University Of Delhi vs Union Of India on 17 December, 2019


Supreme Court of India

University Of Delhi vs Union Of India on 17 December, 2019

Author: A.S. Bopanna

Bench: R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna

                                                                       REPORTABLE


                                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                       CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                              CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 9488­9489           OF 2019
                            (Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.5581­5582 of 2019)

                         University of Delhi                               .…Appellant(s)
                                                     Versus

                         Union of India & Ors.                       …. Respondent(s)

                                               JUDGMENT

A.S. Bopanna,J.

Leave granted.

2. These appeals have been preferred by the

appellant­University of Delhi through its Registrar to

challenge the common judgment and order dated

29.10.2018 whereby, the High Court of Delhi declined to

condone the delay of 916 days in filing the appeal to

challenge the judgment dated 27.04.2015 whereunder, the

learned Single Judge had dismissed the W.P (C)

No.2743/2012 filed by the University of Delhi.
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by

3. The challenge in the writ petition was, inter alia, to
MAHABIR SINGH
Date: 2019.12.17
16:00:40 IST
Reason:

the decision dated 12.5.2011 of the Delhi Development

Page 1 of 34
Authority (hereinafter referred to as the, “DDA” for short)

who had allowed respondent no.13­M/s Young Builders

(P) Ltd. to construct a high­rise multistory group housing

society in the control zone of Zone­C in the University

campus, without any height restriction. The construction

permission was allowed on the plot leased out to the Delhi

Metro Rail Corporation (hereinafter referred to as the,

“DMRC” for short) by permitting segregation of 2 hectares

as a separate entity from the total 3 hectares of land,

acquired for the metro station.

4. The principal contentions of the appellant­

University on the merits of the challenge were as follows:

a) the permission sought by Respondent No. 13

(namely, M/s Young Builders Private Limited)
for the proposed construction of a group
housing society on the land originally owned by
the Ministry of Defence in the University
enclave is violative of the MPD­2021 and is
against the larger public interest, given the fact
that the project site in question and its vicinity
are within the North Campus of the University
and that it contains various historical and
archaeological buildings, apart from it being

Page 2 of 34
the centre of higher education and advanced
learning; and

b) the change in the character of the subject land
is impermissible in law, since the land having
been acquired for public purpose for
construction of the metro rail project, has
suddenly been diverted to private commercial
use and auctioned to private builder for
building a group housing society in a manner
contrary to the purpose and charter of
incorporation of the Delhi Metro Rail
Corporation (DMRC)

c) The restriction on certain developments for
Metro Station prescribed under Master Plan of
Delhi – 2021 (‘MPD’ for short) was also a
contention raised by the writ petitioner which
imposed ban on construction of high­rise
buildings in the control zone of the Delhi
University. The location of various ladies’
hostels of the University in close vicinity of the
proposed construction site was highlighted as
an important privacy concern. The impediment
to access of thousands of students, teachers at
the entrance of the University was the other
main contention raised in the writ petition.

5. On the other hand, the DMRC had projected that

after construction of the University Metro Station, 2

Page 3 of 34
hectares of land remained surplus and the housing project

was intended to generate revenue for the DMRC as per the

policy of the Government. The formal application made to

the authorities for change of land use and approval

secured for conversion of the land for residential use, was

also highlighted by the DMRC.

6. The learned Single Judge having noticed the entire

sequence refused to entertain the writ petition of the

University including on the ground of delay and laches. In

the judgment dated 27.04.2015 the Court however

observed that DDA is the master of the formulation and

implementation of the Master Plan and, necessary

approvals have been taken from various statutory

authorities for the housing project. It was also observed

that the change in the land use from “public” to

“residential” is permissible by adverting to the Delhi High

Court’s Division Bench Judgment in Adil Singh vs.

Union of India (2010) 171 DLT 748. According to the

Writ court, since it was a policy decision taken by the

Government body and since the appellant­University has

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failed to demonstrate any illegality, impropriety, mala fide

in the decision making by the authority, interference of the

Court with the policy decision, would not be justified.

7. It is the case of the appellant that following the

dismissal of the writ petition and being concerned about

the future use of the subject land, the University

Authorities constituted a Committee to recommend the

appropriate course of action to be taken by the University.

The Committee’s report furnished on 11.11.2016 is stated

to have been laid before the Executive Council of the

University and after due consideration of the report and

the judgment of the learned Single Judge, the Executive

Council of the University through their resolution dated

28.02.2017/07.03.2017 decided to prefer an intra­Court

Appeal in the High Court.

8. While the above deliberations were on, accessibility

concern to the University’s Metro Station area was raised

under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 by

persons with disabilities. The University also received a

report on preventive measures to be taken in the accident­

prone area of the Metro Station. With these and other

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projection, the appeal in LPA No.89/2018 came to be filed

on 01.03.2018 after a delay of 916 days, together with the

C.M.No.8654/2018 for condonation of delay in filing the

appeal.

9. The delay of 916 days caused in preferring the

Appeal was explained in the application seeking delay

condonation and the rejoinder to the reply to said

application to the following effect;

(i) Non­convening of Executive Council and delay

occasioned due to non­availability of Vice­

Chancellor. The case in the present LPA is

different from other routine litigation preferred or

contested by the appellant. It is the only case

where, the approval from the Executive Council of

the University of Delhi was required to be taken

and before such approval, various deliberations

preceded so as to appraise the Executive Council

of the different shades of the subject matter.

Being a statutory body, an adherence to the just

method of decision making requires consultations

with affected departments of the University itself

Page 6 of 34
and therefore, the final say in the matter rests

with the Executive Council which is constituted

under Section 21 of the Delhi University Act,

1922. The Council includes the senior most

Deans, democratically elected representatives of

teachers, the Visitor’s nominee, the Registrar, and

the Vice­Chancellor.

(ii) The judgment of learned Single Judge was

sent by the Counsel representing the University

quite late and it was, then, place before the Legal

Cell of the University for examining the matter.

After going through the voluminous paper book, it

was opined that the matter be referred to the Vice­

Chancellor for consideration and pursuant

thereto, a meeting was held, wherein it was

decided that the matter needs to be dealt with

holistically, having regard to all the issues decided

and connotations thereof. The issue could not be

taken up for consideration as the post of Vice­

Chancellor had fallen vacant w.e.f. 28.10.2015

and could be considered only after the new Vice­

Page 7 of 34
Chancellor had assumed office and taken stock of

things. On 10.03.2016, the new Vice­Chancellor

joined the office and in order to ensure democratic

functioning of the University, he decided to

constitute a Committee comprising of senior

faculty persons representing different sections of

the University. The terms of reference of the Five­

member Committee were, to recommend the

course of action to the University in the light of

the dismissal of the Writ Petition filed by the

University in the DMRC matter.

(iii) On 11.11.2016, the above constituted

Committee gave its Report. Based on the Report

of the five­member Committee, it was decided by

the Competent Authority that the subject matter

of the present case be referred to the Executive

Council of the University for its final decision. In

the Executive Council meeting held on

28.02.2017, the matter was discussed. The item

was again discussed in the Executive Council

meeting held on 7.3.2017 (continued meeting),

Page 8 of 34
where the members of the Council referred to the

earlier discussions and decisions of both the

Academic Council and the Executive Council with

respect to the same matter and it was decided

unanimously to prefer an Appeal against the

Order of the learned Single Judge dated

27.04.2015 after adequate preparation.

(iv) In the meanwhile, reservation was strongly

put forth by the disabled students and faculty in

the light of the proposed project by the private

builder at the very main entrance of the University

of Delhi. Such representations were received from

individuals as well as groups which the University

had to consider and were therefore forwarded to

the Equal Opportunity Cell for consideration. The

Equal Opportunity Cell, University of Delhi, which

looks after the welfare of disabled students and

others, in the light of the new enactment on the

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016,

analyzed the probable outcome. After detailed

deliberations, the Equal Opportunity Cell

Page 9 of 34
submitted its Report on 28.04.2017 which was

brought to the notice of Competent Authorities for

their consideration. The Report was considered at

various levels of the University including the

Office of the Dean, Student Welfare, the

Department of legal affairs, the Office of the

Proctor, the Engineering Department, and the

Department of Environmental Studies. Holding

discussions and deliberations among these bodies

and considering their inputs involved further time

and it involved co­ordination and interaction with

various authorities and stake holders. All this

exercise involved a further period of five to six

months before a considered opinion could be

generated by the University of Delhi. Hence the

representations and the Report of the Equal

Opportunity Cell could be finally considered by

the University of Delhi around the end of year

2017.

(v) In the interregnum, the accidents occurred

at Chhatra Marg in December 2017 led to the

Page 10 of 34
need for the preparation of a Report by the Office

of the Proctor of the University dated 05.02.2018

wherein the Proctor recommended the area to be

declared as accident prone. Both the Reports ­

one by the Equal Opportunity Cell and the other

by the Office of Proctor ­­ were sent to the Counsel

concerned who was holding the brief for the

preparation of the Appeal memorandum.

Subsequently legal opinion was sought and the

draft appeal and petition was prepared which was

thereafter got vetted and settled by the Senior

Counsel. The finalized Appeal was thereafter again

considered at the highest level at the University to

take the final decision, which entailed some time.

On 01.03.2018, the LPA was filed before the Delhi

High Court.

10. The above explanation for the delayed filing was

however not accepted and the Division Bench of the High

Court on 29.10.2018 dismissed the LPA on the ground of

delay without considering the merits of the appeal. Thus,

Page 11 of 34
aggrieved the appellant­University has filed this appeal.

11. Shri Mohan Parasaran, learned Senior Counsel for

the appellant submits that the implication of the rejection

of the writ petition and the LPA without considering the

substantial contention raised by the University on merits

would cause grave injury to the public institution. The

learned Senior Counsel submits that the University

Authorities have been pursuing the issue with due

diligence but decision had to be taken after consultation

with all the stakeholders and therefore, the delay in

preferring the LPA should not be attributed to any

inaction, much less a deliberate inaction. The endeavor of

the Courts according to Shri Parasaran should be to do

substantial justice to the parties by deciding the matters

on merits but in the present case, neither the learned

Single Judge nor the Division Bench of the High Court had

considered the merit of the contention raised by the

appellant­University. Shri Parasaran argues that the

expression “sufficient cause” is elastic enough to enable

the courts to apply the law of limitation in a meaningful

manner. He also projects that since the builders are yet to

Page 12 of 34
start their construction, the delayed filing of the LPA

should not have resulted in non­consideration of the

contention on merits, as major public interest issues have

been raised in the present matter. The learned Senior

Counsel argues that important questions effecting public

interest cannot be defeated on technical objection,

inasmuch as the proposed site for construction was

originally owned by the Defence Ministry and the land was

acquired for public purpose at public expense but is now

sought to be given over to a private builder, for a profit

oriented motive. The said contentions are also

supplemented by Shri R. Venkataramani and Shri Ramji

Srinivasan, learned Senior Advocates.

12. Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned Senior Counsel

representing the applicants/intervenors submits that six

girl hostels are located near to the project site and if high

rise apartments are allowed to be constructed, the privacy

of the hostel residents would be compromised. Ms. Arora

also refers to the letter dated 25.10.1943 of the Joint

Secretary, Government of India, Department of Education

addressed to the Chief Commissioner of Delhi conveying

Page 13 of 34
the decision of the Government of India to ensure that no

tall buildings are erected inside the Delhi University

Campus and also the necessity of protecting University

area, as an enclave. The Senior Counsel then refers to the

Zonal Development Plan for Zone­“C” (Civil Lines Zone) of

the DDA as approved by the Ministry of Urban

Development to point out that the authorities have

recognized the existence of number of old historical

buildings of the colonial period within the Delhi University

Campus and effort should be made to convert the Delhi

University into an integrated Campus with restriction on

tall buildings.

13. Shri Shyam Divan, learned Senior Counsel for

respondent No.13­ M/s Young Builders would at the

outset contend that though the learned Senior Counsel for

the appellant has referred to the merits of the case,

keeping in view the position that the Division Bench of the

High Court has dismissed the LPA on the ground of delay

and laches, that aspect of the matter would require

consideration at the threshold. He would assert that the

delay of 916 days is an inordinate delay of more than two

Page 14 of 34
and a half years and in such event the principle of

applying the usual test for “sufficient cause” would not

arise as it is not merely the number of days requiring

condonation but also amounts to laches in filing the writ

petition, as well as the LPA. Mere contention that the

proceedings initiated by the appellant is in public interest

would not advance the case inasmuch as the learned

Single Judge having adverted to all these aspects has

arrived at the conclusion that the petition suffers from

laches in addition to there being no merit and in such

circumstance when the LPA was once again delayed by

916 days the Division Bench was justified in its

conclusion. It is pointed out that the said delay of 916

days is as against the period of 30 days which is allowed

in law for filing the LPA. It is contended that the cause of

action if any should be construed on 23.09.2005 when the

area was converted into residential, but the writ petition

was filed only on 07.05.2012 and despite the writ petition

having been disposed of on 27.04.2015 the LPA was filed

only on 01.03.2018 after a delay of 916 days. The reason

assigned that a decision to file the LPA could not be taken

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as the office of Vice­Chancellor had fallen vacant also

cannot be accepted since such vacancy arose only on

28.10.2015 while the writ petition had already been

disposed of on 27.04.2015 and there was sufficient time to

file the LPA if they had the intention to do so. The learned

Senior Counsel further refers to the large number of cases

that was filed on behalf of the University during the said

period. It is contended that while considering condonation

of delay the prejudice that would be caused to the opposite

side is also one of the aspects to be considered. If that

situation is kept in view, in the instant case the request

for proposal in favour of the respondent No.13 was notified

on 23.06.2008 and the Letter of Acceptance was issued on

13.08.2008 and the lease being for 90 years, already 11

years have passed and by such belated proceedings the

project is prejudicially hampered. The respondent No.13

has already spent Rs.233 crores being the lease amount

paid to the DMRC and also for securing appropriate

approvals. It is contended that the respondent No.13 had

to face earlier litigation as well which has been taken note

by the learned Single Judge and the respondent cannot be

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exposed to such repeated litigations.

14. Shri Tushar Mehta, the learned Solicitor General

appearing on behalf of respondent No.11­DMRC, has

contended that the Ministry of Urban Development as a

matter of Policy of the Government of India had permitted

the DMRC to generate its own resources through

property development and has accordingly permitted to

carry out property development on the land transferred to

it by the Government. In such event when the DMRC has

taken such steps not only in the instant case but also in

several other projects, any interference at this stage more

particularly when there is belated challenge of the

present nature, it would have a serious impact on the

projects undertaken. It was submitted that due to

certain changes affected in the manner in which the

Metro Rail Project was to be implemented there was some

excess land which has been put to use to generate

resources for the project and in that regard when there is

a contractual relationship with respondent No.13 if the

much belated petition is entertained at this stage, there

would be a great financial impact which is also a loss to

Page 17 of 34
the public exchequer and in such event the public

interest would be better served by not condoning the

delay in such matters. Moreover, it is not a case of mere

delay in filing the LPA but is a serious case of laches. It is

also noticed by the learned Single Judge that the writ

petition itself was filed after 7­8 years and in such event

if the discretionary orders passed in the writ jurisdiction

is interfered in the limited jurisdiction of this Court, it

would set a bad precedent.

15. Shri A.N.S. Nandkarni, learned Additional Solicitor

General would also refer to the aspect of delay and laches

and supplement the arguments advanced by the learned

Solicitor General. He would further contend that the

Union of India being the owner of the land which was

acquired does not have objection for the project and in

such event interference at the instance of the appellant

herein would not be justified. Ms. Binu Tamta, learned

Counsel submitted in support of the contentions raised

by the respondents.

Page 18 of 34

16. Shri Mohan Parasaran, learned Senior Counsel in

reply to the said contention would reiterate the

contentions put forth relating to the explanation of delay

and would contend that the conclusion of the learned

Single Judge that the writ petition was hit by laches is

fallacious inasmuch as the respondent No.13 themselves

had filed a writ petition raising certain disputes with

regard to the limit of FAR through the Notification dated

20.01.2005 and such challenge by the respondent No.13

had come to an end on 18.05.2011 and the NOC etc.

were obtained subsequently, after which the writ petition

was filed by the appellant herein in the year 2012. Hence

the delay and laches has been explained and it is not a

case of negligence. It is contended that the stand of the

DMRC that it would be put to financial loss cannot be

accepted at this point since the question as to whether

they would be liable to pay interest or not are matters

which would have to be considered in appropriate

proceedings. Hence, he contends that the High Court

ought to have condoned the delay and the matter should

have been considered on its merits.

Page 19 of 34

17. Though we have exhaustively referred to the

pleadings and the contentions of the parties, including

contentions put forth on merits, the same is only for

completeness and to put the matter in perspective before

considering the issue relating to delay and laches. In the

instant case, considering that the Division Bench of the

High Court has dismissed the LPA on the ground of delay

of 916 days, that aspect of the matter would require

consideration at the outset and the facts on merits is

noted to the limited extent to find out whether in that

background the public interest would suffer. The learned

Senior Counsel for the appellant in order to impress upon

this Court the principle relating to consideration of

“sufficient cause” for condonation of delay and the factors

that are required to be kept in view, has relied on the

decision in the case of Collector, Land Acquisition,

Anantnag & Anr.vs. Katiji & Ors., 1987(2) SCC 107

wherein it is held as hereunder:

“3. The legislature has conferred the power to
condone delay by enacting Section 5 [ Any
appeal or any application, other than an
application under any of the provisions of Order
XXI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, may be

Page 20 of 34
admitted after the prescribed period if the
appellant or the applicant satisfies the court that
he had sufficient cause for not preferring the
appeal or making the application within such
period.] of the Indian Limitation Act of 1963 in
order to enable the courts to do substantial
justice to parties by disposing of matters on
”merits”. The expression “sufficient cause”
employed by the legislature is adequately elastic
to enable the courts to apply the law in a
meaningful manner which subserves the ends of
justice — that being the life-purpose for the
existence of the institution of courts. It is
common knowledge that this Court has been
making a justifiably liberal approach in matters
instituted in this Court. But the message does
not appear to have percolated down to all the
other courts in the hierarchy. And such a liberal
approach is adopted on principle as it is realized
that:

“1. Ordinarily a litigant does not stand to
benefit by lodging an appeal late.

2. Refusing to condone delay can result in a
meritorious matter being thrown out at the very
threshold and cause of justice being defeated. As
against this when delay is condoned the highest
that can happen is that a cause would be
decided on merits after hearing the parties.

3. “Every day’s delay must be explained” does
not mean that a pedantic approach should be
made. Why not every hour’s delay, every
second’s delay? The doctrine must be applied in
a rational common-sense pragmatic manner.

4. When substantial justice and technical
considerations are pitted against each other,
cause of substantial justice deserves to be
preferred for the other side cannot claim to have
vested right in injustice being done because of a
non-deliberate delay.

5. There is no presumption that delay is
occasioned deliberately, or on account of
culpable negligence, or on account of mala fides.
A litigant does not stand to benefit by resorting
to delay. In fact he runs a serious risk.

6. It must be grasped that judiciary is
respected not on account of its power to legalize
injustice on technical grounds but because it is

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capable of removing injustice and is expected to
do so.

Making a justice-oriented approach from this
perspective, there was sufficient cause for
condoning the delay in the institution of the
appeal. The fact that it was the “State” which
was seeking condonation and not a private party
was altogether irrelevant. The doctrine of
equality before law demands that all litigants,
including the State as a litigant, are accorded
the same treatment and the law is administered
in an even-handed manner. There is no warrant
for according a step-motherly treatment when
the “State” is the applicant praying for
condonation of delay. In fact experience shows
that on account of an impersonal machinery (no
one in charge of the matter is directly hit or hurt
by the judgment sought to be subjected to
appeal) and the inherited bureaucratic
methodology imbued with the note-making, file-
pushing and passing-on-the-buck ethos, delay on
its part is less difficult to understand though
more difficult to approve. In any event, the State
which represents the collective cause of the
community, does not deserve a litigant-non-
grata status. The courts therefore have to be
informed with the spirit and philosophy of the
provision in the course of the interpretation of
the expression “sufficient cause”. So also the
same approach has to be evidenced in its
application to matters at hand with the end in
view to do even-handed justice on merits in
preference to the approach which scuttles a
decision on merits. Turning to the facts of the
matter giving rise to the present appeal, we are
satisfied that sufficient cause exists for the
delay. The order of the High Court dismissing the
appeal before it as time-barred, is therefore, set
aside. Delay is condoned. And the matter is
remitted to the High Court. The High Court will
now dispose of the appeal on merits after
affording reasonable opportunity of hearing to
both the sides.”

Page 22 of 34

18. Further the decision in the case of M/s Dehri

Rohtas Light Railway Company Ltd. Vs. District

Board, Bhojpur & Ors. (1992) 2 SCC 598 is relied upon,

wherein this Court has indicated the real test to

determine the delay is that the petitioner should come to

Court before a parallel right is created and that the lapse

of time is not attributable to any laches or negligence.

19. The learned Senior Counsel for respondent No.13, on

the other hand, has relied upon the decision in the case

of Postmaster General & Ors. vs. Living Media India

Limited & Anr. 1992 (3) SCC 563 wherein it is held as

hereunder:

“28. Though we are conscious of the fact that 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, we are of
the view that in the facts and circumstances, the
Department cannot take advantage of various
earlier decisions. 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 law
of limitation undoubtedly binds everybody,
including the Government.

Page 23 of 34

29. In our view, it is the right time to inform all
the government bodies, their agencies and
instrumentalities that unless they have
reasonable and acceptable explanation for the
delay and there was bona fide effort, there is no
need to accept the usual explanation that the file
was kept pending for several months/years due
to considerable degree of procedural red tape in
the process. The government departments are
under a special obligation to ensure that they
perform their duties with diligence and
commitment. Condonation of delay is an
exception and should not be used as an
anticipated benefit for the government
departments. The law shelters everyone under
the same light and should not be swirled for the
benefit of a few.”

20. From a consideration of the view taken by this

Court through the decisions cited supra the position is

clear that, by and large, a liberal approach is to be taken

in the matter of condonation of delay. The consideration

for condonation of delay would not depend on the status

of the party namely the Government or the public bodies

so as to apply a different yardstick but the ultimate

consideration should be to render even­ handed justice to

the parties. Even in such case the condonation of long

delay should not be automatic since the accrued right or

the adverse consequence to the opposite party is also to

be kept in perspective. In that background while

considering condonation of delay, the routine explanation

Page 24 of 34
would not be enough but it should be in the nature of

indicating “sufficient cause” to justify the delay which will

depend on the backdrop of each case and will have to be

weighed carefully by the Courts based on the fact

situation. In the case of Katiji (Supra) the entire

conspectus relating to condonation of delay has been

kept in focus. However, what cannot also be lost sight is

that the consideration therein was in the background of

dismissal of the application seeking condonation of delay

in a case where there was delay of four days pitted

against the consideration that was required to be made

on merits regarding the upward revision of compensation

amounting to 800 per cent.

21. As against the same, the delay in the instant facts

in filing the LPA is 916 days and as such the

consideration to condone can be made only if there is

reasonable explanation and the condonation cannot be

merely because the appellant is public body. The entire

explanation noticed above, depicts the casual approach

unmindful of the law of limitation despite being aware of

Page 25 of 34
the position of law. That apart when there is such a long

delay and there is no proper explanation, laches would

also come into play while noticing as to the manner in

which a party has proceeded before filing an appeal. In

addition in the instant facts not only the delay and laches

in filing the appeal is contended on behalf of the

respondents seeking dismissal of the instant appeal but

it is also contended that there was delay and laches in

filing the writ petition itself at the first instance from

which the present appeal had arisen. In that view, it

would be necessary for us to advert to those aspects of

the matter and notice the nature of consideration made

in the writ petition as well as the LPA to arrive at a

conclusion as to whether the High Court was justified.

22. The entire explanation for the inordinate delay of

916 days is twofold, i.e. the non­availability of the Vice­

Chancellor due to retirement and subsequent

appointment of new Vice­Chancellor, also that the matter

was placed before the Executive Council and a decision

was taken to file the appeal and the said process had

Page 26 of 34
caused the delay. The reasons as stated do not appear

very convincing since the situation was of availing the

appellate remedy and not the original proceedings

requiring such deliberation when it was a mere

continuation of the proceedings which had already been

filed on behalf of the appellant herein, after due

deliberation. Significantly, the Vice­Chancellor who was

at the helm of affairs when the writ petition was filed,

prosecuted and disposed of on 27.04.2015 was available

in the same office till 28.10.2015, for about six months

which was a long enough period as compared to 30 days

limitation period for filing appeal. In that circumstance

when the said Vice­Chancellor who had prosecuted the

writ petition was available, the submission of the learned

Senior Counsel for the appellant that unseen hands are

likely to have prevented the filing of the appeal also

cannot be accepted. Secondly, the reason sought to be

put forth about the decision required to be taken by the

Executive Council is also not acceptable when it was just

the matter of filing the appeal. In fact, in the writ petition

an affidavit was filed referring to Resolution No.56 and

Page 27 of 34
173 of Academic Council and Executive Council

authorising for filing writ petition. When the writ petition

was filed based on such authorisation and the stand of

the appellant, as the writ petitioner was put forth and

had failed in the writ petition, it cannot be accepted that

the appellant with all the wherewithal was unable to file

the appeal, that too when the same Vice­Chancellor was

available for six months after dismissal of the writ

petition. Hence the reasons put forth cannot in our

opinion constitute sufficient cause.

23. That apart, as rightly noticed by the Division

Bench in the LPA, the approval from the Executive

Council was obtained on 28.02.2017 / 07.03.2017, the

appeal was ultimately filed on 01.03.2018 after an year

from the said date which only indicates the casual

approach which is now sought to be overcome with the

plea of public interest despite there being no explanation

for the delay at every stage. It is true that as held in the

case of Mst. Katiji (supra) that every day’s delay need not

be explained with such precision but the fact remains

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that a reasonable and acceptable explanation is very

much necessary. The Division Bench apart from noticing

these aspects had also noted that the learned Single

Judge too found the writ petition to be hit by delay and

laches.

24. In that backdrop, a perusal of the order dated

27.04.2015 passed by the learned Single Judge would

indicate that the learned Single Judge in para – 65 of the

order with reference to his earlier observation has arrived

at the categorical conclusion that the petition suffers

from laches and has been filed with delay of 7­8 years.

The learned Senior Counsel for the appellant while

seeking to dispel such conclusion by the learned Single

Judge contended that the respondent No. 13 themselves

had filed a writ petition being aggrieved by the restricted

FAR and the said writ petition was disposed only on

18.05.2011 and the need for the appellant herein to file

the writ petition arose only thereafter. The said

contention is also not acceptable if the entire sequence is

noticed.

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25. In that regard there can be no dispute to the fact

that the Respondent No. 13 being aggrieved by the

decision of DDA had filed a petition bearing W.P.

No.3135/2010 assailing the letter dated 19.08.2009 and

the same was disposed of only on 18.05.2011 but the

appellant cannot take shelter under the same to explain

the laches. This is because much water had flown under

the bridge before the said development and those events

ought to have triggered action from the appellant in

challenging, more so when there were other litigations

relating to the same subject, as noticed in the order of

the learned Single Judge.

26. In the present matter, the land was converted to

residential use in 2005 and Respondent No.11 – DMRC

had invited bids and public auction was conducted on

28.07.2008 which ought to have awakened the appellant

herein for the first time since the fact of conversion of the

land into residential development was in public domain

even if is assumed that the earlier process of approval

etc. by the DDA on the approval request of DMRC are

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internal process and not be known to the appellant. In

fact, the learned Single Judge while taking note of the

challenge raised by the appellant herein has also taken

note of an earlier petition bearing W.P (C) No.8675/2011

filed by the Association of Metro Commuters wherein also

the residential development was an issue, which came to

be dismissed by order dated 14.02.2011. Similarly,

another petition in W.P(C) No.6624­6625/2012, though

challenging the acquisition was filed, the same was also

dismissed. Thereafter the writ petition of the appellant

filed in the year 2012 was pending till it was disposed on

27.04.2015.

27. Despite the writ petition having been filed

belatedly in respect of certain actions which had

commenced in the year 2005 and even though the writ

petition was filed after obtaining approval of the

Executive Council, no steps were taken to file the writ

appeal for 916 days after disposal of the writ petition. In

such circumstance, the cumulative effect of the delay and

laches cannot be ignored. The decisions referred by the

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learned Senior Counsel for the appellant noted Supra

cannot, therefore, be applied in the present facts and

circumstance inasmuch as the consideration hereunder

was not merely the explanation for the delay of few days

in filing the appeal. Though contention is put forth that

the delay is required to be condoned since public interest

is involved, the nature of the proceedings that have taken

place thus far would indicate that the matter has been

examined at different stages in the earlier litigations and

if the grounds on which the appellant was assailing the

action of the respondents were to be examined on merits,

they ought to have been more diligent in prosecuting the

matter before the Court.

28. In the matter of condonation of delay and laches,

the well accepted position is also that the accrued right of

the opposite party cannot be lightly dealt with. In that

regard, rather than taking note of the hardship that

would be caused to the respondent No.13 as contended

by the learned Senior Counsel, what is necessary to be

taken note is the manner in which the respondent No.11

Page 32 of 34
– DMRC has proceeded in the matter. The respondent

No.11­ DMRC is engaged in providing the public

transport and for the said purpose the Government

through policy decision has granted approval to generate

resources through property development and in that

regard the development as earlier indicated, is taken up.

Pursuant thereto the respondent No.11 has received a

sum of Rs.218.20 crores from respondent No.13 as far

back as in the year 2008. The said amount as indicated

is used for its projects providing metro rail service to the

commuting public. In such circumstance, if at this stage

the inordinate delay is condoned unmindful of the

lackadaisical manner in which the appellant has

proceeded in the matter, it would also be contrary to

public interest.

29. Therefore, taking into consideration all these

aspects of the matter, we are of the opinion that not only

the learned Single Judge was justified in holding that the

writ petition inter alia is hit by delay and laches but the

decision of the Division Bench in dismissing the LPA on

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the ground of delay of 916 days is also justified and the

orders do not call for interference.

30. Accordingly, the appeals being devoid of merits

stand dismissed with no order as to costs. All pending

applications shall stand disposed of.

……………………….J.

(R. BANUMATHI)

……………………….J.

(A.S. BOPANNA)

……………………….J.

(HRISHIKESH ROY)

New Delhi,
December 17, 2019

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