Doctrine Of Laches: Why Wait?
The doctrine of latches is a legal defence that may be claimed in the civil
matter which states that their has been an unreasonable delay in pursuing the
claim which has prevented the defendant from putting the defence, the doctrine
of latches is an equitable defence that seeks to prevent a party from the
ambushing someone else by failing to make a legal claim in a timely manner .
It basically asserts that the court will not help people who sleep over their
rights and help only those who are aware and vigilant about their rights ,a
party is said to be guilty pf laches when they come to the court to assert their
right after a reasonable delay in that respect.
A delay in filing a lawsuit has the effect of preventing the opposing party from
putting on a fair defence ,the reason is witnesses go their ways ,evidence
disappears and memories falter ,if the plantiff has the knowledge of the
problem that might be the subject of a legal dispute ,but puts off an asserting
his claim for an unreasonable amount of time he may be barred from recovering
on his claim at all.
Example- Lisa has a sexual harassment claim against her college history
professor ,but she waits 6 years to file a lawsuit ,during this course of time
the professor has moved to teach in some other college and the students who have
witness such a circumstance would have scattered in their lives ,now in this
case the college and the administration may claim the doctrine of laches in the
affirmative defenses to the law suit ,this tells us that the because lisa took
soo time to file the suit, because lisa allowed took a lot time to pass the
without filing a claim, they have been put in a unfair position ,as it will be
very difficult to put on a defence after so many years of the incident.
Trilok Chand Motichand Vs. H.B. Munshi
In this case the main question before the court was whether there is any period
of limitation prescribed within which the remedy under article 32 to be invoked
,the petition in this case was filed after a delay of 10 years ,the plea was
dismissed for delay.
Justice Sikri quoted a term of 3 years which can be used as a reasonable
time for the filing of a writ petition.
Justice Bachawat quoted it as 1 year
On other hand , Justice hegde suggested that the law on limitation has
no application on the on the proceedings to take place under article 32 and such
the court cannot refuse a petition based on the delay.
In this regard , Chief Justice Hidayatullah felt their should be no
usage of the hard and the fast rule he said that the issue should be dealt by
the court in a case to case basis.
Gian Singh Vs. High court of Punjab and Haryana
In this case the writ petition was filed by the petitioners after a period
of 11 years after a date from which they claimed promotions.
The petitioners argued that the during the following years they were
representing themselves before the different authorities regarding their
The court dismissed the petition stating that their was no valid reason
for the delay stated.
The doctrine of laches is based on the maxim that:
Equity aids the vigilant and
not those who slumber on their rights ,historically this doctrine was founded
in the lord chancellor's court where the plantiff failed to file the petition
within the reasonable period of time ,consequently the relief was denied on the
ground laches even though no specific prejudice to the defendant was shown.
Furthermore it was also found that even though the delay is for a shorter period
of time than the prescribed by the statue ,it may still bar the interim relief
if it is unreasonable and prejudicial to the defendant .
Difference between laches and Statue of limitation
The two of them might look similar but however they are different in lot of ways
, a statue of limitation is a definitive time limit set by the law in which a
person can make a legal claim ,or a prosecutor may file a criminal charges.
The purpose of both the latches and the statues of limitations is to ensure that
the legal claims are filed in a reasonable period of time, so that the evidences
and reasonable witnesses can be found ,the statue of limitation deals with
whether the statutory time period has lapsed and the doctrine of laches is
concerned with reasonableness of a delay in filling a legal action.
The intent behind this doctrine is not to provide any relief to a person who
has clarified by his actions (by displaying disinterest in claiming his rights
within a fair amount of time) that he has waived his right to claim; or if the
defendant has been put in such a position by his conduct and negligent behaviour
that it has jeopardised his case and if a remedy was to be claimed in the
future, it Holding all this in mind, the court held that in such cases, the
lapse of time and delay bear utmost significance, and the theory of Laches rests
on these aims.
The doctrine with regard to the fundamental rights has more importance because
these rights are guaranteed are basic and cannot be replaced ,the doctrine of
laches acts as a watchdog to the judicial system and plays an important role
where in the cases which are very genuine and important are dealt and the one
which are malice are dealt with due reprimand ,hence the doctrine of laches have
in the past few years have eased the burden of proof on the plantiff, giving a
clear picture what cases have to be taken care of .
Written By: Mauli Dogra
Law Article in India
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