During the month of November 2019, two important judgments were pronounced by judicial authorities, pronouncing the principles behind condoning the delay in filing appeals before the courts by applying section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963.
In case of Senior Bhosale Estate (HUF) Appellant(s) Versus Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax Respondent (s), The Hon’ble Supreme Court by setting aside the order of the High Court and relegated the parties before the High Court, by allowing the civil application(s) for con-donation of 1754 days delay in in filing the concerned appeal.
The Appellant(s) in this case pleaded before the court that they had no knowledge about the order passed against them by the ITAT on 29-12-2003 until they were confronted with the auction notices in June 2008 issued by the competent authority.The Appellant(s) filed appeal within prescribed time along with subject applications on 19-07-2019.The respondents did not expressly refute the stand taken by the applicant(s) about the fact that they were not aware about the order issued by ITAT on 29-12-2003.
Hon’ble Supreme Court while allowing the condonation of delay of 1754 days observed that unless fact is not refuted by the respondent (s) the question of disbelieving the stand taken by the Applicant (s) cannot arise thus Hon’ble High Court should have shown lenience to the appellant (s) by condoning the delay in filing the concerned appeal(s).
In the second case between Bhagwati Colonizers Pvt. Ltd Vs ITO (ITAT Amritsar) (Third Member):
The appellant in his appeal prayed condonation of delay of 571 days. The submission was that the appellant was not aware of the fact that an order was passed by CIT(A) on 14-06-2013 which was handed over to his Advocate. The appellant came to know about the said order during the penalty proceedings. Appellant immediately filed a request before the CIT(A) on 05-03-2014 with a request to supply a copy of the order. The copy of the order as requested was received by the Appellant on 04-03-2015 from the office of CIT(A) with a letter stating that the copy of the order was duly received by his Advocate.
On receipt of the order the Appellant filed an appeal on 31-03-2019 before ITAT on 31-03-2015 with a request for the condonation of delay giving the reason that the cause of delay in filling the appeal was beyond the control of the Appellant.
During the hearing the learned Departmental Representative produced documents to prove that the assess had duly authorised his Advocate to receive the order on his behalf resulting in receipt of order by the Advocate from the Department. A question was raised to obtain a letter from the Advocate mentioning that he has not informed the Appellant about the said order. The learned Departmental Representative informed the court obtaining a letter as desired by court from the Advocate is not possible as the relation between the Appellant and his specific Advocate is not good enough to expect such a communication from the Advocate.
In both the cases the Hon’ble courts were of the view that the law of limitation is founded on public policy. The idea behind the law of limitation is not to destroy the rights of the parties but to ensure that they do not resort to dilatory tactics and seek remedy without delay. The objective of the law of limitation is to keep alive the legal remedy within a prescribed limited time but does not restrict courts to condone the delay in the interest of Justice. In both the cases Section 5 of the limitations Act was applied.
There are certain common but genuine grounds which the courts may consider for the condonation of delay in cases where Appeals are filed after the expiry of period as laid down under the limitations Act, 1963.
From the above decisions it becomes clear that in the case of condonation of delay where the appeal was filed beyond the limitation of period, the courts are empowered to condone the delay, provided that the Appellant can prove his claim of inability to file appeal within the prescribed period. Litigant must be able to demonstrate that there was “sufficient cause” which obstructed his action to file Appeal beyond the prescribed time limit.
Courts have also held that the expression “Sufficient Cause” shall receive liberal consideration for the sake of Justice. Thus, the condonation of delay is not automatic but is based upon on the facts of the case. Courts while condoning delays in filing appeals have power to examine each case separately and after ascertaining the facts if delay was due to “sufficient cause” may Condon the delay.
Dilip Kumar Raina, Advocate [FCA (ICAI); LL. B; PGDFM]