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Distinction Between 'Acquiescence' And 'Delay and Laches': Supreme Court Explains

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
18 Nov 2021 4:56 AM GMT
Distinction Between Acquiescence And Delay and Laches: Supreme Court Explains
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In a judgment delivered on Tuesday (16 November 2021), the Supreme Court explained the distinction between 'acquiescence' and 'delay and laches'.The court observed that the doctrine of delay and laches as well as acquiescence are applied to non-suit the litigants who approach the court/appellate authorities belatedly without any justifiable explanation for bringing action after...

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In a judgment delivered on Tuesday (16 November 2021), the Supreme Court explained the distinction between 'acquiescence' and 'delay and laches'.

The court observed that the doctrine of delay and laches as well as acquiescence are applied to non-suit the litigants who approach the court/appellate authorities belatedly without any justifiable explanation for bringing action after unreasonable delay.

"Laches like acquiescence is based upon equitable considerations, but laches unlike acquiescence imports even simple passivity. On the other hand, acquiescence implies active assent and is based upon the rule of estoppel in pais", the bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna

In this case, the disciplinary proceedings was initiated against a bank manager of the Quilon branch of the Bank of Cochin, on the charges that he had committed grave misconduct by sanctioning advances in violation of the Head Office instructions causing financial loss to the bank. His request seeking permission to engage services of one Mr. F.B. Chrysostom (Syndicate Bank, Mattancherry, Cochin), the Organising Secretary of the All-India Confederation of Bank Officers Organisation, Kerala State Unit, to defend him was denied.The Disciplinary proceedings continued against him and it found that all charges against him was proved. By an order dated 18.04.1985, the Chairman of the Bank of Cochin dismissed him from service. About four years and five months after his dismissal, he filed a memorandum of appeal on 20.09.1989 before the Chief General Manager, State Bank of India, Local Head Office, Chennai, By the order dated 23.01.1999, the appeal was rejected by the Chief General Manager.

One of the issues raised in this case was whether the appeal filed before Chief General Manager is hit by doctrine of acquiescence and laches?

The court noted that the relevant Service Code does not stipulate any time period within which the appeal may be preferred to the Board of Directors whose decision is to be final, but it is well settled that no time does not mean any time.

"The assumption is that the appeal would be filed at the earliest possible opportunity. However, we would hold that the appeal should be filed within a reasonable time. What is a reasonable time is not to be put in a straitjacket formula or judicially codified in the form of days etc. as it depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case. A right not exercised for a long time is non-existent. Doctrine of delay and laches as well as acquiescence are applied to non-suit the litigants who approach the court/appellate authorities belatedly without any justifiable explanation for bringing action after unreasonable delay. In the present case, challenge to the order of dismissal from service by way of appeal was after four years and five months, which is certainly highly belated and beyond justifiable time. Without satisfactory explanation justifying the delay, it is difficult to hold that the appeal was preferred within a reasonable time. ", the court observed.

In this context, the bench explained the distinction between doctrine of acquiescence and delay and laches as follows:

Doctrine of acquiescence is an equitable doctrine which applies when a party having a right stands by and sees another dealing in a manner inconsistent with that right, while the act is in progress and after violation is completed, which conduct reflects his assent or accord. He cannot afterwards complain. In literal sense, the term acquiescence means silent assent, tacit consent, concurrence, or acceptance, which denotes conduct that is evidence of an intention of a party to abandon an equitable right and also to denote conduct from which another party will be justified in inferring such an intention. Acquiescence can be either direct with full knowledge and express approbation, or indirect where a person having the right to set aside the action stands by and sees another dealing in a manner inconsistent with that right and inspite of the infringement takes no action mirroring acceptance. However, acquiescence will not apply if lapse of time is of no importance or consequence.
Laches unlike limitation is flexible. However, both limitation and laches destroy the remedy but not the right. Laches like acquiescence is based upon equitable considerations, but laches unlike acquiescence imports even simple passivity. On the other hand, acquiescence implies active assent and is based upon the rule of estoppel in pais. As a form of estoppel, it bars a party afterwards from complaining of the violation of the right. Even indirect acquiescence implies almost active consent, which is not to be inferred by mere silence or inaction which is involved in laches. Acquiescence in this manner is quite distinct from delay. Acquiescence virtually destroys the right of the person.


The court observed that, the inactive acquiescence can be inferred till the filing of the appeal, and not for the period post filing of the appeal.  Holding thus, the bench allowed the appeal by upholding the order of dismissal.

Also from the judgment :  Right To Be Represented By Counsel Or Agent Of Choice In Disciplinary Proceedings Is Not Absolute: Supreme Court

Case name : Chairman, State Bank of India vs MJ James

Citation : LL 2021 SC 654

Case no. and Date: CA 8223 OF 2009 | 16 November 2021

Coram: Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna


Click here to read/download the judgment






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