April 20, 2024 In Uncategorized



A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha and Justice Aravind Kumar passed an Order dated 18.04.2024 in Civil Appeal Nos. 5027 Of 2024 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 30152 Of 2018 in Mrinmoy Maity Vs. Chhanda Koley And Others and held that the principle “delay defeats equity” i.e., delay or laches should be considered by the High Court when exercising discretionary powers under Article 226 of the Constitution.


i) An advertisement was issued on 09.09.2012, inviting Applications for LPG distributorship in Jamalpur, District Burdwan. Both the Appellant, Mrinmoy Maity and Respondent No.1, Chhanda Koley submitted eligible Applications among six candidates. A draw of lots on 11.05.2013, determined the Appellant as the successful candidate. After document verification, a letter of intent was issued on February 24, 2014, and approval was granted by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) on 03.06.2014, for the Appellant to commence LPG distributorship at the specified location.

ii) Four years later, Respondent No.1 lodged a Complaint with BPCL, asserting that the land proposed by the Appellant was Barga land, rendering it ineligible. Following this, the appellant submitted an application proposing alternate land. BPCL granted the appellant’s request to construct the warehouse and showroom on the alternate land provided by them.

iii) Respondent No.1, a rival Applicant for distributorship, filed a Writ Petition dated 10.04.2017 before the High Court after being unsuccessful in the selection process and aggrieved by BPCL’s decision to allow the Appellant to construct on alternate land. Initially, a Status Quo Order was issued by the Ld. Single Judge of the High Court, but the Petition was later dismissed in 2018 by the Order dated 18.01.2018 because the Petitioner had participated in the selection process.

iv) Aggrieved by the Order of the Ld. Single Judge, the Respondent No. 1 filed a Intra Court Appeal. In the said Appeal, the Division Bench found that the successful Applicant had not provided unencumbered land as required by guidelines and that the offered land was in violation of certain clauses. The Court ruled that subsequent guideline amendments couldn’t be applied retroactively. Consequently, the allotment to the Appellant was revoked, rendering all related permissions and approvals null.

v) Aggrieved by the Order of the Division Bench of the High Court, the Appellant filed Civil Appeal Nos. 5027 Of 2024 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 30152 Of 2018 before the Supreme Court.


The Apex Court vide Order date 18.04.2024, made the following observations:

1) The Supreme Court observed that the Appellant’s Counsel argued vehemently that the Ld. Single Judge’s dismissal of the Writ Petition due to lack of locus standi and dissolution of the Interim Order was justified. They highlighted that by the time the Interim Order of Status Quo was issued, the Appellant had already applied for acceptance of alternate land, which was subsequently approved for construction. The Division Bench, however, allegedly disregarded these facts and accepted the plea of the Writ Petitioner without considering the delay and laches on their part. The Appellant’s Counsel argued that the Order should be set aside, and the Writ Petition dismissed by the Ld. Single Judge should be upheld.

2) On the other hand, the Corporation’s Counsel acknowledged that the Appellant had been successful in the allotment through a draw of lots and had been issued a Letter of Intent. They also pointed out the subsequent Government notification, which allowed flexibility in the selection guidelines, including the provision for offering alternate land. The Corporation had acted upon this provision, satisfied with the Appellant’s bona fides, and permitted construction on the alternate land.

3) Further, the Counsel for the Respondent No.1, strongly opposed the Appellant’s plea and supported the Division Bench’s decision. He argued that the issue of delay in filing the Writ Petition should not be given significant weight as the blatant violation of guidelines was the crux of the matter. He emphasized that rectifying an inherent defect, especially through reliance on an amendment to the guidelines enacted after the advertisement, would amount to changing the rules of the game midstream. He asserted that this was precisely what the Ld. Single Judge had done and was rightly deemed improper by the Division Bench. Therefore, he urged for the dismissal of the Appeal.

4) The Supreme Court, after considering the arguments presented by both sides and examining the facts of the case, concluded that the Writ Petitioner should have been dismissed due to delay and laches. It emphasized that approaching the Court belatedly or sleeping over one’s rights for an extended period of time should not warrant extraordinary relief from the courts. The Apex Court reiterated the principle “delay defeats equity” and highlighted that delay or laches should be considered by the High Court when exercising discretionary powers under Article 226 of the Constitution. It further stated that if laxity on the part of the Applicant had allowed the cause of action to drift away, the High Court may refuse to intervene even if attempts are made later to revive the lapsed cause of action.

5) The Apex Court acknowledged that if the delay in approaching the Writ Court is adequately explained and appeals to the conscience of the court, the delay cannot be outrightly condemned by the opposing party. The Supreme Court recognized that various circumstances may justify invoking extraordinary jurisdiction, and each case must be assessed based on its unique facts and circumstances. It emphasized that there is no fixed formula or precise calculation to determine the exercise of discretion, rather, it depends on the specific facts and terrain through which those facts have traveled.

6) The Bench further stated that while there is no fixed period of limitation for filing a writ petition, the invocation of the Court’s extraordinary jurisdiction must be within a reasonable time frame. Merely submitting memorials or documents cannot revive a cause of action that has naturally lapsed or died out. In cases where delay and laches are apparent, the appeal should be dismissed, or the applicant should be non-suited. The Court emphasized that writ courts should not indulge indolent litigants seeking to take advantage of their own wrongs. While fundamental rights cannot be waived, the High Court must consider delay and laches when exercising discretionary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.


The Supreme Court considering the legal principles, held that it became apparent that the plea of the Appellant should be accepted, affirming the Order of the Ld. Single Judge and dismissing the Writ Petition due to delay and laches. It was evident that the Writ Petitioner was aware of all developments, including the Appellant’s successful allotment of distributorship in 2014. Despite this knowledge, the Petitioner did not challenge the decision until 2017, after the acceptance of alternate land by the Appellant. This delay indicated acquiescence in the Corporation’s actions, weakening the Petitioner’s claim. Further, the Government’s modification of guidelines in 2015, allowing for the offering of alternate land, supported the Corporation’s decision to accept the Appellant’s alternate land in line with specified criteria. These factors reinforced the Appellant’s position and justified the dismissal of the Writ Petition by the Ld. Single Judge. The Supreme Court hence, allowed the Appeal by the Appellant and upheld the Order dated 18.01.2018 of the Ld. Single Judge and set aside the Order of the Divison Bench of the High Court.


Kartik Khandekar


The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services


Editor’s Comments

The Doctrine of Laches means that Courts will not entertain a prayer of relief from a litigant who sleeps over their rights. A party is deemed to be guilty of laches when they approach the court to assert their rights after a considerable delay. The Limitation Law does not apply for the filing of writ petitions. What the court sees is that if the party is not vigilant or has been lazy in taking appropriate action, the court will not assist a person guilty of laches. Hence, though with every right there is a remedy, the remedy must be exercised within a reasonable time failing which a litigant can lose his right for good.


Sushila Ram Varma

Chief Consultant

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

Leave a Reply