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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Justice too much delayed : 108 year old man dies before a 60 year old court case is settled

He pursued a land dispute for over five decades, more than half of his life, but died before he could see the legal battle, which he had fought vigorously, reach its finality in the Supreme Court.

Sopan Narsinga Gaikwad, 108, died before the top court admitted his appeal in the matter, which he had been pursuing since 1968. The land dispute had remained pending at the Bombay High Court for 27 years, before it was dismissed.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hrishikesh Roy, on July 12, issued notice in the matter.

Viraj Kadam, counsel appearing on behalf of Gaikwad, submitted there is a delay of 1,467 days and 267 days, respectively, in moving the top court against the orders dated October 23, 2015 and February 13, 2019. Kadam contended that the delay may be understood in a proper perspective, as the petitioner was over 100 years and belongs to a rural area of Maharashtra and the delay has also been added to by the intervening onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The top court noted that the petitioner is 108 years old and also, the high court did not examine the merit of the case, and dismissed it due to non-appearance of the advocates.

It said that the decree which was passed by the trial court was reversed by the first appellate court and the second appeal before the high court was pending since 1988.

Kadam told IANS that his client died before the top court agreed to hear his plea but the information about his demise came just after the hearing.

On August 19, 2015, the second appeal was adjourned, and, thereafter, both sets of counsel appeared before the high court on August 22, 2015 and sought an adjournment to seek instructions. The second appeal was adjourned to September 3, 2015, but was eventually, taken up on October 23, 2015, and was dismissed in default.

The top court, in its order, said: “In these circumstances, it has been submitted that the petitioner having entrusted the papers to counsel in the High Court, it is only to be expected that counsel would follow up the matter, and the inability of counsel to appear should not be a reason to non-suit the petitioner.”

It sought response from opposite parties in eight weeks, and Gaikwad will now be represented through legal heirs.

In 1968, Gaikwad had purchased a plot of land through a registered sale deed. He later learnt that the plot was already mortgaged to a bank, as the original owner had taken a loan on it. The bank had issued notice to Gaikwad in connection with attachment of the property, after the original owner defaulted on the loan.

Gaikwad moved the trial court against the original owner and the bank, saying that he is a bona fide purchaser of the land, and that the bank should be asked to recover the loan by selling other properties of the original owner. The trial court passed a decree in his favour on September 10, 1982. The original owner moved the first appeal after which the decree was reversed in 1987.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)

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