Doctrine of Laches vis-à-vis Doctrine of Acquiescence

It is now a well settled principle of Jurisprudence that a right not exercised for a long time is non-existent. Even when there is no limitation period prescribed by any statute relating to certain proceedings, in such cases courts have coined the doctrine of laches and delays as well as doctrine of acquiescence and non-suited the litigants who approached the Court belatedly without any justifiable explanation for bringing the action after unreasonable delay. Doctrine of laches is in fact an application of maxim of equity “delay defeats equities”.

The principle is applied in those cases where discretionary orders of the court are claimed, such as specific performance, permanent or temporary injunction, appointment of Receiver etc. These principles are also applied in the writ petition filed under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution of India. In such cases, courts can still refuse relief where the delay on the petitioner’s part has prejudiced the respondent even though the petitioner might have come to court within the period prescribed by the Limitation Act.

Likewise, if a party having a right stands by and sees another acting in a manner inconsistent with that right and makes no objection while the act is in progress, he cannot complain afterwards. This principle is based on the doctrine of acquiescence implying that in such a case the party who did not make any objection acquiesced into the alleged wrongful act of the other party and therefore, has no right to complain against the alleged wrong.

Thus, in those cases where period of limitation is prescribed within which the action is to be brought before the court, if the action is not brought within that prescribed period, the aggrieved party loses remedy and cannot enforce his legal right after the period of limitation is over. Likewise, in other cases even where no limitation is prescribed, but for a long period the aggrieved party does not approach the machinery provided under the law for redressal of his grievance, it can be presumed that relief can be denied on the ground of unexplained delay and laches and/or on the presumption that such person has waived his right or acquiesced into the act of the other. As mentioned above, these principles as part of equity are based on principles relatable to sound public policy that if a person does not exercise his right for a long time then such a right is non-existent. Prabhakar v. Joint Director, Sericulture Department, (2015) 15 SCC 1.

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