condonation of delay and lache – what should be considered = In the matter of condonation of delay and laches, the well accepted position is also that the accrued right of the opposite party cannot be lightly dealt with. In that regard, rather than taking note of the hardship that would be caused to the respondent No.13 as contended by the learned Senior Counsel, what is necessary to be taken note is the manner in which the respondent No.11– DMRC has proceeded in the matter. The respondent No.11­ DMRC is engaged in providing the public transport and for the said purpose the Government through policy decision has granted approval to generate resources through property development and in that regard the development as earlier indicated, is taken up. Pursuant thereto the respondent No.11 has received a sum of Rs.218.20 crores from respondent No.13 as far back as in the year 2008. The said amount as indicated is used for its projects providing metro rail service to the commuting public. In such circumstance, if at this stage the inordinate delay is condoned unmindful of the lackadaisical manner in which the appellant has proceeded in the matter, it would also be contrary to public interest.

            REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 9488­9489 OF 2019
(Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.5581­5582 of 2019)
University of Delhi .…Appellant(s)
Versus
Union of India & Ors. …. Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
A.S. Bopanna,J.
Leave granted.

  1. These appeals have been preferred by the
    appellant­University of Delhi through its Registrar to
    challenge the common judgment and order dated
    29.10.2018 whereby, the High Court of Delhi declined to
    condone the delay of 916 days in filing the appeal to
    challenge the judgment dated 27.04.2015 whereunder, the
    learned Single Judge had dismissed the W.P (C)
    No.2743/2012 filed by the University of Delhi.
  2. The challenge in the writ petition was, inter alia, to
    the decision dated 12.5.2011 of the Delhi Development
    Page 1 of 34
    Authority (hereinafter referred to as the, “DDA” for short)
    who had allowed respondent no.13­M/s Young Builders
    (P) Ltd. to construct a high­rise multistory group housing
    society in the control zone of Zone­C in the University
    campus, without any height restriction. The construction
    permission was allowed on the plot leased out to the Delhi
    Metro Rail Corporation (hereinafter referred to as the,
    “DMRC” for short) by permitting segregation of 2 hectares
    as a separate entity from the total 3 hectares of land,
    acquired for the metro station.
  3. The principal contentions of the appellantUniversity on the merits of the challenge were as follows:
    a) the permission sought by Respondent No. 13
    (namely, M/s Young Builders Private Limited)
    for the proposed construction of a group
    housing society on the land originally owned by
    the Ministry of Defence in the University
    enclave is violative of the MPD­2021 and is
    against the larger public interest, given the fact
    that the project site in question and its vicinity
    are within the North Campus of the University
    and that it contains various historical and
    archaeological buildings, apart from it being
    Page 2 of 34
    the centre of higher education and advanced
    learning; and
    b) the change in the character of the subject land
    is impermissible in law, since the land having
    been acquired for public purpose for
    construction of the metro rail project, has
    suddenly been diverted to private commercial
    use and auctioned to private builder for
    building a group housing society in a manner
    contrary to the purpose and charter of
    incorporation of the Delhi Metro Rail
    Corporation (DMRC)
    c) The restriction on certain developments for
    Metro Station prescribed under Master Plan of
    Delhi – 2021 (‘MPD’ for short) was also a
    contention raised by the writ petitioner which
    imposed ban on construction of high­rise
    buildings in the control zone of the Delhi
    University. The location of various ladies’
    hostels of the University in close vicinity of the
    proposed construction site was highlighted as
    an important privacy concern. The impediment
    to access of thousands of students, teachers at
    the entrance of the University was the other
    main contention raised in the writ petition.
  4. On the other hand, the DMRC had projected that
    after construction of the University Metro Station, 2
    Page 3 of 34
    hectares of land remained surplus and the housing project
    was intended to generate revenue for the DMRC as per the
    policy of the Government. The formal application made to
    the authorities for change of land use and approval
    secured for conversion of the land for residential use, was
    also highlighted by the DMRC.
  5. The learned Single Judge having noticed the entire
    sequence refused to entertain the writ petition of the
    University including on the ground of delay and laches. In
    the judgment dated 27.04.2015 the Court however
    observed that DDA is the master of the formulation and
    implementation of the Master Plan and, necessary
    approvals have been taken from various statutory
    authorities for the housing project. It was also observed
    that the change in the land use from “public” to
    “residential” is permissible by adverting to the Delhi High
    Court’s Division Bench Judgment in Adil Singh vs.
    Union of India (2010) 171 DLT 748. According to the
    Writ court, since it was a policy decision taken by the
    Government body and since the appellant­University has
    Page 4 of 34
    failed to demonstrate any illegality, impropriety, mala fide
    in the decision making by the authority, interference of the
    Court with the policy decision, would not be justified.
  6. It is the case of the appellant that following the
    dismissal of the writ petition and being concerned about
    the future use of the subject land, the University
    Authorities constituted a Committee to recommend the
    appropriate course of action to be taken by the University.
    The Committee’s report furnished on 11.11.2016 is stated
    to have been laid before the Executive Council of the
    University and after due consideration of the report and
    the judgment of the learned Single Judge, the Executive
    Council of the University through their resolution dated
    28.02.2017/07.03.2017 decided to prefer an intra­Court
    Appeal in the High Court.
  7. While the above deliberations were on, accessibility
    concern to the University’s Metro Station area was raised
    under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 by
    persons with disabilities. The University also received a
    report on preventive measures to be taken in the accidentprone area of the Metro Station. With these and other
    Page 5 of 34
    projection, the appeal in LPA No.89/2018 came to be filed
    on 01.03.2018 after a delay of 916 days, together with the
    C.M.No.8654/2018 for condonation of delay in filing the
    appeal.
  8. The delay of 916 days caused in preferring the
    Appeal was explained in the application seeking delay
    condonation and the rejoinder to the reply to said
    application to the following effect;
    (i) Non­convening of Executive Council and delay
    occasioned due to non­availability of ViceChancellor. The case in the present LPA is
    different from other routine litigation preferred or
    contested by the appellant. It is the only case
    where, the approval from the Executive Council of
    the University of Delhi was required to be taken
    and before such approval, various deliberations
    preceded so as to appraise the Executive Council
    of the different shades of the subject matter.
    Being a statutory body, an adherence to the just
    method of decision making requires consultations
    with affected departments of the University itself
    Page 6 of 34
    and therefore, the final say in the matter rests
    with the Executive Council which is constituted
    under Section 21 of the Delhi University Act,
  9. The Council includes the senior most
    Deans, democratically elected representatives of
    teachers, the Visitor’s nominee, the Registrar, and
    the Vice­Chancellor.
    (ii) The judgment of learned Single Judge was
    sent by the Counsel representing the University
    quite late and it was, then, place before the Legal
    Cell of the University for examining the matter.
    After going through the voluminous paper book, it
    was opined that the matter be referred to the ViceChancellor for consideration and pursuant
    thereto, a meeting was held, wherein it was
    decided that the matter needs to be dealt with
    holistically, having regard to all the issues decided
    and connotations thereof. The issue could not be
    taken up for consideration as the post of ViceChancellor had fallen vacant w.e.f. 28.10.2015
    and could be considered only after the new VicePage 7 of 34
    Chancellor had assumed office and taken stock of
    things. On 10.03.2016, the new Vice­Chancellor
    joined the office and in order to ensure democratic
    functioning of the University, he decided to
    constitute a Committee comprising of senior
    faculty persons representing different sections of
    the University. The terms of reference of the Fivemember Committee were, to recommend the
    course of action to the University in the light of
    the dismissal of the Writ Petition filed by the
    University in the DMRC matter.
    (iii) On 11.11.2016, the above constituted
    Committee gave its Report. Based on the Report
    of the five­member Committee, it was decided by
    the Competent Authority that the subject matter
    of the present case be referred to the Executive
    Council of the University for its final decision. In
    the Executive Council meeting held on
    28.02.2017, the matter was discussed. The item
    was again discussed in the Executive Council
    meeting held on 7.3.2017 (continued meeting),
    Page 8 of 34
    where the members of the Council referred to the
    earlier discussions and decisions of both the
    Academic Council and the Executive Council with
    respect to the same matter and it was decided
    unanimously to prefer an Appeal against the
    Order of the learned Single Judge dated
    27.04.2015 after adequate preparation.
    (iv) In the meanwhile, reservation was strongly
    put forth by the disabled students and faculty in
    the light of the proposed project by the private
    builder at the very main entrance of the University
    of Delhi. Such representations were received from
    individuals as well as groups which the University
    had to consider and were therefore forwarded to
    the Equal Opportunity Cell for consideration. The
    Equal Opportunity Cell, University of Delhi, which
    looks after the welfare of disabled students and
    others, in the light of the new enactment on the
    Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016,
    analyzed the probable outcome. After detailed
    deliberations, the Equal Opportunity Cell
    Page 9 of 34
    submitted its Report on 28.04.2017 which was
    brought to the notice of Competent Authorities for
    their consideration. The Report was considered at
    various levels of the University including the
    Office of the Dean, Student Welfare, the
    Department of legal affairs, the Office of the
    Proctor, the Engineering Department, and the
    Department of Environmental Studies. Holding
    discussions and deliberations among these bodies
    and considering their inputs involved further time
    and it involved co­ordination and interaction with
    various authorities and stake holders. All this
    exercise involved a further period of five to six
    months before a considered opinion could be
    generated by the University of Delhi. Hence the
    representations and the Report of the Equal
    Opportunity Cell could be finally considered by
    the University of Delhi around the end of year

  10. (v) In the interregnum, the accidents occurred
    at Chhatra Marg in December 2017 led to the
    Page 10 of 34
    need for the preparation of a Report by the Office
    of the Proctor of the University dated 05.02.2018
    wherein the Proctor recommended the area to be
    declared as accident prone. Both the Reports ­
    one by the Equal Opportunity Cell and the other
    by the Office of Proctor ­­ were sent to the Counsel
    concerned who was holding the brief for the
    preparation of the Appeal memorandum.
    Subsequently legal opinion was sought and the
    draft appeal and petition was prepared which was
    thereafter got vetted and settled by the Senior
    Counsel. The finalized Appeal was thereafter again
    considered at the highest level at the University to
    take the final decision, which entailed some time.
    On 01.03.2018, the LPA was filed before the Delhi
    High Court.
  11. The above explanation for the delayed filing was
    however not accepted and the Division Bench of the High
    Court on 29.10.2018 dismissed the LPA on the ground of
    delay without considering the merits of the appeal. Thus,
    Page 11 of 34
    aggrieved the appellant­University has filed this appeal.
  12. Shri Mohan Parasaran, learned Senior Counsel for
    the appellant submits that the implication of the rejection
    of the writ petition and the LPA without considering the
    substantial contention raised by the University on merits
    would cause grave injury to the public institution. The
    learned Senior Counsel submits that the University
    Authorities have been pursuing the issue with due
    diligence but decision had to be taken after consultation
    with all the stakeholders and therefore, the delay in
    preferring the LPA should not be attributed to any
    inaction, much less a deliberate inaction. The endeavor of
    the Courts according to Shri Parasaran should be to do
    substantial justice to the parties by deciding the matters
    on merits but in the present case, neither the learned
    Single Judge nor the Division Bench of the High Court had
    considered the merit of the contention raised by the
    appellant­University. Shri Parasaran argues that the
    expression “sufficient cause” is elastic enough to enable
    the courts to apply the law of limitation in a meaningful
    manner. He also projects that since the builders are yet to
    Page 12 of 34
    start their construction, the delayed filing of the LPA
    should not have resulted in non­consideration of the
    contention on merits, as major public interest issues have
    been raised in the present matter. The learned Senior
    Counsel argues that important questions effecting public
    interest cannot be defeated on technical objection,
    inasmuch as the proposed site for construction was
    originally owned by the Defence Ministry and the land was
    acquired for public purpose at public expense but is now
    sought to be given over to a private builder, for a profit
    oriented motive. The said contentions are also
    supplemented by Shri R. Venkataramani and Shri Ramji
    Srinivasan, learned Senior Advocates.
  13. Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned Senior Counsel
    representing the applicants/intervenors submits that six
    girl hostels are located near to the project site and if high
    rise apartments are allowed to be constructed, the privacy
    of the hostel residents would be compromised. Ms. Arora
    also refers to the letter dated 25.10.1943 of the Joint
    Secretary, Government of India, Department of Education
    addressed to the Chief Commissioner of Delhi conveying
    Page 13 of 34
    the decision of the Government of India to ensure that no
    tall buildings are erected inside the Delhi University
    Campus and also the necessity of protecting University
    area, as an enclave. The Senior Counsel then refers to the
    Zonal Development Plan for Zone­“C” (Civil Lines Zone) of
    the DDA as approved by the Ministry of Urban
    Development to point out that the authorities have
    recognized the existence of number of old historical
    buildings of the colonial period within the Delhi University
    Campus and effort should be made to convert the Delhi
    University into an integrated Campus with restriction on
    tall buildings.
  14. Shri Shyam Divan, learned Senior Counsel for
    respondent No.13­ M/s Young Builders would at the
    outset contend that though the learned Senior Counsel for
    the appellant has referred to the merits of the case,
    keeping in view the position that the Division Bench of the
    High Court has dismissed the LPA on the ground of delay
    and laches, that aspect of the matter would require
    consideration at the threshold. He would assert that the
    delay of 916 days is an inordinate delay of more than two
    Page 14 of 34
    and a half years and in such event the principle of
    applying the usual test for “sufficient cause” would not
    arise as it is not merely the number of days requiring
    condonation but also amounts to laches in filing the writ
    petition, as well as the LPA. Mere contention that the
    proceedings initiated by the appellant is in public interest
    would not advance the case inasmuch as the learned
    Single Judge having adverted to all these aspects has
    arrived at the conclusion that the petition suffers from
    laches in addition to there being no merit and in such
    circumstance when the LPA was once again delayed by
    916 days the Division Bench was justified in its
    conclusion. It is pointed out that the said delay of 916
    days is as against the period of 30 days which is allowed
    in law for filing the LPA. It is contended that the cause of
    action if any should be construed on 23.09.2005 when the
    area was converted into residential, but the writ petition
    was filed only on 07.05.2012 and despite the writ petition
    having been disposed of on 27.04.2015 the LPA was filed
    only on 01.03.2018 after a delay of 916 days. The reason
    assigned that a decision to file the LPA could not be taken
    Page 15 of 34
    as the office of Vice­Chancellor had fallen vacant also
    cannot be accepted since such vacancy arose only on
    28.10.2015 while the writ petition had already been
    disposed of on 27.04.2015 and there was sufficient time to
    file the LPA if they had the intention to do so. The learned
    Senior Counsel further refers to the large number of cases
    that was filed on behalf of the University during the said
    period. It is contended that while considering condonation
    of delay the prejudice that would be caused to the opposite
    side is also one of the aspects to be considered. If that
    situation is kept in view, in the instant case the request
    for proposal in favour of the respondent No.13 was notified
    on 23.06.2008 and the Letter of Acceptance was issued on
    13.08.2008 and the lease being for 90 years, already 11
    years have passed and by such belated proceedings the
    project is prejudicially hampered. The respondent No.13
    has already spent Rs.233 crores being the lease amount
    paid to the DMRC and also for securing appropriate
    approvals. It is contended that the respondent No.13 had
    to face earlier litigation as well which has been taken note
    by the learned Single Judge and the respondent cannot be
    Page 16 of 34
    exposed to such repeated litigations.
  15. Shri Tushar Mehta, the learned Solicitor General
    appearing on behalf of respondent No.11­DMRC, has
    contended that the Ministry of Urban Development as a
    matter of Policy of the Government of India had permitted
    the DMRC to generate its own resources through
    property development and has accordingly permitted to
    carry out property development on the land transferred to
    it by the Government. In such event when the DMRC has
    taken such steps not only in the instant case but also in
    several other projects, any interference at this stage more
    particularly when there is belated challenge of the
    present nature, it would have a serious impact on the
    projects undertaken. It was submitted that due to
    certain changes affected in the manner in which the
    Metro Rail Project was to be implemented there was some
    excess land which has been put to use to generate
    resources for the project and in that regard when there is
    a contractual relationship with respondent No.13 if the
    much belated petition is entertained at this stage, there
    would be a great financial impact which is also a loss to
    Page 17 of 34
    the public exchequer and in such event the public
    interest would be better served by not condoning the
    delay in such matters. Moreover, it is not a case of mere
    delay in filing the LPA but is a serious case of laches. It is
    also noticed by the learned Single Judge that the writ
    petition itself was filed after 7­8 years and in such event
    if the discretionary orders passed in the writ jurisdiction
    is interfered in the limited jurisdiction of this Court, it
    would set a bad precedent.
  16. Shri A.N.S. Nandkarni, learned Additional Solicitor
    General would also refer to the aspect of delay and laches
    and supplement the arguments advanced by the learned
    Solicitor General. He would further contend that the
    Union of India being the owner of the land which was
    acquired does not have objection for the project and in
    such event interference at the instance of the appellant
    herein would not be justified. Ms. Binu Tamta, learned
    Counsel submitted in support of the contentions raised
    by the respondents.
    Page 18 of 34
  17. Shri Mohan Parasaran, learned Senior Counsel in
    reply to the said contention would reiterate the
    contentions put forth relating to the explanation of delay
    and would contend that the conclusion of the learned
    Single Judge that the writ petition was hit by laches is
    fallacious inasmuch as the respondent No.13 themselves
    had filed a writ petition raising certain disputes with
    regard to the limit of FAR through the Notification dated
    20.01.2005 and such challenge by the respondent No.13
    had come to an end on 18.05.2011 and the NOC etc.
    were obtained subsequently, after which the writ petition
    was filed by the appellant herein in the year 2012. Hence
    the delay and laches has been explained and it is not a
    case of negligence. It is contended that the stand of the
    DMRC that it would be put to financial loss cannot be
    accepted at this point since the question as to whether
    they would be liable to pay interest or not are matters
    which would have to be considered in appropriate
    proceedings. Hence, he contends that the High Court
    ought to have condoned the delay and the matter should
    have been considered on its merits.
    Page 19 of 34
  18. Though we have exhaustively referred to the
    pleadings and the contentions of the parties, including
    contentions put forth on merits, the same is only for
    completeness and to put the matter in perspective before
    considering the issue relating to delay and laches. In the
    instant case, considering that the Division Bench of the
    High Court has dismissed the LPA on the ground of delay
    of 916 days, that aspect of the matter would require
    consideration at the outset and the facts on merits is
    noted to the limited extent to find out whether in that
    background the public interest would suffer. The learned
    Senior Counsel for the appellant in order to impress upon
    this Court the principle relating to consideration of
    “sufficient cause” for condonation of delay and the factors
    that are required to be kept in view, has relied on the
    decision in the case of Collector, Land Acquisition,
    Anantnag & Anr.vs. Katiji & Ors., 1987(2) SCC 107
    wherein it is held as hereunder:
    “3. The legislature has conferred the power to
    condone delay by enacting Section 5 [ Any
    appeal or any application, other than an
    application under any of the provisions of Order
    XXI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, may be
    Page 20 of 34
    admitted after the prescribed period if the
    appellant or the applicant satisfies the court that
    he had sufficient cause for not preferring the
    appeal or making the application within such
    period.] of the Indian Limitation Act of 1963 in
    order to enable the courts to do substantial
    justice to parties by disposing of matters on
    ”merits”. The expression “sufficient cause”
    employed by the legislature is adequately elastic
    to enable the courts to apply the law in a
    meaningful manner which subserves the ends of
    justice — that being the life-purpose for the
    existence of the institution of courts. It is
    common knowledge that this Court has been
    making a justifiably liberal approach in matters
    instituted in this Court. But the message does
    not appear to have percolated down to all the
    other courts in the hierarchy. And such a liberal
    approach is adopted on principle as it is realized
    that:
    “1. Ordinarily a litigant does not stand to
    benefit by lodging an appeal late.
  19. Refusing to condone delay can result in a
    meritorious matter being thrown out at the very
    threshold and cause of justice being defeated. As
    against this when delay is condoned the highest
    that can happen is that a cause would be
    decided on merits after hearing the parties.
  20. “Every day’s delay must be explained” does
    not mean that a pedantic approach should be
    made. Why not every hour’s delay, every
    second’s delay? The doctrine must be applied in
    a rational common-sense pragmatic manner.
  21. When substantial justice and technical
    considerations are pitted against each other,
    cause of substantial justice deserves to be
    preferred for the other side cannot claim to have
    vested right in injustice being done because of a
    non-deliberate delay.
  22. There is no presumption that delay is
    occasioned deliberately, or on account of
    culpable negligence, or on account of mala fides.
    A litigant does not stand to benefit by resorting
    to delay. In fact he runs a serious risk.
  23. It must be grasped that judiciary is
    respected not on account of its power to legalize
    injustice on technical grounds but because it is
    Page 21 of 34
    capable of removing injustice and is expected to
    do so.
    Making a justice-oriented approach from this
    perspective, there was sufficient cause for
    condoning the delay in the institution of the
    appeal. The fact that it was the “State” which
    was seeking condonation and not a private party
    was altogether irrelevant. The doctrine of
    equality before law demands that all litigants,
    including the State as a litigant, are accorded
    the same treatment and the law is administered
    in an even-handed manner. There is no warrant
    for according a step-motherly treatment when
    the “State” is the applicant praying for
    condonation of delay. In fact experience shows
    that on account of an impersonal machinery (no
    one in charge of the matter is directly hit or hurt
    by the judgment sought to be subjected to
    appeal) and the inherited bureaucratic
    methodology imbued with the note-making, filepushing and passing-on-the-buck ethos, delay on
    its part is less difficult to understand though
    more difficult to approve. In any event, the State
    which represents the collective cause of the
    community, does not deserve a litigant-nongrata status. The courts therefore have to be
    informed with the spirit and philosophy of the
    provision in the course of the interpretation of
    the expression “sufficient cause”. So also the
    same approach has to be evidenced in its
    application to matters at hand with the end in
    view to do even-handed justice on merits in
    preference to the approach which scuttles a
    decision on merits. Turning to the facts of the
    matter giving rise to the present appeal, we are
    satisfied that sufficient cause exists for the
    delay. The order of the High Court dismissing the
    appeal before it as time-barred, is therefore, set
    aside. Delay is condoned. And the matter is
    remitted to the High Court. The High Court will
    now dispose of the appeal on merits after
    affording reasonable opportunity of hearing to
    both the sides.”
    Page 22 of 34
  24. Further the decision in the case of M/s Dehri
    Rohtas Light Railway Company Ltd. Vs. District
    Board, Bhojpur & Ors. (1992) 2 SCC 598 is relied upon,
    wherein this Court has indicated the real test to
    determine the delay is that the petitioner should come to
    Court before a parallel right is created and that the lapse
    of time is not attributable to any laches or negligence.
  25. The learned Senior Counsel for respondent No.13, on
    the other hand, has relied upon the decision in the case
    of Postmaster General & Ors. vs. Living Media India
    Limited & Anr. 1992 (3) SCC 563 wherein it is held as
    hereunder:
    “28. Though we are conscious of the fact that in
    a matter of condonation of delay when there was
    no gross negligence or deliberate inaction or lack
    of bona fides, a liberal concession has to be
    adopted to advance substantial justice, we are of
    the view that in the facts and circumstances, the
    Department cannot take advantage of various
    earlier decisions. The claim on account of
    impersonal machinery and inherited
    bureaucratic methodology of making several
    notes cannot be accepted in view of the modern
    technologies being used and available. The law
    of limitation undoubtedly binds everybody,
    including the Government.
    Page 23 of 34
  26. In our view, it is the right time to inform all
    the government bodies, their agencies and
    instrumentalities that unless they have
    reasonable and acceptable explanation for the
    delay and there was bona fide effort, there is no
    need to accept the usual explanation that the file
    was kept pending for several months/years due
    to considerable degree of procedural red tape in
    the process. The government departments are
    under a special obligation to ensure that they
    perform their duties with diligence and
    commitment. Condonation of delay is an
    exception and should not be used as an
    anticipated benefit for the government
    departments. The law shelters everyone under
    the same light and should not be swirled for the
    benefit of a few.”
  27. From a consideration of the view taken by this
    Court through the decisions cited supra the position is
    clear that, by and large, a liberal approach is to be taken
    in the matter of condonation of delay. The consideration
    for condonation of delay would not depend on the status
    of the party namely the Government or the public bodies
    so as to apply a different yardstick but the ultimate
    consideration should be to render even­ handed justice to
    the parties. Even in such case the condonation of long
    delay should not be automatic since the accrued right or
    the adverse consequence to the opposite party is also to
    be kept in perspective. In that background while
    considering condonation of delay, the routine explanation
    Page 24 of 34
    would not be enough but it should be in the nature of
    indicating “sufficient cause” to justify the delay which will
    depend on the backdrop of each case and will have to be
    weighed carefully by the Courts based on the fact
    situation. In the case of Katiji (Supra) the entire
    conspectus relating to condonation of delay has been
    kept in focus. However, what cannot also be lost sight is
    that the consideration therein was in the background of
    dismissal of the application seeking condonation of delay
    in a case where there was delay of four days pitted
    against the consideration that was required to be made
    on merits regarding the upward revision of compensation
    amounting to 800 per cent.
  28. As against the same, the delay in the instant facts
    in filing the LPA is 916 days and as such the
    consideration to condone can be made only if there is
    reasonable explanation and the condonation cannot be
    merely because the appellant is public body. The entire
    explanation noticed above, depicts the casual approach
    unmindful of the law of limitation despite being aware of
    Page 25 of 34
    the position of law. That apart when there is such a long
    delay and there is no proper explanation, laches would
    also come into play while noticing as to the manner in
    which a party has proceeded before filing an appeal. In
    addition in the instant facts not only the delay and laches
    in filing the appeal is contended on behalf of the
    respondents seeking dismissal of the instant appeal but
    it is also contended that there was delay and laches in
    filing the writ petition itself at the first instance from
    which the present appeal had arisen. In that view, it
    would be necessary for us to advert to those aspects of
    the matter and notice the nature of consideration made
    in the writ petition as well as the LPA to arrive at a
    conclusion as to whether the High Court was justified.
  29. The entire explanation for the inordinate delay of
    916 days is twofold, i.e. the non­availability of the ViceChancellor due to retirement and subsequent
    appointment of new Vice­Chancellor, also that the matter
    was placed before the Executive Council and a decision
    was taken to file the appeal and the said process had
    Page 26 of 34
    caused the delay. The reasons as stated do not appear
    very convincing since the situation was of availing the
    appellate remedy and not the original proceedings
    requiring such deliberation when it was a mere
    continuation of the proceedings which had already been
    filed on behalf of the appellant herein, after due
    deliberation. Significantly, the Vice­Chancellor who was
    at the helm of affairs when the writ petition was filed,
    prosecuted and disposed of on 27.04.2015 was available
    in the same office till 28.10.2015, for about six months
    which was a long enough period as compared to 30 days
    limitation period for filing appeal. In that circumstance
    when the said Vice­Chancellor who had prosecuted the
    writ petition was available, the submission of the learned
    Senior Counsel for the appellant that unseen hands are
    likely to have prevented the filing of the appeal also
    cannot be accepted. Secondly, the reason sought to be
    put forth about the decision required to be taken by the
    Executive Council is also not acceptable when it was just
    the matter of filing the appeal. In fact, in the writ petition
    an affidavit was filed referring to Resolution No.56 and
    Page 27 of 34
    173 of Academic Council and Executive Council
    authorising for filing writ petition. When the writ petition
    was filed based on such authorisation and the stand of
    the appellant, as the writ petitioner was put forth and
    had failed in the writ petition, it cannot be accepted that
    the appellant with all the wherewithal was unable to file
    the appeal, that too when the same Vice­Chancellor was
    available for six months after dismissal of the writ
    petition. Hence the reasons put forth cannot in our
    opinion constitute sufficient cause.
  30. That apart, 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 an 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. It is true that as held in the
    case of Mst. Katiji (supra) that every day’s delay need not
    be explained with such precision but the fact remains
    Page 28 of 34
    that a reasonable and acceptable explanation is very
    much necessary. The Division Bench apart from noticing
    these aspects had also noted that the learned Single
    Judge too found the writ petition to be hit by delay and
    laches.
  31. In that backdrop, a perusal of the order dated
    27.04.2015 passed by the learned Single Judge would
    indicate that the learned Single Judge in para – 65 of the
    order with reference to his earlier observation has arrived
    at the categorical conclusion that the petition suffers
    from laches and has been filed with delay of 7­8 years.
    The learned Senior Counsel for the appellant while
    seeking to dispel such conclusion by the learned Single
    Judge contended that the respondent No. 13 themselves
    had filed a writ petition being aggrieved by the restricted
    FAR and the said writ petition was disposed only on
    18.05.2011 and the need for the appellant herein to file
    the writ petition arose only thereafter. The said
    contention is also not acceptable if the entire sequence is
    noticed.
    Page 29 of 34
  32. In that regard there can be no dispute to the fact
    that the Respondent No. 13 being aggrieved by the
    decision of DDA had filed a petition bearing W.P.
    No.3135/2010 assailing the letter dated 19.08.2009 and
    the same was disposed of only on 18.05.2011 but the
    appellant cannot take shelter under the same to explain
    the laches. This is because much water had flown under
    the bridge before the said development and those events
    ought to have triggered action from the appellant in
    challenging, more so when there were other litigations
    relating to the same subject, as noticed in the order of
    the learned Single Judge.
  33. In the present matter, the land was converted to
    residential use in 2005 and Respondent No.11 – DMRC
    had invited bids and public auction was conducted on
    28.07.2008 which ought to have awakened the appellant
    herein for the first time since the fact of conversion of the
    land into residential development was in public domain
    even if is assumed that the earlier process of approval
    etc. by the DDA on the approval request of DMRC are
    Page 30 of 34
    internal process and not be known to the appellant. In
    fact, the learned Single Judge while taking note of the
    challenge raised by the appellant herein has also taken
    note of an earlier petition bearing W.P (C) No.8675/2011
    filed by the Association of Metro Commuters wherein also
    the residential development was an issue, which came to
    be dismissed by order dated 14.02.2011. Similarly,
    another petition in W.P(C) No.6624­6625/2012, though
    challenging the acquisition was filed, the same was also
    dismissed. Thereafter the writ petition of the appellant
    filed in the year 2012 was pending till it was disposed on
    27.04.2015.
  34. Despite the writ petition having been filed
    belatedly in respect of certain actions which had
    commenced in the year 2005 and even though the writ
    petition was filed after obtaining approval of the
    Executive Council, no steps were taken to file the writ
    appeal for 916 days after disposal of the writ petition. In
    such circumstance, the cumulative effect of the delay and
    laches cannot be ignored. The decisions referred by the
    Page 31 of 34
    learned Senior Counsel for the appellant noted Supra
    cannot, therefore, be applied in the present facts and
    circumstance inasmuch as the consideration hereunder
    was not merely the explanation for the delay of few days
    in filing the appeal. Though contention is put forth that
    the delay is required to be condoned since public interest
    is involved, the nature of the proceedings that have taken
    place thus far would indicate that the matter has been
    examined at different stages in the earlier litigations and
    if the grounds on which the appellant was assailing the
    action of the respondents were to be examined on merits,
    they ought to have been more diligent in prosecuting the
    matter before the Court.
  35. In the matter of condonation of delay and laches,
    the well accepted position is also that the accrued right of
    the opposite party cannot be lightly dealt with. In that
    regard, rather than taking note of the hardship that
    would be caused to the respondent No.13 as contended
    by the learned Senior Counsel, what is necessary to be
    taken note is the manner in which the respondent No.11
    Page 32 of 34
    – DMRC has proceeded in the matter. The respondent
    No.11­ DMRC is engaged in providing the public
    transport and for the said purpose the Government
    through policy decision has granted approval to generate
    resources through property development and in that
    regard the development as earlier indicated, is taken up.
    Pursuant thereto the respondent No.11 has received a
    sum of Rs.218.20 crores from respondent No.13 as far
    back as in the year 2008. The said amount as indicated
    is used for its projects providing metro rail service to the
    commuting public. In such circumstance, if at this stage
    the inordinate delay is condoned unmindful of the
    lackadaisical manner in which the appellant has
    proceeded in the matter, it would also be contrary to
    public interest.
  36. Therefore, taking into consideration all these
    aspects of the matter, we are of the opinion that not only
    the learned Single Judge was justified in holding that the
    writ petition inter alia is hit by delay and laches but the
    decision of the Division Bench in dismissing the LPA on
    Page 33 of 34
    the ground of delay of 916 days is also justified and the
    orders do not call for interference.
  37. Accordingly, the appeals being devoid of merits
    stand dismissed with no order as to costs. All pending
    applications shall stand disposed of.
    ……………………….J.
    (R. BANUMATHI)
    ……………………….J.
    (A.S. BOPANNA)
    ……………………….J.
    (HRISHIKESH ROY)
    New Delhi,
    December 17, 2019
    Page 34 of 34