(Arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 7595-96 of 2011
Office of the Chief Post Master General & Ors. …. Appellant (s)
J U D G M E N T
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
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
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.
(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
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
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.
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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