The Gauhati High Court ruled that the law of limitation is binding on the government and bureaucratic reasons cannot be cited for delay in the electronic age.
The arbitral award was passed on 02.05.2018. The statutory time limit for filing appeal against the award had expired and the appeal was filed on 01.09.2018. The trial court held that the appellant could not show proper and cogent reasons for not preferring the appeal within time stipulated by law. Therefore, the court held that the prayer of the appellant under Section 34 (3) Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Amendment) Act, 2015 to entertain the appeal under Section 34 of the said Act is not maintainable. The Court dismissed the appeal on that ground.
Advocate Gupta, appearing on behalf of appellant, contended that the appellant is a part of the Union of India having its headquarters outside the State of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and because of the official communication the delay took place.
Advocate Nair appearing on behalf of respondent, contended that the law of limitation is applicable to the government departments like a private person. He strongly argued that in this century of internet revolution, the government departments are not entitled to take privilege in the matter of condonation of delay.
The single judge bench of Justice Parthivjyoti Saikia said that “Equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights.”The said doctrine is the foundation, on the basis of which, the Law of Limitation stands. The doctrine recognizes the fact that an adversary might lose a fair chance to defend himself or herself after expiry of time from the date when the wrong was committed. The law encourages a speedy resolution for every dispute. It does not favour the cause of someone who suddenly wakes up to enforce his or her rights long after discovering that they exist.
The court added that the law is already settled and that the law of limitation undoubtedly binds everybody, including the Government. 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, but the Government Department cannot take advantage of various earlier decisions at least in this age of electronic communication.
“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 court said.
The court while dismissing the appeal decided to agree with the view taken by the lower court that the appellant has failed to explain the reasons for delay in a satisfactory manner.
Case title: Union of India v/s M/S Tenzing Construction