Supreme Court Emphasizes ‘Reasonable Time’ Principle in Absence of Prescribed Limitation Period

Cause Title- M/s North Eastern Chemicals Industries (P) Ltd. & Anr. v. M/s Ashok Paper Mill (Assam) Ltd. & Anr. (Neutral Citation: 2023 INSC 1059)


Welcome to the official blog of the Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates, where we are dedicated to providing litigation support services for matters related to the Limitation Period. In today’s blog post, we aim to shed light on the prevailing issues surrounding the Limitation Period, the legal framework in place for their protection, and the steps we can take as a society to combat these acts. Join us as we explore this critical subject and empower you with the knowledge to protect your rights and safety.

Background and Court Proceedings

Civil Appeal Against Gauhati High Court: The Supreme Court’s decision stemmed from a civil appeal challenging the judgment of the Gauhati High Court. The appeal addressed the applicability of limitation under Article 116 of the Limitation Act, 1963, to the Jogighopa (Assam) Unit of Ashok Paper Mills Limited (Acquisition Transfer of Undertaking) Act, 1990.

Judicial Observations

Two-Judge Bench Observations: A two-judge bench comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Sanjay Karol observed that in the absence of a prescribed period for filing an appeal, the principle of ‘reasonable time’ would govern. The court highlighted the inherent flexibility of the ‘reasonable time’ concept, emphasizing that no rigid formula could be universally applied, and each case’s circumstances must be considered.

Case Overview

The dispute originated from a claimant (appellant) receiving orders to supply goods to a respondent company. After partial payment and the respondent company being declared a “sick company” under the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1935, the Government of Assam enacted the Jogighopa (Assam) Unit of Ashok Paper Mills Limited (Acquisition Transfer of Undertaking) Act, 1990.

The claimant sought a sum of Rs. 1,58,375/-, and while the Commissioner of Payments awarded the principal sum, no interest was granted. The claimant accepted the amount but raised concerns about non-payment of interest for the period 1983-1993. A writ petition before the High Court sought direction for the Commissioner to consider awarding interest on the principal amount.

High Court Proceedings

The High Court, considering the 1993 Act, ruled that interest would be calculable and due only from September 23, 1992, the Act’s effective date. The claimants then approached the District Judge for condonation of delay, arguing that no specific time was provided for filing an appeal. The District Judge deemed the appeal fit for admission.

Supreme Court’s Holistic Approach

The Supreme Court emphasized a holistic assessment when no specific limitation is prescribed by law. It rejected the notion of courts substituting legislative wisdom by providing limitations and stressed considering factors like the parties’ conduct, nature of the proceeding, length of delay, and potential prejudice caused.

Supreme Court’s Observations:

  1. ‘Reasonable Time’ Principle:
    • The Court affirmed that in the absence of a prescribed limitation, the principle of ‘reasonable time’ would apply.
    • No fixed formula could be laid down, and the determination would rely on the facts and circumstances of each case.
  2. Assessment of Delay:
    • Emphasizing a holistic assessment, the Court noted that assessing the possibility of delay causing prejudice is crucial.
    • Courts should consider factors like the conduct of parties, the nature of the proceeding, the length of delay, and the statute’s scheme.
  3. Party’s Burden in Delay Plea:
    • The Court highlighted that a party pleading delay in the absence of a specific limitation must demonstrate additional prejudice or loss caused by the delay.
  4. Urgency in the Absence of Explicit Limitation:
    • In cases where neither statute provides an explicit limitation, the Court acknowledged that urgency might be absent.
    • While parties are not entitled to litigate issues decades later, shorter delays may not attract delay and laches.

Court’s Verdict

The Apex Court allowed the appeal, directing the District Judge to proceed by the law. It highlighted that while statutes with explicit limitations necessitate expedited action, cases like the present, lacking such specificity, may not require the same urgency. The judgment emphasizes the need for a balanced approach, ensuring justice while considering the unique circumstances of each case.

This landmark ruling sets a precedent for cases where no specific limitation is provided, emphasizing a nuanced evaluation of the circumstances rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.


The Supreme Court, in its verdict, allowed the appeal, directing the District Judge to proceed by the law. The case underscores the Court’s commitment to a nuanced examination of delay issues in the absence of specified limitation periods, emphasizing the need for a case-specific approach.

We are a law firm in the name and style of Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates at Gurugram and Rewari. We are providing litigation support services for matters related to the Limitation Act 1963.

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