. This has been defined in Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, that postulates time-limits for different suits and mentions the time period within which a suit, appeal or application can be instituted. Condonation of delay is a doctrine that is an exception to the limitation period. It does not apply to execution proceedings as it deals with the Criminal Cases. For taking the benefit of the Doctrine the applicant must have a sufficient cause in order to condone a delay. The Court can, with its discretionary jurisdiction, disregard or “condone” the delay and proceed with the case. It is the epitome of the maxim- Vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt.

The main objective behind Doctrine of Condonation of Delay is to promote substantial justice and not give undue emphasis on technical considerations. If there is no gross negligence or lack of bona fides, then the Courts can consider a “sufficient cause” for condoning delay. The interpretation of the term “sufficient cause” varies from case to case, however, it should be reasonable enough to qualify the application of condonation of delay.

Schedule 1 of the Limitation Act states

i)3 years time-period for a suit relating to accounts, contracts, suits relating to movable property, recovery of a lawsuit under a contract, etc.

ii)12 years time-period for suits relating to possession of the immovable property, and 30 years time-period for suits relating to the mortgaged property.

iii)One year for suit relating to torts (3 years for compensation in certain cases). 30 to 90 days in case of appeals under the Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code.

In the present case, namely- State of UP & Ors. v. Sabha Narain & Ors. And Commissioner of Public Instruction & Ors. v. Shamshuddin, the Special Leave Petition was filed with a delay of 502 days with an insufficient application of condonation of delay implying petitioner’s casual attitude. It is often seen that the state governments when entering the judiciary disregard the conditions and provisions of the Limitation Statute. However, in the present case, a three judge bench comprising Justice S.K. Kaul, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Hrishikesh Roy, gave an order of cost of Rs. 25,000 each for “lethargy and incompetence” and for wasting the Court’s time and the time period prescribed to pay the same is 4 weeks.

In the order the Court also stated, “The amount be recovered from the officers responsible for the delay in filing the Special Leave Petition and a certificate of recovery of the said amount be also filed in this Court within the same period of time.”

The court further noted that it refuses to grant such certificates and if the government/public authorities suffer losses, it was time when concerned officers responsible for the same, were to bear the consequences. Thus, the order is a welcome step towards disciplining administrative actions and holding them equally liable for delay and lapses.

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