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Shashi Bala Pathak v. Delhi Development Authority - (High Court of Delhi) (08 Dec 2016)

Doctrine of delay and laches is not constitutional limitation on exercise of writ jurisdiction



Petitioners, who are allottees under Expandable Housing Scheme, 1996 challenge non-issuance of fresh Demand-cum-Allotment Letters. Petitioners seek Demand-cum-Allotment letters at same rate/cost, as issued in 2014-15 to other allottees of Scheme, 1996. In 1996, Petitioners had applied for allotment of flats under the Scheme, 1996. On 31st March, 1997, draw of lots was held and Petitioners were allotted flats. In 1998, Demand-cum-Allotment letters were issued to Petitioners. However, some of Petitioners challenged demands raised in said letters. It is case of Petitioners that on coming to know about, issuance of the allotment letters to similarly situated allottees as late as 2014 and 2015, they filed representations calling upon DDA to issue demand letters. Since, Respondent-DDA failed to redress grievance of Petitioners, present petitions were filed.

Undoubtedly, delay and laches is one of facets to deny exercise of discretion while dealing with a writ petition. If a writ petition is filed beyond period of limitation prescribed for filing a civil suit for similar cause, Court should treat delay as unreasonable and decline to entertain petition. However, delay and laches is not an absolute impediment. There can be mitigating factors, like continuity of cause of action as pleaded by Petitioners or if whole thing shocks the judicial conscience. Consequently, doctrine of delay and laches is not a constitutional limitation on exercise of writ jurisdiction.

Respondent-DDA having admitted that it was obliged to issue demand letter and having failed to do so on account of fact that, cases remained pending with competent authority, a statutory authority like DDA cannot be permitted to defeat rights of allottees by taking recourse to objection of delay. In fact, Respondent-DDA by taking recourse to objection of delay is trying to place premium on its own wrong—which is not permitted in law.

At no stage, have allotments in favour of Petitioners been cancelled. Accordingly, said allotments are subsisting as of today. In fact, if Petitioners had approached this Court earlier by way of writ petitions, Respondent-DDA would have stated that it was not in a position to issue demand letters as cases of other allottees were pending consideration. Consequently, High Court is of view that in present batch of matters, it is only inaction on part of Respondent-DDA in not issuing fresh Demand-cum-Allotment letters on Petitioners, as were issued on 27th August, 2014 and 07th May, 2015 to other allotees that a cause of action accrued to the petitioners to file present writ petitions. Accordingly, present writ petitions are not barred by delay and laches.

Respondent-DDA being an instrumentality of State is required to act fairly and justly and to treat similarly placed persons equally. It was duty of Respondent-DDA to raise revised demands upon Petitioners after earlier demands had been quashed by this Court. It is settled proposition of law that there can be no disparity between same set of persons in identical circumstances. Respondent-DDA is directed to raise fresh demands on petitioners. Respondent-DDA shall be entitled to claim interest from date of original demand till payment by Petitioners.


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