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What is Sufficient Cause -Part I

The expresion sufficient cause is the most crucial aspect when it comes to proving bona fide while seeking condonation of delay However, it is well settled law that the Courts are expected to adopt liberal approach in  matters where condonation of delay is prayed for, in the interest of substantial justice rather than strictly adhering to the technicalities.

We are focussing on certain ratios laid down by Supreme Court when it comes to determining   a sufficient cause as below :

a) In Manindra Land and Building Corporation Ltd. v.Bhootnath Banerjee & Ors., AIR 1964 SC 1336; Lala Matadin v.
A. Narayanan, AIR 1970 SC 1953; Parimal v.Veena @ Bharti AIR2011 SC 1150; and Maniben Devraj Shah v. Municipal
Corporation of Brihan Mumbai AIR 2012 SC 1629 , it was held

Sufficient cause is the cause for which defendant could not be blamed for his absence. The meaning of the word “sufficient” is “adequate” or “enough”, inasmuch as may be necessary to answer the purpose intended. Therefore, the word “sufficient” embraces no more than that which provides a platitude, which when the act done suffices to accomplish the purpose intended in the facts and circumstances existing in a case, duly examined from the view point of a reasonable standard of a cautious man. In this context, “sufficient cause” means that the party should not have acted in a negligent manner or there was a want of bona fide on its part in view of the facts and circumstances of a case or it cannot be alleged that the party has “not acted diligently” or “remained inactive”. However, the facts and circumstances of each case must afford sufficient ground to enable the Court concerned to exercise discretion for the reason that whenever the Court exercises discretion, it has to be exercised judiciously. The applicant must satisfy the Court that he was prevented by any “sufficient cause” from prosecuting his case, and unless a satisfactory explanation is furnished, the Court should not allow the application for condonation of delay. The court has to examine whether the mistake is bona fide or was merely a device to cover an ulterior purpose.

b ) In Arjun Singh v. Mohindra Kumar, AIR 1964 SC 993 the Court explained the difference between a “good cause” and a “sufficient cause” and observed that every “sufficient cause” is a good cause and vice versa. However, if any difference exists it can only be that the requirement of good cause is complied with on a lesser degree of proof that that of “sufficient cause”.

c) In Madanlal v. Shyamlal, AIR 2002 SC 100; and Ram Nath Sao @ Ram Nath Sahu & Ors. v.Gobardhan Sao & Ors., AIR 2002 SC 1201, it was held that

The expression “sufficient cause” should be given a liberal interpretation to ensure that substantial justice is done, but only so long as negligence, inaction or lack of bona fides cannot be imputed to the party concerned, whether or not sufficient cause has been furnished, can be decided on the facts of a particular case and no straitjacket formula is possible.

d) In Popat and Kotecha Property v. State Bank of India Staff Assn. (2005) 7 SCC 510; Rajendar Singh & Ors. v. Santa Singh &
Ors., AIR 1973 SC 2537; and Pundlik Jalam Patil v. Executive Engineer, Jalgaon Medium Project, (2008) 17 SCC 448, Their Lordships held that

The Statute of Limitation is founded on public policy, its aim being to secure peace in the community, to suppress fraud and perjury, to quicken diligence and to prevent oppression. It seeks to bury all acts of the past which have not been agitated unexplainably and have from lapse of time become stale.

According to Halsbury’s Laws of England, Vol. 24, p. 181:“330. Policy of Limitation Acts. The courts have expressed at least three differing reasons supporting the existence of statutes of limitations namely, (1) that long dormant claims have more of cruelty than justice in them, (2) that a defendant might have lost the evidence to disprove a stale claim, and (3) that Persons with good causes of actions should pursue them with reasonable diligence”.

An unlimited limitation would lead to a sense of insecurity and uncertainty, and therefore, limitation prevents disturbance or deprivation of what may have been acquired in equity and justice by long enjoyment or what may have been lost by a party’s own inaction, negligence’ or laches.

e) In P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, AIR 2002 SC 1856, this Court held that judicially engrafting principles of limitation amounts to legislating and would fly in the face of law laid down by the Constitution Bench in A. R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak, AIR 1992 SC 1701.

f) In Basawaraj & Anr Versus The Spl. Land Acquisition Officer(2013) 14 SCC 81 1, their Lordhip held that 

It is a settled legal proposition that law of limitation may harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its rigour when the statute so prescribes. The Court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds. “A result flowing from a statutory provision is never an evil. A Court has no power to ignore that provision to relieve what it considers a distress resulting from its operation.” The statutory provision may cause hardship or inconvenience to a particular party but the Court has no choice but to enforce it giving full effect to the same. The legal maxim “dura lex sed lex” which means “the law is hard but it is the law”, stands attracted in such a situation. It has consistently been held that, “inconvenience is not” a decisive factor to be considered while interpreting a statute.


The law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that where a case has been presented in the court beyond limitation, the  applicant has to explain the court as to what was the “sufficient cause” which means an adequate and enough reason which prevented him to approach the court within limitation. In case a party is found to be negligent, or for want of bonafide on his part in the facts and
circumstances of the case, or found to have not acted diligently or remained inactive, there cannot be a justified ground to condone the
delay. No court could be justified in condoning such an inordinate delay by imposing any condition whatsoever. The application is to be
decided only within the parameters laid down by this court in regard to the condonation of delay. In case there was no sufficient cause to prevent a litigant to approach the court on time condoning the delay without any justification, putting any condition whatsoever, amounts to passing an order in violation of the statutory provisions and it tantamounts to showing utter disregard to the legislature .

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