Delhi Development Authority vs Tejpal & Ors. (Supreme Court)

Court: Supreme Court
Head Notes:

Subsequent change in law is not “sufficient cause” & cannot be a ground for condonation of delay.

In Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal (2020) 8 SCC 129, a 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court overruled its earlier judgements on the issue of land acquisition process initiated by Delhi government under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. In consequence of this overruling, the DDA filed appeals against orders of the Delhi High Court which declared acquisition proceedings as lapsed based on the earlier judgements of the Supreme Court. These appeals were dismissed on the ground of delay. The Supreme Court had to consider delay can be condoned on the ground that there was a “subsequent change in law” brought about by the decisions of the Supreme Court. HELD by the Supreme Court:

(i) If subsequent change of law is allowed as a valid ground for condonation of delay, it would open a Pandora’s Box where all the cases that were subsequently overruled, or the cases that had relied on the judgements that were subsequently overruled, would approach this Court and would seek a relief based on the new interpretation of law. There would be no finality to the proceedings and every time this Court would reach a different conclusion from its previous case, all such cases and the cases relying on it would be reopened

(ii) The prescribed period of limitation had already expired long before the judgments in Shailendra and Manoharlal were delivered. “The appellants let the limitation period lapse, perhaps because they saw no case on merits for appeal. When the law was subsequently re-interpreted in the afore-cited two cases, the appellants approached this Court with the present appeals, petitions, and applications. Instead of showing a sufficient cause arising within the period of limitation, they are using an event after the expiry of such period to justify the delay. This does not square with our understanding of the law, and cannot be allowed“.

(iii) Subsequent overruling of a judgment cannot be “sufficient cause” for the purposes of Section 5 of Limitation Act, because when a case is overruled, only its binding nature as precedent is taken away. “The lis between the parties is still deemed to have been settled by the overruled case…Hence, when Manoharlal (supra) overruled Pune Municipal Corporation (supra) and Sree Balaji Nagar Residential Association (supra), as well as all other cases relying on them, it only overruled their precedential value, and did not reopen the lis between the parties. The mere fact that the impugned orders in the present case were overruled by Manoharlal (supra) would not, therefore, be a sufficient ground to argue that the cases should be reopened“.

(iv) Subsequent change of law will not be attracted unless a case is pending before the competent court awaiting its final adjudication. If a case has already been decided, it cannot be re-opened and re-decided solely on the basis of a new interpretation given to that law.

Section(s): Section 5 of Limitation Act
Counsel(s): Ld. Attorney General for India, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, Ld. Additional Solicitor General, and Senior Advocates, including Ms. Rachna Srivastava, Mr. Sanjay Poddar, Mr. Sanjib Sen, and Mr. Kailash Vasdev. From the side of Respondents, we were assisted by an array of Senior Advocates, including Mr. Dhruv Mehta, Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Mr. Jayant Bhushan, Mr. Jayant 73 Mehta, Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, and Mr. Vikas Singh and Ms. Bansuri Swaraj, Advocate.
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Uploaded By Advocate Swati Khandelwal
Date of upload: June 8, 2024

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