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State of Nagaland v. Lipok Ao

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Case name : State of Nagaland v. Lipok Ao

Citations: State of Nagaland v. Lipok Ao & Ors, (2005) 3 SCC 752

Date of Judgement: 01/04/2005

Case No: Criminal Appeal No. 484 of 2005

Case Type: Criminal Appeal

Petitioner: State of Nagaland

Respondent:  Lipok Ao & Ors.

Bench: Hon’ble Justice Arjit Pasayat and Hon’ble Justice S.H. Kapadia

Court: Supreme Court of India

Statutes Referred:

Limitation Act, 1963; Section – 5

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973(Cr. PC); Section – 378

Indian Penal Code, 1860; Sections – 34, 302, 307, 326

Constitution of India; Article 136

Cases Referred:

N. Balakrishnan v. M. Krishnamurthy (AIR 1998 SC 3222); New India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Shanti Misra (1975 (2) SCC 840); Brij Indar Singh v. Kanshi Ram (ILR (1918) 45 Cal 94 (PC); Shakuntala Devi Jain v. Kuntal Kumari (AIR 1969 SC 575); Concord of India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Nirmala Devi (1979 (4) SCC 365); Lala Matu Din v. A. Narayanan (1969 (2) SCC 770); State of Kerala v. E. K. Kuriyipe (1981 Supp SCC 72); Milavi Devi v. Dina Nath (1982 (3) SCC 366); O. P. Kathpalia v. Lakhmir Singh (1984 (4) SCC 66); Collector Land Acquisition v. Katiji (1987 (2) SCC 107); Prabha v. Ram Parkash Kalra (1987 Supp SCC 339); G. Ramegowda, Major v. Spl. Land Acquisition Officer (1988 (2) SCC 142); State of Haryana v. Chandra Mani and Ors. (1996 (3) SCC 132); Special Tehsildar, Land Acquisition, Kerala v. K.VS. Ayisumma (1996 (10) SCC 634).


  • State of Nagaland on an acquittal Judgement, filed an application for grant of leave under section 378 of CrPC, due to its delay, they also filed an application for condonation of delay of 57 days.
  • The High Court rejected the condonation on the ground that there is no sufficient cause of delay and consequentially rejected the grant of appeal. Thus, the appeal was filed to the Supreme Court.

Issued Involved:

  1. Whether the Judgment of High Court refusing to condone the delay by rejecting the application was correct? 
  2. What does the term “sufficient cause” under Section 5 of Limitation Act include?

Contentions of Petitioner:

The counsel of the petitioner contended that-

  1. The file went missing in the police department for 2 months,and when directions were given to reconstruct the file, missing file suddenly appeared in the office of Director General of Police, Nagaland.
  2. The authorities were acting bonafide and Additional Director General of Police despite the instruction did not file the appeal.

Contention of Respondent:

The counsel of respondent contented that-

  1. The appellant merely asked the Additional Advocate General to file an appeal which was not sufficient on part of the appellant.
  2. The department should have themselves investigated the matter and should enquire as to whether the appeal has been filed or not.


The order of the High Court refusing to condone the delay was set aside. The appeal was allowed to be registered and disposed of on merits.

The Court referring to different cases said, that, “what constitutes sufficient cause cannot be laid down by hard and fast rules. The adoption of strict standard of proof sometimes fails to protect public justice and it may result in public mischief. The proof by sufficient cause is a condition precedent for exercise of the discretion vested in the Court.”

Ratio Decidendi:

Discretion given by section 5 of the Limitation Act should not be defined or crystallised so as to convert a discretionary matter into a rigid rule of law. The expression “sufficient cause” should receive a liberal construction. The true guide for a Court to exercise the discretion under section 5 is whether the appellant acted with reasonable diligence in prosecuting the appeal. Unless want of bona fides of such inaction or negligence as would deprive a party of the protection of section 5 is proved, the application must not be thrown out or any delay cannot be refused to be condoned.

Obiter Dicta:



Sufficient cause could be different in each case, the facts and circumstances only can truly define whether such delay was sufficient enough to condone the delay or not. The Court believed that State cannot be put on the same footing as an individual. An individual would always be quicker to decide what remedy he wants to go with while State is impersonal machinery that works through its officers. In this case, Court while considering the factual background found that the State deserved condonation of delay and accordingly set aside the order of High Court.

Drafted By: Harshpreet Kaur, Lloyd Law College