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University of Delhi v. Union of India , CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 9488­-9489 OF 2019, arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.5581­5582 of 2019  – on 17th December 2019

The appeal to the Supreme Court was made by the University through its registrar. The appeal was dismissed by the bench comprising of Justice R. BANUMATHI, Justice A.S. BOPANNA, Justice HRISHIKESH ROY.

The Delhi Development Authority has allowed the respondent no. 13 to construct a high­rise multistory group housing society in the University campus. The writ petition was filed by the university against the permission pursued by the respondent no. 13.

The Writ Court denied the writ petition of the University including on the ground of delay and laches. The LPA petition was filed along with the condone delay petition for 916 days in the Delhi High Court. This court also dismissed the LPA petition and the reasons given for the delay was also not accepted. Aggrieved the appellant­University has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.

The question of law and question of facts are whether the plea of public interest for delay in filing the appeal can be valid? Whether the delay in filing the petition can be qualified for less deliberate inaction and whether the dealy should be decided on the basis of the sufficient cause?

The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant Shri Mohan Parasaran contended that rejection of the writ petition and LPA petition without considering the merits raised by the university is against the public interest. He submitted that the decision to file the LPA petition should be taken only after considering all the officials in the university, so it shall be attributed to inaction. The counsel said the expression called “sufficient cause” which is asking the court to apply the law of limitation in a meaningful manner.   However, the construction process was not yet started so the delay in filing the petition can be not considered

“The learned Senior Counsel argues that important questions affecting public interest cannot be defeated on technical objection”

Shri Shyam Divan learned Senior Counsel for respondent No.13, M/s Young Builders contended that the dismissal made by the Writ Court and the High Court was on the basis of the threshold. They expected a minimum point of beginning in filling the LPA petition. The conclusion arrived by the Single Judge was on the basis that there is no possible ground for allowing the delay, it was not on the merits of the case raised by the university. A circumstance when the LPA was once again delayed by 916 days the Division Bench was also justified in its conclusion. He said that the conclusion made by them was right and no error could be found.

The SC in answering the matter of condonation of delay held that it should be in the nature of demonstrating “sufficient cause” to justify the delay which will be based on the facts of the case.

The reasons for the delay for 916 days were the non­ availability of the Vice-Chancellor due to retirement and subsequent appointment of new Vice­ Chancellor, also that the matter was placed before the Executive Council and a decision was taken to file the appeal and the said process had caused the delay. These reasons are not convincing for the SC to condone the delay petition.

The Vice-Chancellor was in the for a period of six months, which was considered to be a longer period for filing the appeal. When it is said that the decision should be taken only after considering the executive council for filing the appeal is furthermore not acceptable.

The SC held that, “the reasons put forth cannot in our opinion constitute sufficient cause.” The university tried to overcome the delay with the plea of public interest, the   Supreme Court held that the everyday delay need not be substantiated but the fact is the reasonable and acceptable reason should be explained. The SC stated that “as rightly noticed by the Division Bench in the LPA, the approval from the Executive Council was obtained on 28.02.2017 / 07.03.2017, the appeal was ultimately filed on 01.03.2018 after a year from the said date which only indicates the casual approach which is now sought to be overcome with the plea of public interest despite there being no explanation for the delay at every stage.”

When the appellant made a contention that the delay should be considered in an inaction manner and the delay can be allowed but the Supreme Court ordered that it cannot be done as the writ petition having been filed in 2005 after the taking certain actions and further there was a delay in filing the writ appeal for 916 days.

“In such circumstances, the cumulative effect of the delay and laches cannot be ignored.”

By going through all the circumstances and the pleads made by both the parties the Supreme Court said that the writ petition was filled in a delay was properly justified by the Single Bench and the Division bench’s order in dismissing the LPA petition on the ground of delay is also justified.

Therefore, the  SC dismissed the appeal.

View/ Download the Judgment : University of Delhi v. Union of India

–  Manusri Ramakrishna



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