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.
|Case name:||Esha Bhattacharjee V/s. Managing Committee of Raghunathpur Nafar Academy and others|
|Case number/Citation:||Civil Appeal Nos. 8183-8184 OF 2013|
|Court:||Supreme Court of India Civil Appellate Jurisdiction|
|Bench:||Shri Justice Anil R. Dave Shri Justice Dipak Misra|
|Decided on:||September 13,2013|
|Relevant Act/Sections:||Constitution of India, Indian Limitation Act, 1963 (Section 5)|
- BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
- The appellant, who is an Assistant Teacher in language group (Bengali), invoked the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution by preferring a writ petition seeking approval of her appointment and for certain other reliefs.
- On 25.02.2004, the learned single judge considering the submissions of the learned counsel for the petitioner therein issued a direction that during pendency of the application the services of the petitioner as Assistant Teacher in Bengali in Raghunathpur Nafar Academy (HS) at Abhoynagar in the district of Howrah shall not be disturbed until further orders. The said orders were not complied with.
The procedural history is:
- The appellant then filed a contempt application being C.P.A.N. No. 1016 of 2004. The learned counsel for the petitioner communicated the order to the school authorities but the said communication was not paid heed to. On 24.01.2006, the District Inspector of Schools (SE), Howrah, directed the said school authorities to comply with the direction issued by the learned single judge.
- After being constrained yet again, she preferred another contempt petition no. C.P.A.N No. 1506 of 2010 wherein the learned single judge directed that the District Inspector of Schools (SE) would ensure due compliance of the order. That apart, a direction was issued that the concerned police authority should see to it that the Secretary and teacher-in-charge of the concerned school implement the order in allowing the petitioner to join her duties.
- Though the appellant was allowed to join, yet she was neither permitted to sign the daily attendance register, nor allotted any work nor paid her salary. Being impelled, she filed an application for contempt, no. 1506 of 2010, and on 24.12.2010 the learned single judge directed for personal presence of the Secretary and teacher-in-charge of the school. At this juncture, the Managing Committee and the Secretary of the school preferred an appeal along with an application for condonation of delay.
- The said application for condonation of delay was seriously resisted by the appellant by filing an affidavit and, eventually, by the impugned order the Division Bench condoned the delay. The Division Bench has also passed an interim order of stay. The said orders are the subject matter of assail in these appeals by special leave.
- ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:
- Whether the Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta is justified in entertaining the application for condoning the delay of 2449 days?
- RATIO OF THE COURT:
- The court, after hearing Mr. Kunal Chatterjee, learned counsel for the appellant, Mr Anip Sachthey, learned counsel for respondent no.1 and Mr. Sarad Kumar Singhania, learned counsel for the respondent nos.3 to 5, seems fit to state the obligation of the court with dealing with an application for condonation of delay and the approach to be adopted while considering the grounds for condonation of such colossal delay.
- In Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag and another v. Mst. Katiji and others, a two-Judge Bench observed that the legislature has conferred power to condone delay by enacting Section 5 of the Indian Limitation Act of 1963 in order to enable the courts to do substantial justice to parties by disposing of matters on merits. The case of G. Ramegowda, Major and others v. Special Land Acquisition Officer, Bangalore also speaks about “Sufficient Cause”.
- In O.P. Kathpalia v. Lakhmir Singh (dead) and others, the court was dealing with a fact-situation where the interim order passed by the court of first instance was an interpolated order and it was not ascertainable as to when the order was made.In State of Nagaland v. Lipok AO and others, the court after referring to New India Insurance Co. Ltd. V. Shanti Misra, came to hold that adoption of strict standard of proof sometimes fails to protect public justice and it may result in public mischief.
- In B. Madhuri Goud v. B. Damodar Reddy, the court referring to earlier decisions reversed the decision of the learned single judge who had condoned delay of 1236 days as the explanation given in the application for condonation of delay was absolutely fanciful. Also, the court found that there should be a liberal, pragmatic, justice-oriented, non-pedantic approach while dealing with an application for condonation of delay, for the courts are not supposed to legalise injustice but are obliged to remove injustice.
- The court observed there should be a liberal, pragmatic, justice oriented, non-pedantic approach while dealing with an application for condonation of delay, for the courts are not supposed to legalise injustice but are obliged to remove injustice. Substantial justice being paramount and pivotal the technical considerations should not be given undue and uncalled for emphasis. The court further observed that no presumption can be attached to deliberate causation of delay but, gross negligence on the part of the counsel or litigant is to be taken note of.
- According to the court, most of the discussion pertained to the merits of the case. The High Court had misdirected itself by not considering that the notice of the writ petition was served on the earlier managing committee; that the notice of the earlier committee had appeared in the writ court and was aware of the proceedings and the order; that the managing committee had exhibited gross negligence and, in any way, recklessness and that it was obvious that the managing committee was really taking resort to dilatory tactics by not seeking necessitious legal remedy in quite promptitude.
- The court believes that a statutory committee cannot remain totally indifferent to an order passed by the court and sleep like “Kumbhakarna”. The persons chosen to act on behalf of the Managing Committee cannot take recourse to fancy and rise like a phoenix and move the court and that Plea of lack of knowledge in the present case really lacks bona fide. The court concluded that Division Bench of the High Court had failed to keep itself alive to the concept of exercise of judicial discretion that is governed by rules of reason and justice.
- DECISION HELD BY COURT:
- Ex consequenti, the appeals are allowed and the order passed by the Division Bench condoning the delay is set aside. As a result of such extinction the appeal before the Division Bench of the High court shall also stand dismissed.