LIMITATION AND LACHES

Laches means slackness or negligence in asserting one’s right. The doctrine of laches is based on the principle ‘delay defeats equity’. Delay in seeking equitable remedy is technically known as laches.

 Doctrine of limitation is based on public policy & utility whereas doctrine of laches is based upon equity. Limitation depend upon express law and fixes a specific time limit for suing whereas doctrine of laches depends upon general principles of justice & fair play & does not fix a specific time limit but considers circumstances of each case to determine whether there has been delay that amount to laches.

In limitation, it is immaterial for plaintiff to show his ignorance or knowledge with respect to his right. Plaintiff may have de facto knowledge or may not have it, the time from which period of limitation begins to run is mentioned (stipulated) in 3rd column of schedule. On the other hand, to defeat a claim on the ground of laches, it is necessary to show that plaintiff had sufficient knowledge of facts constituting his title & that he knowingly forbear to assert his rights.

Generally, limitation can be pleaded only against the plaintiff & normally defendant pleads the bar of limitation. On the other hand, laches may be pleaded either against plaintiff or against defendant.

In law of limitation, a suit is dismissed if not brought within the given time & no other matters are taken into consideration. But in the case of laches, there is no fixed time & court will took into the circumstances of each case to find out

(a)Whether there was an unreasonable delay?

(b) Whether the delay has resulted in loss of or destruction of evidences?

(c) Whether the plaintiff by his delay or omission, induced the defendant to incur an expense or alter his position?

Even before the expiry of period of limitation period, relief can be denied to a claimant on the ground of laches, rather one must observe that limitation strikes at very maintainability of action whereas laches involves discretion. Whether the delay (laches) is such delay as would necessitate the denials of right, is a question of fact & a question of discretion of court.

Whitman v. Disney productions

Mere passage of time cannot constitute laches, but if the passage of time can be shown to have leveled defendant into a false sense of security, and the defendant acts in reliance thereon, laches may in the discretion of trial court be found.

Inordinate delay is not equivalent to laches & the two should not be used interchangeably. Defendant’s conduct should qualify for taking such a defence.

LACHES, LIMITATION & ACQUIESCENCE

Laches is merely passive, while acquiescence implies almost active consent. Acquiescence is more than laches.

If a party knowing of his rights, could object but does not do so & knowingly permits another (infringer) to incur an expense or alters his position under a belief that it would not be objected to, a kind of permission may be said to have been given to another to alter his condition & he may be said to acquiesce.

A person acquiescing must be fully cognizant & under no disability & free from all undue influences or pressure.

While limitation is a procedural thing & independently stipulated in the statute. Acquiescence is dependent upon the conduct or knowledge of a party. Limitation can be pleaded generally, only against the plaintiff whereas acquiescence may be pleaded against the plaintiff or defendant.

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