A 108-year-old man died just before the Supreme Court admitted his appeal in a land dispute case he had been pursuing since 1968 and had remained pending before the Bombay High Court for 27 years before being dismissed.
The apex court agreed to hear the appeal on July 12 this year after Sopan Narsinga Gaikwad's counsel pleaded that the delay in filing the appeal may be viewed from the perspective that the aged petitioner belonged to a rural area of Maharashtra and learned of the high court verdict much later, and after that he got stuck due to the onset of Covid-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the man, who pursued his case right from trial court to Supreme Court was not alive to hear that his matter has been agreed to be heard,” said the petitioner's counsel Viraj Kadam.
"He had expired before the court took up the matter on July 12 but the information about his demise from the rural area came just after the hearing. He will be now represented through legal heirs."
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hrishikesh Roy has issued notice on the application for condonation of delay of 1,467 days and 267 days in moving the top court against the high court orders dated October 23, 2015 and February 13, 2019.
The top court also sought response from opposite parties in eight weeks.
Justice Chandrachud said, “We have to take note of the fact that the petitioner is 108-years-old and moreover the High Court had not dealt with the merit of the case and the matter was dismissed due to non-appearance of the advocates”.
The bench said that as the person is from rural area the lawyers concerned may not have been able to trace him after the case was dismissed in 2015.
It took note of the submission made by Kadam for the petitioner that the decree which was passed by the trial court was reversed by the first appellate court and the second appeal before the Bombay High Court was pending since 1988.
Kadam submitted that 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,” Kadam said.
The bench asked whether the petitioner had moved a restoration application to which Kadam said that they had filed an application for condonation of delay caused in filing application for restoration of Second Appeal but it was also dismissed in February 13, 2019.
Gaikwad and others had filed second appeal before the high court challenging the judgment dated December 17, 1987 passed by trial court in first appeal at Latur where the decree given to him by the trial court on September 10, 1982, was reversed.
Gaikwad had purchased a plot of land in 1968 through a registered sale deed after which he came to know that it was already mortgaged to a bank in lieu of the loan taken by the original owner.
When the original owner defaulted on a loan, the bank issued a notice to Gaikwad for attachment over the property.
Gaikwad moved the trial court against the original owner and the bank saying that he is a bona fide purchaser of the land and the bank may be asked to recover the loan by selling other properties of the original owner.
The trial court accepted the contention of Gaikwad and 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.
Thereafter, Gaikwad moved the high court in the second appeal in 1988, which was dismissed in 2015.