Subsequent Change In Law Can’t Be A Ground For Condonation Of Delay

Posted On - 28 June, 2024 • By - Vineet Verma


[1]A Three-Judge Bench of the Honourable Supreme Court (“Hon’ble SC”) in the composition of Justices Surya Kant, Dipankar Datta, and Ujjal Bhuyan (“Hon’ble Bench”) dealt with the Appeal filed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The impugned array of orders dated 23rd February 2016, 13th June 2016, 24th October 2016 as well as on December 12, 2016 passed by the High Court of Delhi which declared certain land acquisition proceedings as lapsed under Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013. The key issue was whether the High Court was wrong in deviating from established principles under Sections 34 and 37 of Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996 which led to the miscarriage of justice. The Hon’ble Bench also considered if a subsequent change in law could be a ground for justifying condonation of delay. On this plea being negatived, it was held that whist such ground was not accepted, delay could be condoned on other grounds such as “public interest” therefore most appeals were entertained. For each individual case separate orders & directions were issued.


The Hon’ble Supreme Court reviewed several land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, for development projects in Delhi. During the acquisition process, disputes arose between landowners and the Government, leading to multiple legal proceedings. In some cases, compensation was deposited in the treasury as landowners did not claim it, and possession was delayed due to stay orders obtained by the landowners. In 2013, a new act replaced the old one, and Section 24 of the new act deemed certain old proceedings as lapsed if compensation wasn’t paid or possession wasn’t taken.

The case of Pune Municipal Corporation v. Harakchand Solanki (2014) 3 SCC 183 first interpreted Section 24(2) of the new act, stating that depositing compensation in the treasury did not count as payment, thus lapsing the proceedings. Similarly, in Sree Balaji Nagar Residential Association v. State of Tamil Nadu (2015) 3 SCC 353 the Supreme Court held that stay orders did not extend the acquisition process, causing lapses. Consequently, landowners sought declarations from the High Court that their proceedings had lapsed, which the court affirmed. However, a three-judge bench in Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra (2018) 1 SCC 733 overruled these decisions, clarifying that “paid” meant “tendered,” and stay orders should be excluded. A five-judge bench in Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal (2020) 8 SCC 129 further ruled that for proceedings to lapse, both compensation and possession conditions must be unmet. The court also stated that “paid” includes depositing in the treasury or court. Numerous subsequent appeals were filed after the limitation period, challenging these decisions.


Whether the delay should be condoned in the present case?


The SC in the instant case refused to condone the delay in a majority of the appeals filed, their rationale was that if a subsequent change in interpretation of the law is accepted as a legitimate reason for condoning a delay, it would create a situation where numerous cases, including those that had relied on over – ruled judgments, would flood the court system seeking relief based on the new interpretation and will be prejudicial to the parties who have been given a favourable order.

Moreover, it was observed that subsequent overruling of a judgment will not come under the ambit of “sufficient cause” for the purposes of Section 5 of the Limitation Act. This is because when a case is over – ruled, only the binding nature of the precedent is taken away, but the decision taken based on such precedent persists. The Hon’ble SC also noted that the established term of limitation had already passed long before the judgments in the Shailendra case and Manoharlal case were delivered. This could be because the appellants would have felt that their case had no merits to let the period of limitation lapse.

The Hon’ble SC concluded that the ground of subsequent change in law can be used only when the case is sub judice. Therefore, the delay was not condoned on the grounds of “subsequent change in law”, the same was granted on other grounds like public interest.


The instant judgment sets a crucial precedent. The court by refusing to condone the delay in the present case furthers the intention of reducing the plethora of cases pending before the courts. Thus, inevitably reducing the number of cases being filed. In addition to this, the case also suggests that irregularity in rulings would act as a hindrance to legal proceedings and would lead to constant reconsideration of the cases sought.