MADURAI: The Madras High Court has condoned an “exorbitant” delay of 1511 days on the part of Tiruchi Municipal Corporation in filing an appeal against a lower court decree granted in favour of an alleged encroacher of a public street.
Allowing a petition filed by the Corporation before the Madurai Bench, Justice K.K. Sasidharan said that the law of limitation which provides for approaching the courts within a stipulated period cannot be applied to the disadvantage of general public. However, he directed the local body to deposit a cost of Rs.10,000 payable equally to the High Court Legal Services Committee and the Mediation and Conciliation Centre. The appeal shall stand dismissed automatically if the appellant fails to pay the amount within four weeks.
The Corporation said that an individual had filed a suit before the Tiruchi Principal Sub- Judge in 1998 claiming ownership over the public street on basis of certain proceedings held in 1954. The suit was dismissed in 2001, but she appealed before the Principal District Judge and obtained a favourable decree on November 15, 2002.
However, the Corporation was unaware of the disposal of the first appeal until 2007 when the officials attempted to demolish a construction put up on the disputed property.
The local body claimed that its counsel, who conducted the case before the lower court, was arrested in connection with a forgery case and the police had seized many documents from his office including the present case bundle.
It also said that one of its employees was punished for his lethargic attitude in not pursuing the case.
Satisfied with the explanation, Mr. Justice Sasidharan said: “It is true that while considering an application to condone the delay, the court has to see the sufficient cause made out in the application. The sufficient cause has to be considered in the factual context of a particular matter. At times, delay of a few days may not be condonable on account of an unsatisfactory explanation. At times, an exorbitant delay could be condoned, if the reason is found to be acceptable.”
He recalled that the Supreme Court dealing with a similar matter in State of Nagaland Versus Lipok Ao (2005) stated:
“Although no special indulgence can be shown to the Government which in similar circumstances, is not shown to an individual suitor, one cannot but take a practical view of the working of the Government without being unduly indulgent to the slow motion of its wheels.”