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delay not explained = 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 bonafide 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 government departments. The law shelters everyone under the same light and should not be swirled for the benefit of a few. Considering the fact that there was no proper explanation offered by the Department for the delay except mentioning of various dates, according to us, the Department has miserably failed to give any acceptable and cogent reasons sufficient to condone such a huge delay. 20

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Reader's Digest

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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2474-2475 OF 2012

(Arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 7595-96 of 2011

Office of the Chief Post Master General & Ors. …. Appellant (s)




Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. …. Respondent(s)



P. Sathasivam, J.
1) Leave granted.


2) The following issues arise for consideration:


a) Whether the Office of the Chief Post Master General


has shown sufficient cause for condoning the delay of


427 days in filing SLPs before this Court.


Depending on the outcome of the above issue, other issues to


be considered are:



b) Whether the impugned advertisement inserted in


the Reader’s Digest issue of December, 2005 is in


conformity with the requirement of law.


c) Whether the Department has made out a case for


interference under Article 136 of the Constitution of India


to reopen concurrent findings of fact rendered by the


High Court.


3) These appeals have been filed against the common


final judgment and order dated 11.09.2009 passed by the


High Court of Delhi at New Delhi in LPA Nos. 418 and


1006 of 2007 whereby the Division Bench while upholding


the judgment and order dated 28.03.2007 passed by the


learned single Judge of the same High Court in Writ


Petition (C) Nos. 22679-80 of 2005 and Writ Petition (C)


No. 4985 of 2006 dismissed the appeals filed by the


appellants herein.
4) Brief Facts:
(a) Living Media India Ltd.-Respondent No. 1 is a company


incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 which publishes



the magazines “Reader’s Digest” and “India Today”. These


magazines are registered newspapers vide Registration Nos.


DL 11077/03-05 and DL 11021/01-05 respectively issued by


the Department of Posts, Office of the Chief Post Master


General, Delhi Circle, New Delhi (in short `Postal Department’)-


appellant herein under the provisions of the Indian Post Office


Act, 1898 (in short `the Act’) read with the Indian Post Office


Rules, 1933 (in short `the Rules’) and the Post Office Guide


and are entitled for transmission by post under concessional


rate of postage.


(b) On 14.10.2005, the Manager (Circulation), Living Media


India Ltd., submitted an application to the Postal Department


seeking permission to post December, 2005 issue of Reader’s


Digest magazine containing the advertisement of Toyota Motor


Corporation in the form of book-let with Calendar for the year


2006 at concessional rates in New Delhi. By letter dated


08.11.2005, the Postal Department denied the grant of


permission for mailing the said issue at concessional rates on


the ground that the book-let containing advertisement with


calendar is neither a supplement nor a part and parcel of the



publication. On 17.11.2005, the Director (Publishing), Living


Media India once again submitted an application seeking the


same permission which was also denied by the Postal


Department by letter dated 21.11.2005.


(c) In the same way, the Postal Department also refused to


grant concessional rate of postage to post the issue dated


December 26, 2005 of “India Today’ magazine containing a


book-let of Amway India Enterprises titled “Amway” vide their


letters dated 18.02.2006 and 17.03.2006 stating that the said


magazine was also not entitled to avail the benefit of


concessional rate available to registered newspapers.


(d) Respondent No. 1, being aggrieved by the decision of the


Postal Department filed Writ Petition (C) Nos. 22679-80 of


2005 and Writ Petition (C) No. 4985 of 2006 before the High


Court. Learned single Judge of the High Court, by order dated


28.03.2007 allowed both the petitions filed by Respondent No.


1 herein.


(e) Being aggrieved, the Postal Department filed LPA Nos.


418 and 1006 of 2007 before the High Court. The Division


Bench of the High Court, vide common final judgment and



order dated 11.09.2009, while upholding the judgment of the


learned single Judge, dismissed both the appeals. Challenging


the said order, the Postal Department has preferred these


appeals by way of special leave before this Court.


5) Heard Mr. H. P. Raval, learned Additional Solicitor


General for the appellants-Department of Posts and Mr. Soli J.


Sorabjee, learned senior counsel for the respondents.
Delay in filing the SLPs:
6) Since learned senior counsel for the respondents


seriously objected to the conduct of the appellants in


approaching this Court after enormous and inordinate delay of


427 days in filing the above appeals, we intend to find out


whether there is any “sufficient cause” for the condonation of


such a huge delay. In view of the fact that the application for


condonation of delay in filing the SLPs dated 10.02.2011 does


not contain acceptable and plausible reasons, we permitted


the appellant-Postal Department to file a better affidavit


explaining the reasons for the same. Pursuant to the same,


an affidavit has been filed on 26.12.2011. After taking us


through the same, learned Additional Solicitor General



submitted that in view of series of decisions of this Court and


the appellant being a Government Department, delay may be


condoned and an opportunity may be given to put-forth their


stand as to the impugned judgment of the High Court.


7) Before going into the reasons furnished by the


Department for the delay, let us consider various decisions of


this Court relied on by Mr. Raval, learned ASG.


i) In Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag and
Another vs. Mst. Katiji and Others, (1987) 2 SCC 107, while
considering “sufficient cause” in the light of Section 5 of the


Limitation Act, 1963, this Court pointed out various principles


for adopting liberal approach in condoning the delay in


matters instituted in this Court. Learned ASG heavily relied


on the following principles:-


“1. Ordinarily a litigant does not stand to benefit by

lodging an appeal late.


2. 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



3. “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



4. 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.


5. 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



6. It must be grasped that judiciary is respected not on

account of its power to legalize injustice on technical

grounds but because it is capable of removing

injustice and is expected to do so.”


By showing the above principles, learned ASG submitted that


there is no warrant for according step-motherly treatment


when the “State” is the applicant. It is relevant to mention


that in this case, the delay was only for four days.


ii) In G. Ramegowda, Major and Others vs. Special Land
Acquisition Officer, Bangalore, (1988) 2 SCC 142, the
principles enunciated in paras 15 & 17 are heavily relied on by


the learned ASG. They are:-


“15. In litigations to which Government is a party there is

yet another aspect which, perhaps, cannot be ignored. If

appeals brought by Government are lost for such defaults,

no person is individually affected; but what, in the ultimate

analysis, suffers is public interest. The decisions of

Government are collective and institutional decisions and do



not share the characteristics of decisions of private




17. Therefore, in assessing what, in a particular case,

constitutes “sufficient cause” for purposes of Section 5, it

might, perhaps, be somewhat unrealistic to exclude from the

considerations that go into the judicial verdict, these factors

which are peculiar to and characteristic of the functioning of

the government. Governmental decisions are proverbially

slow encumbered, as they are, by a considerable degree of

procedural red tape in the process of their making.”


Considering the peculiar facts, namely, the change of


government pleader who had taken away the certified copy


after he ceases to be in office, the High Court condoned the


delay which was affirmed by this Court.


iii) In State of Haryana vs. Chandra Mani and Others,


(1996) 3 SCC 132, while condoning the delay of 109 days in


filing the LPA before the High Court, this Court has observed


that certain amount of latitude within reasonable limits is


permissible having regard to impersonal bureaucratic setup


involving red-tapism. In the same decision, this Court


directed the State to constitute legal cells to examine whether


any legal principles are involved for decision by the courts or


whether cases required adjustment at governmental level.



iv) In State of U.P. and Others vs. Harish Chandra and
Others, (1996) 9 SCC 309, by giving similar reasons, as
mentioned in Chandra Mani’s case (supra) this Court,


condoned the delay of 480 days in filing the SLP.


v) In National Insurance Co. Ltd. vs. Giga Ram and
Others, (2002) 10 SCC 176, this Court, after finding that the
High Court was not justified in taking too technical a view of


the facts and refusing to condone the delay, accepted the case


of the appellant-Insurance Company by protecting the interest


of the claimant and condoned the delay. It is relevant to point


out that while accepting the stand of the Insurance Company


for the delay, this Court has safeguarded the interest of the


claimant also.


vi) In State of Nagaland vs. Lipok Ao and Others, (2005)


3 SCC 752, this Court, while reiterating the principle that


latitude be given to government’s litigation, allowed the appeal


filed by the State of Nagaland. It is also relevant to note here


that this matter relates to criminal jurisdiction and delay in


filing the SLP was only 57 days.



8) Though the learned ASG heavily relied on the above said


decisions and the principles laid down, on going through all


the factual details, we are of the view that there is no quarrel


about the propositions inferred therein. However, considering


the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case, this Court


either condoned the delay or upheld the order of the High


Court condoning the delay in filing appeal by the State. While


keeping those principles in mind, let us consider the


reasonings placed by the Postal Department with regard to the




9) In view of the stand taken by the Postal Department as to


the reasons for the delay and the serious objections of the


respondents, it is desirable to extract the entire statement as


placed in the form of “better affidavit” by the officer of the




“I, Aparajeet Pattanayak presently posted as SSRM, Air Mail

Sorting Division, New Delhi, do hereby solemnly affirm and

state as under:-

1) In the official capacity mentioned above, I am

acquainted with the facts of the case on the basis of the

information derived from the record.


2) On the last date of hearing i.e. 05.12.2011 this Hon’ble

Court was pleased to allow the petitions to file better affidavit

in support of the application for condonation of delay in

filing Special Leave Petition.



3) It is submitted that the delay is not intentional but is

on account of the departmental/administrative procedures

involved in for filing the petition for Special Leave Petition. It

is submitted that unlike the private litigant the matters

relating to government are required to be considered at

various levels and then only a decision is taken.


4) In the present case it would be evident from the

following that delay has been caused due to unavoidable



11.09.2009 Date of judgment in LPA Nos. 418/2007

and 1006/2007.


29.10.2009 Certified copy of judgment not received

from the Government counsel and hence

copy of judgment was downloaded from

the web site of Delhi High Court and office

note was put by ASP (Court) proposing to

refer the matter to Postal Directorate for

opinion and further course of action for

approval of the Chief Postmaster General,



12.11.2009 Chief Postmaster General Delhi approved

to refer the matter to Directorate.


16.12.2009 Directorate desired to submit legal opinion

and certified copy of judgment.


08.01.2010 The counsel appearing on behalf of the

petitioner had applied for the certified

copy of the impugned judgment and order

and the same was received by the

Department on 08.01.2010.


11.01.2010 The desired documents supplied to



25.01.2010 Directorate desired to submit copies of

original writ petition filed by the party,

counter affidavit thereto, copies of appeals

filed by DOP & counter reply thereto.



12.02.2010 The desired documents supplied to



17.02.2010 Directorate desired to send an

official/officer well conversant with the



15.03.2010 Directorate asked to depute an officer well

conversant with the case to collect the UO

Note along with other documents to

pursue the matter with Mr. Suresh

Chandra Additional Legal Advisor.


06.04.2010 Shri Suresh Chandra, Additional Legal

Advisor was contacted on 06.04.2010 and

the matter was briefed thoroughly by ASP



25.06.2010 Case file collected from Directorate and

handed over to Central Agency Section on

25.06.2010 under diary No. 1865/2010

dated 25.06.2010 as per advice of

Additional Legal Advisor.


26.06.2010 to Central Agency Section sent the file back

30.06.2010 to the Postal Department with

directions to send the same through

Ministry of Law and Justice.


01.07.2010 to After receiving the file through proper

10.09.2010 channel. Central Agency Section sent

the file to Ld ASG for his considered

opinion and Ld. Additional Solicitor

General opined that it is a fit case for filing

the Special Leave Petition.


11.09.2010 to On receiving the opinion of Ld. ASG the

30.09.2010 file was sent to Central Agency for

drafting the Special Leave Petition.


01.10.2010 Directorate informed that ASG had

considered the case and found it fit for

Special Leave Petition.


15.11.2010 The panel counsel prepared the draft of

Special Leave Petition and submitted the



draft Special Leave Petition with file to

Central Agency Section for further steps.

The draft Special Leave Petition was

forwarded to the Department by Central

Agency Section for vetting.


After factual verification, the draft Special

Leave Petition was returned to Central

Agency Section for typing and preparation

of Paper Book which also took some time.


04.01.2011 Special Leave Petition remained pending

due to non-availability of disputed

magazines of Reader’s Digest and India

Today. Hence, ASG was requested to

intervene and direct Shri Akash Pratap

who handled the case to provide the



14.01.2011 Shri A.K. Sharma was requested to

arrange to collect the above magazines

from the record of Delhi High Court.


31.01.2011 SSRM Delhi Sorting Division was

authorized to sign the affidavit on behalf

of the respondent.


10.02.2011 Special Leave Petition filed in Supreme



5. It is submitted that it is evident from the foregoing

reasons that the delay caused in filing the petition was result

of all the necessary and unavoidable office formalities and

was bonafide and not deliberate or intentional and the

petitioner was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the

petition within the period of limitation.


6. It is further submitted that the petitioner humbly

seeks leave to draw the kind attention of this Hon’ble Court

to the views expressed by this Hon’ble Court that liberal

approach may be adopted and that the Court should not

take too strict and pedantic stand which will cause injustice

while considering the application for condonation of delay, in

terms of its judgments in the case of Collector Land

Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr. Vs. Mst. Katiji & Ors. and

Bhag Singh & Anr. Vs. Major Daljeet Singh & Ors. It is



submitted that the principles for condonation of delay laid

down in the above cited cases may therefore be adopted in

the present case also.

7. This Hon’ble Court in G. Ramegowda Vs. Special Land

Acquisition Officer, (1998) 2 SCC 142 laid down that the

expression sufficient cause in Section 5 of the Limitation Act,

1963 must receive a liberal construction so as to advance

substantial justice where no gross negligence or deliberate

inaction of lack of bonafide is imputable to the party seeking

condonation of delay.


8. In the matter of State of Haryana vs. Chandra Mani,

reported in (1996) 3 SCC 132, this Hon’ble Court observed

and laid down as follows:-

“when the State is an applicant, praying for

condonation of delay, it is common knowledge that on

account of impersonal machinery and the inherited

bureaucratic methodology imbued with the note-

making, file-pushing and passing-on-the-buck ethos,

delay on the part of the State is less difficult to

understand but more difficult to approve, but the

State represents collective cause of the community. It

is axiomatic that decisions are taken by

officers/agencies proverbially at slow pace and

encumbered process of pushing the files from table to

table and keeping it on the table for considerable time

causing delay – intentional or otherwise – is a routine.

Considerable delay of procedural red-tape in the

process of their making decision is a common feature.

Therefore, certain amount of latitude is not

impermissible. If the appeals brought by the State are

lost for such default, no person is individually affected

but what in the ultimate analysis suffers, is public

interest. The expression “sufficient cause” should,

therefore, be considered with pragmatism in justice-

oriented approach rather than the technical detection

of sufficient cause for explaining every day’s delay.


9. This Hon’ble Court in Union of India vs. Manager, Jain

and Associates, 2001 (3) SCC 277 decided on 06.02.2011

has held that delay ought to be condoned when sufficiently

explained particularly where party seeking condonation is

the Government. It is further submitted that the Hon’ble

High Court ought to have condoned the delay in considering



the public revenue involved and also because of the genuine

difficulties and circumstances beyond the control of the

petitioner, on account of which Special Leave Petition could

not be filed within the time.”


10) Before considering whether the reasons for justifying


such a huge delay are acceptable or not, it is also useful to


refer the decisions relied on by Mr. Soli J. Sorabjee, learned


senior counsel for the respondents.


i) In Commissioner of Wealth Tax, Bombay vs. Amateur
Riders Club, Bombay, 1994 Supp (2) SCC 603, there is a
delay of 264 days in filing the SLP by the Commissioner of


Wealth Tax, Bombay. The explanation for the delay had been


set out in petitioner’s own words as under:


“…..2 (g) The Advocate-on-Record got the special leave

petition drafted from the drafting Advocate and sent the

same for approval to the Board on June 24, 1993 along with

the case file.


(h) The Board returned the case file to the Advocate-on-

Record on July 9, 1993 who re-sent the same to the Board

on September 20, 1993 requesting that draft SLP was not

approved by the Board. The Board after approving the draft

SLP sent this file to CAS on October 1, 1993.”


After incorporating the above explanation, this Court refused


to condone the delay by observing thus:


“3. … …. Having regard to the law of limitation which binds

everybody, we cannot find any way of granting relief. It is

true that Government should not be treated as any other



private litigant as, indeed, in the case of the former the

decisions to present and prosecute appeals are not

individual but are institutional decisions necessarily bogged

down by the proverbial red-tape. But there are limits to this

also. Even with all this latitude, the explanation offered for

the delay in this case merely serves to aggravate the attitude

of indifference of the Revenue in protecting its common

interests. The affidavit is again one of the stereotyped

affidavits making it susceptible to the criticism that the

Revenue does not seem to attach any importance to the need

for promptitude even where it affects its own interest.

[Emphasis supplied]


ii) In Pundlik Jalam Patil (dead) by LRS. vs. Executive
Engineer, Jalgaon Medium Project and Another, (2008) 17
SC 448, the question was whether the respondent-Executive


Engineer, Jalgaon Medium Project had shown sufficient cause


to condone the delay of 1724 days in filing appeals before the


High Court. In para 17, this Court held:


“…..The evidence on record suggests neglect of its own right

for long time in preferring appeals. The court cannot enquire

into belated and stale claims on the ground of equity. Delay

defeats equity. The court helps those who are vigilant and

“do not slumber over their rights”.


After referring various earlier decisions, taking very lenient


view in condoning the delay, particularly, on the part of the


Government and Government Undertaking, this Court


observed as under:-

“29. It needs no restatement at our hands that the object for

fixing time-limit for litigation is based on public policy fixing

a lifespan for legal remedy for the purpose of general welfare.

They are meant to see that the parties do not resort to

dilatory tactics but avail their legal remedies promptly.

Salmond in his Jurisprudence states that the laws come to

the assistance of the vigilant and not of the sleepy.


30. Public interest undoubtedly is a paramount

consideration in exercising the courts’ discretion wherever

conferred upon it by the relevant statutes. Pursuing stale

claims and multiplicity of proceedings in no manner

subserves public interest. Prompt and timely payment of

compensation to the landlosers facilitating their

rehabilitation/resettlement is equally an integral part of

public policy. Public interest demands that the State or the

beneficiary of acquisition, as the case may be, should not be

allowed to indulge in any act to unsettle the settled legal

rights accrued in law by resorting to avoidable litigation

unless the claimants are guilty of deriving benefit to which

they are otherwise not entitled, in any fraudulent manner.

One should not forget the basic fact that what is acquired is

not the land but the livelihood of the landlosers. These

public interest parameters ought to be kept in mind by the

courts while exercising the discretion dealing with the

application filed under Section 5 of the Limitation Act.

Dragging the landlosers to courts of law years after the

termination of legal proceedings would not serve any public

interest. Settled rights cannot be lightly interfered with by

condoning inordinate delay without there being any proper

explanation of such delay on the ground of involvement of

public revenue. It serves no public interest.”


11) We have already extracted the reasons as mentioned in


the “better affidavit” sworn by Mr. Aparajeet Pattanayak,


SSRM, Air Mail Sorting Division, New Delhi. It is relevant to


note that in the said affidavit, the Department has itself


mentioned and is aware of the date of the judgment of the


Division Bench of the High Court in LPA Nos. 418 and 1006 of


2007 as 11.09.2009. Even according to the deponent, their


counsel had applied for the certified copy of the said judgment


only on 08.01.2010 and the same was received by the


Department on the very same day. There is no explanation for


not applying for certified copy of the impugned judgment on


11.09.2009 or at least within a reasonable time. The fact


remains that the certified copy was applied only on


08.01.2010, i.e. after a period of nearly four months. In spite


of affording another opportunity to file better affidavit by


placing adequate material, neither the Department nor the


person in-charge has filed any explanation for not applying the


certified copy within the prescribed period. The other dates


mentioned in the affidavit which we have already extracted,


clearly show that there was delay at every stage and except


mentioning the dates of receipt of the file and the decision


taken, there is no explanation as to why such delay had


occasioned. Though it was stated by the Department that the


delay was due to unavoidable circumstances and genuine


difficulties, the fact remains that from day one the Department


or the person/persons concerned have not evinced diligence in



prosecuting the matter to this Court by taking appropriate




12) It is not in dispute that the person(s) concerned were well


aware or conversant with the issues involved including the


prescribed period of limitation for taking up the matter by way


of filing a special leave petition in this Court. They cannot


claim that they have a separate period of limitation when the


Department was possessed with competent persons familiar


with court proceedings. In the absence of plausible and


acceptable explanation, we are posing a question why the


delay is to be condoned mechanically merely because the


Government or a wing of the Government is a party before us.


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 bonafide, 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.


13) 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 bonafide 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 government departments. The law shelters


everyone under the same light and should not be swirled for


the benefit of a few. Considering the fact that there was no


proper explanation offered by the Department for the delay


except mentioning of various dates, according to us, the


Department has miserably failed to give any acceptable and


cogent reasons sufficient to condone such a huge delay.



Accordingly, the appeals are liable to be dismissed on the


ground of delay.


14) In view of our conclusion on issue (a), there is no need to


go into the merits of the issues (b) and (c). The question of law


raised is left open to be decided in an appropriate case. In the


light of the above discussion, the appeals fail and are


dismissed on the ground of delay. No order as to costs.









FEBRUARY 24, 2012.





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