Apex Court Lays Down Principles To Be Considered With Regards To Condonation Of Delay In Preferring Appeals

Posted On - 27 April, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


[1]A Two-Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court (“Hon’ble SC”) comprising of Justice Bela M Trivedi and JusticePankaj Mithal (“Hon’ble Bench”), while refusing to condone the delay of 5659 days in preferring an appeal, laid down eight principles by providing harmonious construction to Sections 3 and 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 (“Limitation Act”).


A land in the village Gandluru, District Guntur, Andhra Pradesh was acquired in 1989 for the Telugu Ganga Project. The Claimants not being satisfied by the compensation offered under the award, preferred a reference under Section 18 of Land Acquisition Act (“the Act”) before the Court of Addl. Senior Civil Judge, Gudur. Out of the 16 claimants in the reference, claimants No. 1, 3 and 11 died (“Deceased Persons”) during the pendency of the reference. No steps were taken to substitute the heirs and legal representatives of the deceased persons. The said reference was dismissed on merits along with some other references vide common judgment and order dated 24.09.1999 upholding the award of the collector.

After the lapse of more than 5/6 years, an Appeal was proposed to be filed before the Hon’ble Andhra Pradesh High Court (“Hon’ble HC”) by the heirs and legal representatives of the deceased claimant No. 11 in the reference i.e., Pathapati Subba Reddy, under Section 54 of the Act challenging the dismissal of the reference.

No other claimant or their legal heirs from amongst the other 15 Claimants who were parties in the reference joined the heirs and legal representatives of Claimant No. 11 in filing the Appeal and neither did they prefer any separate or independent appeal of their own.

The above Appeal was preferred with the delay of 5659 days. Accordingly, an Application supported by an Affidavit was filed by the surviving daughter of the deceased Claimant No. 11 for condoning the delay in filing the proposed Appeal (“Condonation Application”).

It was averred in the CondonationApplication that the proposed Appellants are the heirs and legal representatives of the deceased Claimant No. 11 but they were not brought on record before the decision of the reference. The said deceased claimant No.11 was survived by his two daughters. The elder one died and the proposed appellants are the surviving second daughter and her descendants. Since she was living in her matrimonial house, she had no knowledge of the above reference. It was only on 28.05.2015 when one of the grandsons of the said daughter of the deceased claimant visited the office of the L.A.O. for the purpose of obtaining submersion certificate to secure a job that he came to know that there was a reference which was dismissed on 24.09.1999, whereupon the proposed Appeal was immediately filed along with the Condonation Application.

The High Court not being satisfied by the explanation furnished in preferring the proposed appeal beyond limitation, refused to condone the delay in filing the proposed appeal and consequently dismissed it as barred by time by the Impugned Order dated 18.01.2017 (“Impugned Order”).


Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, the Hon’ble HC was justified in refusing to condone the delay in filing the proposed appeal and to dismiss it as barred by limitation?


The Hon’ble Bench while considering a catena of Judgments of the Hon’ble SC on the Law of Limitation and more specifically Sections 3 and 5 of the Limitation Act, summarised the following eight principles with regards to condonation of delay:

  • Law of limitation is based upon public policy that there should be an end to litigation by forfeiting the right to remedy rather than the right itself;
  • A right or the remedy that has not been exercised or availed of for a long time must come to an end or cease to exist after a fixed period of time;
  • The provisions of the Limitation Act have to be construed differently, such as Section 3 has to be construed in a strict sense whereas Section 5 has to be construed liberally;
  • In order to advance substantial justice, though liberal approach, justice-oriented approach or cause of substantial justice may be kept in mind but the same cannot be used to defeat the substantial law of limitation contained in Section 3 of the Limitation Act;
  • Courts are empowered to exercise discretion to condone the delay if sufficient cause had been explained, but that exercise of power is discretionary in nature and may not be exercised even if sufficient cause is established for various factors such as, where there is inordinate delay, negligence and want of due diligence;
  • Merely some persons obtained relief in similar matter, it does not mean that others are also entitled to the same benefit if the court is not satisfied with the cause shown for the delay in filing the appeal;
  • Merits of the case are not required to be considered in condoning the delay; and
  • Delay condonation application has to be decided on the parameters laid down for condoning the delay and condoning the delay for the reason that the conditions have been imposed, tantamounts to disregarding the statutory provision.

The Hon’ble SC, while considering the above principles in light of the facts of the present case, upheld the Impugned Order of the Hon’ble HC, and observed that the Hon’ble HC is justified in refusing to condone the delay in filing the appeal.


The case underscores the importance of diligence and awareness in pursuing legal remedies and the stringent application of limitation laws. It reaffirms that while courts may exercise discretion in condoning delays, such discretion is not absolute and must be exercised judiciously.


Pathapati Subba Reddy (Died) by LRS & Ors. v. Special Deputy Collector (LA) : https://scourtapp.nic.in/supremecourt/2017/14596/14596_2017_15_1502_52056_Judgement_08-Apr-2024.pdf

Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 31248 of 2018

Judgment dated 8th April 2024