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Distinction between 'Acquiescence' and 'delay and laches' : Supreme Court explains.

18 November 2021- The Supreme Court explained the distinction between 'acquiescence' and 'delay and laches' in a judgment delivered on Tuesday (16 November 2021).

The court held that the doctrines of laches and delay as well as acquiescence apply to non-suit litigants who approach the court/appellate authorities after an unreasonable delay without providing a reasonable explanation.

The bench consisted of Jt L.Nageswara Rao and Jt Sanjiv Khanna quoted "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 estoppels in pais"


Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against a banking manager of the Quilon branch of the Bank of Cochin for committing grave misconduct by sanctioning advances contrary to instructions from the Head Office, resulting in loss of money to the bank. He requested that Mr. F.B. Chrysostom (Syndicate Bank, Mattancherry, Cochin), the Organizing Secretary of the All-India Confederation of Bank Officers Organization, Kerala State Unit, represent him. The Disciplinary committee initiated proceedings against him and all the charges got proved against him. He got dismissed by the order came on 18 April 1985 and after 4 years and 5 months he filed a memorandum of appeal on 20 September 1989 to the Chief General Manager, Sate Of Bank of India, Local Head Office, Chennai, By the order dated 23 January 1999 which got rejected by the Chief General Manager.

On the question of whether the appeal made to the Chief General Manager comes under the doctrine of acquiescence and laches on which the supreme court said that there can be no specified time frame that can be referred for the any appeal, but the appeal should be filed within a reasonable time frame which can depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case. The court also said a delay in right exercised is no existent. The court further elaborated that Non-suit litigants who approach the court/appellate authorities late with non-suits and laches as well as acquiescence may be governed by the doctrines of delay and laches, as well as acquiescence. Supreme Court also went on to explain the difference between acquiescence and laches 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.

Observes the court, the inactive acceptance can be inferred until the appeal was filed, but not for the period post-filing of the appeal. The bench thus upheld the order of dismissal by allowing the appeal.

-Aryan Sharma

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