What is reasonable in law?

What is reasonable time for exercise of power?

Even when no period of limitation was prescribed, the power is to be exercised within a reasonable time and the limit of the reasonable time must be determined by the facts of the case and the nature of the order which was sought to be varied.

State of Gujarat vs. Patel Raghav Natha and Ors., (1969) 2 SCC 187 : AIR 1969 SC 1297.

This aspect does not appear to have been specifically kept in view by the Division Bench. Additionally, the points relating to applicability of the Prohibition Act, and even if it is held that the Act was applicable, the reasonableness of the time during which action should have been initiated were also not considered. It would be hard to give an exact definition of the word “reasonable”. Reason varies in its conclusions according to the idiosyncrasy of the individual and the times and circumstances in which he thinks. The reasoning which built up the old scholastic logic stands now like the jingling of a child’s toy. But mankind must be satisfied with the reasonableness within reach: and in cases not covered by authority, the decision of the judge usually determines what is “reasonable” in each particular case; but frequently reasonableness “belong to the knowledge of the law, and therefore to be decided by the Courts.”

It was illuminatingly stated by a learned author that an attempt to give a specific meaning to the word “reasonable” is trying to count what is not number and measure what is not space. It means prima facie in law reasonable in regard to those circumstances of which the actor, called upon to act reasonably, knows or ought to know.

[See Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs. M/s Jagan Nath Ashok Kumar and Anr., (1987) 4 SCC 497 : AIR 1987 SC 2316 and Gujarat Water Supply & Sewerage Board vs. Unique Erectors (Gujarat) (P) Ltd. and Anr., (1989) 1 SCC 532 : AIR 1989 SC 973].

As observed by Lord Romilly M.R. in Labouchers vs. Dawson (1872) L.R. 13 Eq.Ca. 325) it is impossible to state what is particular facts of each case established before you can ascertain what is reasonable under the circumstances, Reasonable being a relative term is essentially what is rational according to the dictates of reason and not excessive or immoderate on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.

Collector vs. P. Mangamma, 2003 LAC 266 (SC): AIR 2003 SC 1706: 2003 (4) SCC 488.

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