Delay in approaching High Court in Writ Jurisdiction

Exercise of discretion by High Court in Writ Petition:

There is no doubt that the High Court in its discretionary jurisdiction may decline to exercise the discretionary writ jurisdiction on ground of delay in approaching the court. But it is only a rule of discretion by exercise of self ­restraint evolved by the court in exercise of the discretionary equitable jurisdiction and not a mandatory requirement that every delayed petition must be dismissed on the ground of delay. The Limitation Act stricto sensu does not apply to the writ jurisdiction. The discretion vested in the court under Article 226 of the Constitution therefore has to be a judicious exercise of the discretion after considering all pros and cons of the matter, including the nature of the dispute, the explanation for the delay, whether any third ­party rights have intervened etc.The jurisdiction under Article 226 being equitable in nature,questions of proportionality in considering whether the impugned order merits interference or not in exercise of the discretionary jurisdiction will also arise. This Court in Basanti Prasad vs. Bihar School Examination Board and others, (2009) 6 SCC791, after referring to Moon Mills Ltd. vs. Industrial Court, AIR1967 SC 1450, Maharashtra SRTC vs. Balwant RegularMotor Service, AIR 1969 SC 329 and State of M.P. and Others vs. Nandlal Jaiswal and others, (1986) 4 SCC 566, held that ifthe delay is properly explained and no third party rights are being affected, the writ court under Article 226 of the Constitution may condone the delay, holding as follows:

“18. In the normal course, we would not have taken exception to the order passed by the High Court.They are justified in saying that a delinquent employee should not be permitted to revive the stale claim and the High Court in exercise of its discretion would not ordinarily assist the tardy and indolent person. This is the traditional view and is well supported by a plethora of decisions of this Court.This Court also has taken the view that there is no inviolable rule, that, whenever there is delay the Court must refuse to entertain a petition. This Court has stated that the writ court in exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution may condone the delay in filing the petition, if the delay is satisfactorily explained.”

Indefinite black listing of a firm by Government

The aforesaid discussion, therefore, leads us to the conclusion that the writ petition was not barred by unexplained delay as the appellant had been pursuing the matter with the authorities and it is they who sat over it, triggering rejection of appellants tender by the Rajasthan Government on 05.07.2019 leading to the institution of the writ petition on 24.07.2019. The High Court therefore erred in dismissing the writ petition on grounds of delay. The illegality and the disproportionate nature of the order dated 08.09.2009, with no third party rights affected,never engaged the attention of the High Court in judicious exercise of the discretionary equitable jurisdiction.Consequently, the impugned order of the High Court as well as order dated 08.09.2009 of the respondents are set aside, and the appeal is allowed.

[Source: VETINDIA PHARMACEUTICALS LIMITED v. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH decided by SC on Nov. 6, 2020]

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