Increasing tendency of treating delay in filing as a non-serious matter: Need for a vigilant and cautious approach by the Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J., dismissed a revision petition filed against the order of the first appellate court, whereby the appeal filed by the petitioner was dismissed on the ground of delay.

The main issue that arose before the Court was whether the first appellate court was justified in rejecting the petitioner’s application for condonation of delay and resultantly dismissing his appeal.

The Court observed that it is a settled principle of law that in matters where a delay has been caused, the courts should generally adopt a liberal approach because sometimes refusal to condone delay might result into travesty of justice. The Court further observed that cause of substantial justice should be preferred over the technical consideration, however, the Court must also be vigilant and cautious because there is an increasing tendency of treating delay as a non-serious matter. The Court must look for bona fides of the person seeking condonation of delay and the conduct and behaviour of a party in approaching the appropriate forum, must be taken into account while considering an application for condonation of delay. This view is backed by the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Esha Bhattacharjee v. Managing Committee of Raghunathpur Nafar Academy, (2013) 12 SCC 649.

The Court held that it is incumbent upon the party seeking condonation of delay to show sufficient cause which prevented the petitioner from filing the application within the statutory period. The Court held that even though the petitioner was aware of the outcome, she did not take any steps and it was only after a delay of 350 days that she filed an appeal before the appellate court. Hence, the lower courts had rightly rejected her appeal on the ground of delay. Resultantly, the Court dismissed the revision petition and upheld the order of lower court. [Sarla Devi v. Jagan Nath,2018 SCC OnLine HP 1541, order dated 30-10-2018]

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