The doctrine of Condonation of delay is covered under the Limitation Act, 1963.
The Act lays down the time period within which a suit, appeal or application can
be brought before the court of law. On the expiry of such time period, disables
the aggrieved party, the remedy of filing the suit appeal or application.
This doctrine is an exception to this limitation period. It is mentioned
in Section 5 of the Act which elaborates upon Extension of prescribed period in
certain cases. In other words, if the aggrieved party is able to satisfy the
Court that they had sufficient cause for causing a delay in filing of the suit
which led to the expiry of the limitation period, the Court can, with
discretionary jurisdiction disregard the delay or condone the delay and
proceed with the case.
The Limitation Act, 1963
Section 2(j) defines period of limitation as the time prescribed by the
Schedule to institute any suit, appeal or application, and prescribed period
as the period of limitation determined as per the provisions of the Act.
The main objective that the Limitation Act, 1963 serves is to primarily provide
a bar upon the time limit within which the aggrieved party can institute a suit,
application or appeal in the court.
The term sufficient cause has not been defined conclusively and differs from a
case to case. The Court has the discretionary power in determining what
establishes as sufficient cause, depending upon the facts and circumstances of
In cases regarding non-appearance, adjournment or stay of execution of a decree,
the cause must be just and adequate i.e. sufficient
otherwise these provisions
will just be a way of incessantly prolonging litigation. This principle has been
advocated in furtherance of pursuance of justice but it shouldn’t deny someone
of justice either.
In the case of G. Ramagowda v. Special Land Acquisition Officer, it was held
that sufficient cause is to be interpreted liberally so as to pursue
Instances when the delay can be condoned:
Condonation of Delay prima facie covers the appeals and not suits
- Subsequent changes in the law
- Illness of the party.
- Imprisonment of the party.
- Party is a government servant.
- Party being a Pardanashin Lady.
- Imprisonment of a party or the party is illiterate.
- The party belongs to a minority group who has insufficient funds.
- The delay is caused due to pendency of writ petition.
The Condonation of delay means the extension of prescribed time in certain cases
subject to sufficient cause. The concept of condoning a delay is primarily
preferred to the applications and appeal and does not cover the suits. The
rationale behind the doctrine not including the suit is that this doctrine is
regarded as an exception to the general rule that is Bar of limitation under the
legislation and hence, it does not include suit.
Supreme Court Judgments
Delhi High Court Judgment:
- Name of the case: Oriental Aroma Chemical Industries Ltd. vs. Gujarat
Industrial Development Corporation & another.
Citation: (2010) 5 SCC 459.
Relevant para nos.: Para 14, 15 and 16.
14. We have considered the respective submissions. The law of limitation is
founded on public policy. T legislature does not prescribe limitation with the
object of destroying the rights of the parties but to ensure that they do not
resort to dilatory tactics and seek remedy without delay. The idea is that every
legal remedy must be kept alive for a period fixed by the legislature. To put it
differently, the law of limitation prescribes a period within which legal remedy
can be availed for redress of the legal injury. At the same time, the courts are
bestowed with the power to condone the delay, if sufficient cause is shown for
not availing the remedy within the stipulated time..
15. The expression "sufficient cause" employed in Section 5 of the Limitation
Act, 1963 and similar other statutes is elastic enough to enable the courts to
apply the law in a meaningful manner which subserves the ends of justice.
Although, no hard-and-fast rule can be laid down in dealing with the
applications for condonation of delay, this Court has justifiably advocated
adoption of a liberal approach in condoning the delay of short duration and a
stricter approach where the delay is inordinate--Collector (L.A.) v. Katiji, N.
Balakrishnan v. M. Krishnamurthy and Vedabai v. Shantaram Baburao Patil
16. In dealing with the applications for condonation of delay filed on behalf of
the State and its agencies/instrumentalities this Court has, while emphasising
that same yardstick should be applied for deciding the applications for
condonation of delay filed by private individuals and the State, observed that
certain amount of latitude is not impermissible in the latter case because the
State represents collective cause of the community and the decisions are taken
by the officers/agencies at a slow pace and encumbered process of pushing the
files from table to table consumes considerable time causing delay-6. Ramegowda
v. Land Acquisition Officer State of Haryana v. Chandra Mani, State of U.P. v.
Harish Chandra... State of Bihar v. Ratan Lal Sahu, State of Nagaland v. Lipok
AO and State (NCT of Delhi) v. Ahmed Jaan.
- Name of the case: Maniben Devraj Shah vs. Municipal Corporation of
Citation: (2012) 5 SCC 157.
Relevant para nos.: Para 14, 15 and 24.
14. We have considered the respective arguments/submissions and carefully
scrutinised the record. The law of limitation is founded on public policy. The
Limitation Act, 1963 has not been enacted with the object of destroying the
rights of the parties but to ensure that they approach the court for vindication
of their rights without unreasonable delay. The idea underlying the concept of
limitation is that every remedy should remain alive only till the expiry of the
period fixed by the legislature. At the same time, the courts are empowered to
condone the delay provided that sufficient cause is shown by the applicant for
not availing the remedy within the prescribed period of limitation.
15. The expression sufficient cause used in Section 5 of the Limitation Act,
1963 and other statutes is elastic enough to enable the courts to apply the law
in a meaningful manner which serves the ends of justice. No hard-and-fast rule
has been or can be laid down for deciding the applications for condonation of
delay but over the years this Court has advocated that a liberal approach should
be adopted in such matters so that substantive rights of the parties are not
defeated merely because of delay.
24. What colour the expression sufficient cause would get in the factual
matrix of a given case would largely depend on bona fide nature of the
explanation. If the court finds that there has been no negligence on the part of
the applicant and the cause shown for the delay does not lack bona fides, then
it may condone the delay. If, on the other hand, the explanation given by the
applicant is found to be concocted or he is thoroughly negligent in prosecuting
his cause, then it would be a legitimate exercise of discretion not to condone
- Name of the case: Improvement Trust, Ludhiana vs. Ujagar Singh & others.
Citation: (2010) 6 SCC 786.
Relevant para nos.: Para 14, 16, 17 and 19.
14. Even though the appeal dismissed by the first appellate court on the ground
of delay, stood confirmed by the High Court but even the special leave petition
was delayed by 258 days, in refiling there was further delay of 90 days. No
doubt it is true that this Court after considering the appellant's application
was pleased to condone the delay and leave was granted. But this has been argued
by Mr Vijay Hansaria to show the conduct, behaviour and attitude of the
appellant in prosecuting the matter.
16. While considering the application for condonation of delay no straitjacket
formula is prescribed to come to the conclusion if sufficient and good grounds
have been made out or not. Each case has to be weighed from its facts and the
circumstances in which the party acts and behaves. From the conduct, behaviour
and attitude of the appellant it cannot be said that it had been absolutely
callous and negligent in prosecuting the matter.
17. Even though Mr Vijay Hansaria appearing for Respondent 5 has argued the
matter at length and tried his best to persuade us to come to the conclusion
that no sufficient grounds are made out to interfere with the concurrent
findings of facts but we are afraid, we are not satisfied with the line of
arguments so adopted by the counsel for Respondent 5 and cannot subscribe to the
same. After all, justice can be done only when the matter is fought on merits
and in accordance with law rather than to dispose of it on such technicalities
and that too at the threshold.
19. In our opinion, the ends of justice would be met by setting aside the
impugned orders and the matter is remitted to the executing court to consider
and dispose of the appellant's objections filed under Order 21 Rule 90 CPC on
merits and in accordance with law, at an early date. It is pertinent to point
out that unless mala fides are writ large on the conduct of the party, generally
as a normal rule, delay should be condoned. In the legal arena, an attempt
should always be made to allow the matter to be contested on merits rather than
to throw it out on such technicalities.
- Name of the case: State of Nagaland vs. Lipok ao & others
Citation: (2005) 3 SCC 752.
Relevant para nos.: Para 17 and 18.
17. When the factual background is considered in the light of legal principles
as noted above, the inevitable conclusion is that the delay of 57 days deserved
condonation. Therefore, the order of the High Court refusing to condone the
delay is set aside.
18. In normal course, we would have required the High Court to consider the
application praying for grant of leave on merits. But keeping in view the long
passage of time and the points involved, we deem it proper to direct grant of
leave to appeal. The appeal shall be registered and disposed of on merits. It
shall not be construed that we have expressed any merits on the appeal to be
adjudicated by the High Court.
- Name of the case: Vedabai vs.Shantaram baburao Pati & others.
Citation: (2001) 9 SCC 106.
Relevant para nos.: Para 5.
5. In exercising discretion under Section 5 of the Limitation Act the courts
should adopt a pragmatic approach. A distinction must be made between a case
where the delay is inordinate and a case where the delay is of a few days.
Whereas in the former case the consideration of prejudice to the other side will
be a relevant factor so the case calls for a more cautious approach but in the
latter case, no such consideration may arise and such a case deserves a liberal
approach. No hard-and-fast rule can be laid down in this regard. The court has
to exercise the discretion on the facts of each case keeping in mind that in
construing the expression sufficient cause, the principle of advancing
substantial justice is of prime importance.
In our view in this case, the
approach of the learned Additional District Judge is wholly erroneous and his
order is unsustainable. It is evident that the discretion under Section 5 of the
Limitation Act is exercised by the Additional District Judge in contravention of
the law laid down by this Court, that the expression sufficient cause should
receive liberal construction, in a catena of decisions (see State of W.B. v. Administrator,
Howrah Municipality [(1972) 1 SCC 366] and Sandhya Rani Sarkar v. Sudha Rani
Debi [(1978) 2 SCC 116] ). The High Court in exercising its jurisdiction under
Section 115 CPC failed to correct the jurisdictional error of the appellate
- Name of the case: Perumon Bhagvathy Devaswom vs. Bhargavi Amma(deceased)
Citation: (2008) 8 SCC 321.
Relevant para nos.: Para 13.
- Name of the case: Rakhee Gupta vs. Pramod Bajaj.
Citation: 2015 SCC OnLine Del 12346.
Relevant para nos.: Para 13 and14.
13. It is equally well-settled that procedural laws are devised for
advancing the cause of justice. It is also well-settled that the Courts must
follow a liberal approach by striking a balance provided that the delay has
not been caused on account of negligence, inaction, carelessness or for the
reasons which are not explained.
14. While deciding application under Section 5, Limitation Act, justice oriented
approach is required to be adopted. In Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag v. Mst
Katiji, reported at AIR 1987 SC 1353 (1354), the Supreme Court held thus:
………..The expression ‘sufficient cause’ employed by the legislature is
adequately elastic to enable the courts to apply the law in a meaningful manner
which subserves the ends of justice that being the life-purpose for the
existence of the institution of Courts. It is common knowledge that this Court
has been making a justifiably liberal approach in matters instituted in this
Court. But the message does not appear to have percolated down to all the other
Courts in the hierarchy.
And such a liberal approach is adopted on principle as it is realized that:
- Ordinarily a litigant does not stand to benefit by lodging an appeal
- Refusing to condone delay can result in a meritorious matter being
thrown out at the very threshold and cause of justice being defeated. As
against this when delay is condoned the highest that can happen is that a
cause would be decided on merits after hearing the parties.
- ‘Every day's delay must be explained’ does not mean that a pedantic
approach should be made. Why not every hour's delay, every second's delay?
The doctrine must be applied in a rational common sense pragmatic manner.
- When substantial justice and technical considerations are pitted against
each other, cause of substantial justice deserves to be preferred for the
other side cannot claim to have vested right in injustice being done because
of a non-deliberate delay.
- There is no presumption that delay is occasioned deliberately, or on
account of culpable negligence, or on account of mala fides. A litigant does
not stand to benefit by resorting to delay. In fact he runs a serious
The Law of Limitation and Condonation of Delay are two effective tools for
effective litigation and quick disposal of cases. The Law of Limitation ensures
that the case is filed within the prescribed period so as to avoid unnecessary
delays and on the other hand, Condonation of delay is the safeguard to the law
of limitation and bars certain cases in which the delay in filing the suit is
justifiable, i.e. can be backed by having sufficient cause
The main purpose for which Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 was enacted is
to enable the Court to do substantial justice and that is the precise reason why
very elastic expression sufficient cause is employed therein, so as to sub-serve
the ends of justice.
No hard and fast rule can be laid down in dealing with the applications for
condonation of delay. Hence, Condonation of delay is a remedy where a
meritorious case be heard after providing a sufficient cause to the court when
the prescribed period has ended.