Change Lawyer If Case Is Not Being Attended Properly: SC’s Message to Litigants

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“If the appellants noticed that their lawyer was not interested in attending to the brief in question, then they should have hired another lawyer immediately to ensure that another lawyer files the appeal in time.”

In a judgment handed down on Tuesday, the Supreme Court gave a subtle message to litigants who usually blame their lawyers, rightly or wrongly, for receiving adverse court orders on technical grounds such as delay that could have been avoided if they were sufficiently vigilant.

Limitation Act

The Haryana Urban Development Authority was the appellant before the Apex court. They were appalled by an order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that had dismissed their second appeal by refusing to accept a delay of 1942 days, i.e. about four and a half years.

Condonation Of Delay

Agreeing with the view of the High Court, the bench comprising Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari observed that the ground taken in the request for condonation of delay that their lawyer did not take timely action could not be considered a sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 5 of the Limitation Act.

The court said the following:

“In our view, it was equally the duty of the appellants (their legal managers) to see that the appeal be filed in time. If the appellants noticed that their lawyer was not taking interest in attending to the brief in question, then they should have immediately engaged some other lawyer to ensure that the appeal be filed in time by another lawyer.” 

Failure Of Duty

The court also noted that despite the availability of all facilities and infrastructure, HUDA, their officers in charge of the legal cell, failed to fulfill their duty assigned to them promptly and with due diligence. The bench noted that the appeals were dismissed:

“In such circumstances, the officers-in-charge of the case should be made answerable for the lapse on their part and make good the loss suffered by the appellants.. A delay of 1942 days (4 years 6 months), in our view, is wholly inordinate and the cause pleaded for its condonation is equally unexplained by the appellants. In any case, the explanation given does not constitute a sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 5 of the Limitation Act. “

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