IN an order sympathetic to public authorities who delay filing of appeals far beyond prescribed time limits, the Supreme Court has stated that their petitions should not be “thrown out on technicalities”. The court asserted that “in the legal arena, an attempt should always be made to allow the matter to be contested on merits, unless mala fides are writ large on the conduct of the party.” This statement in the judgment, Improvement Trust, Ludhiana vs Ujagar Singh, comes in the wake of criticism against government authorities like the revenue department which take years to file appeals in lost cases. In this case, the trust acquired land from four land owners in 1989 but did not pay the owners. They had to move the court for the amount. It ordered attachment of the trust land to pay the owners. A company bought the land in auction. It was only then the trust “woke up from its slumber” and filed objections. Even after that the trust did not take part in the proceedings, according to the auction purchaser, delaying it for a decade. When the trust moved the Supreme Court, the company objected to the late appeal. However, the court felt that the delay in this case was not due to mala fides and therefore the lapse could be condoned. Moreover, the delay had not been “so huge warranting its dismissal on such hypertechnical ground.” No straitjacket formula should be applied for condonation of delay, the Supreme Court said while remitting the matter to the executing court to deal with the claims of the auction purchaser.

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