S.C. Mohapatra, J.
1. This appeal has been preferred by the appellant which is an insurer of motor vehicles.
2. Being aggrieved by the award of the Second Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Northern Division, Sambalpur dated 17-12-1983, this appeal has been filed on 18-6-1984. Along with the memorandum of appeal, an application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act has been filed for condonation of delay in preferring the appeal. The Stamp Reporter of the Court on calculation, after taking into consideration the period taken for obtaining the certified copy of the judgment of the tribunal, has pointed out the last date for preferring the appeal to be 26-3-1984. The appeal was preferred on 18-6-1984 which was the reopening date of this Court after Summer Vacation. The Court closed for Summer Vacation on 11-5-1984.
3. Under Section 5 of the Limitation Actsufficient cause is to be shown explaining the delay of each day. It is not of course possible to lay down precisely as to what matters would constitute sufficient cause. It can, however, be clarified that the delay in filing an appeal should not have been for reasons indicating negligence in not taking necessary steps. What would be the necessary steps would again depend upon the circumstances of a particular cause and each case will have to be decided on the facts and circumstances of that case. However, keeping the entire facts and circumstances in view the judicial discretion is to be exercised soundly in the interest of justice. It is also to be kept in mind that for the purpose of considering 'sufficient cause' different standards would not be laid down in respect of Government, Corporate bodies or private individuals, since the conditions under Section 5 i.e. sufficient cause are the same for all.
4. Keeping the aforesaid general principle in view Courts have considered whether there is negligence of a party in preferring the appeal. In this case the certified copy of the judgment was made ready on 25-1-1984 and was made over to the appellant on 28-1-1984 which is a period within limitation. As disclosed from the petition for condonation of delay, the certified copy was sent on 15-3-1984 to the Regional Office at Calcutta for opinion and for seeking approval for payment of the compensation amount awarded. There was some correspondence between the Regional Office and the Branch Office at Sambalpur details of which were not given. It is said that the Regional Office advised for preferring an appeal which was received by the Branch Office during the summer vacation of the Court and accordingly the appeal was filed on the reopening date along with a petition for condonation of delay. It is claimed that the appellant is a public sector company and is merely a custodian of public funds collected from the citizens as tax payers and will suffer heavy pecuniary loss unnecessarily not for any other laches on the part of the appellant but for administrative difficulties.
5. While examining the question to find out if there was negligence, I have kept in mind that the company is a body-corporate and has no living mind. It acts through individuals who are its employees. However,the negligence of the employees would not absolve the company in any manner. The company had appeared and contested the claim before the tribunal. It had knowledge of the award. The certified copy was obtained in right time. It was also sent to the Regional Office for advice and approval within the period of limitation. Law relating to limitation is not different in Calcutta and in Orissa. No explanation has been given as to how the matter was dealt with in the Regional Office so that there was delay in advicing to prefer the appeal. A mere statement of fact that on receipt of the advice from the Regional Office at Calcutta the appeal was preferred on the reopening date is not a sufficient cause for condonation of delay howsoever liberally construed. Once the company is conscious as indicated in the petition for condonation of delay that it is a public sector company and is a custodian of public funds collected from the citizens, heavy duty is cast on its officers who should have acted with more care and caution than the officers of the other companies which are not public sector companies. In the petition also it is not made a ground that on account of negligence of one employee at one stage the company is going to suffer. Rather the negligence is attempted to be covered and protected in this case in not disclosing as to at what stage there was a clog to cause the delay.
6. This is a case where a paltry sum of Rs. 13,000/- has been awarded to a young boy aged 11 years who faced the accident. From the award it will be seen that the appellant-insurance company received the notice but did not appear at the trial and was set ex parte. It is disclosed in the petition for condonation of delay that the insurance company appeared only on 15-12-1983 to take the stand that the vehicle causing accident was not insured with it. Thus, negligence in defending the case was not only in preferring the appeal but also in contesting the case before the tribunal. However, I am not taking note of the negligence in the contest of the claim since that would be extraneous consideration for judicial determination of each day's delay in preferring the appeal.
7. Mr. R. Samantaray, the learned counsel for the National Insurance Company Limited has elaborately and strenuously argued as to how the present day inefficiency has crept in at all stages and in all walks of life. He wanted to convince me on merit that it is a fit case where the company should not be made to suffer since it has not insured the vehicle. In fact, being attracted with a contention, I directed on 10-9-1984 to issue notice to New India Assurance Company Limited under which it is claimed that the vehicle is insured. However, I find that more injustice would be caused in condoning the delay in this case when the clear finding is that the claimant is entitled to compensation.
8. In view of my finding that the delayed decision to prefer an appeal was on account of routine and leisurely inter-departmental consultations and no clear picture is given as to at what stage the negligence crept in covering a period of about two months for such a decision the delay cannot be condoned.
9. In the result, in the facts and circumstances of this case, there is no sufficient cause to condone the delay. The Misc. Case is accordingly dismissed. No costs.