A Special Leave Petition (SLP) shall subject to the provisions of Section 4,5,12 and 14 of the Limitation Act, 1963 be lodged in the Supreme Court within 60 days from the date of refusal of certificate by the High Court, and in other cases within 90 days from the judgment or order sought to be appealed from. That means in general the SLP must be filed within 90 days from the date of the order of the High Court, in case the parties were not applied for certificate from the High Court. In case delay in filing Special Leave Petition, an application for condonation of delay must be filed stating inter alia that the petitioner had sufficient cause for not preferring the petition within time. The Supreme court condone the delay in filing a Special Leave Petition under exceptional circumstances. the petitioner has to explain delay of each and every day and the Court will not condone the delay if it is not convinced that the delay occurred due to reasons beyond the control of the petitioner. In case the Court is prima facie satisfied that the petitioner was prevented by sufficient cause in filing the petition in time, it would issue notice to the respondent to show cause why the delay should not be condoned. The Supreme Court generally adopts a liberal approach in condonation of delay if sufficient cause for the delay has been shown and where the interest of justice so require. The Supreme Court has the power to condone the delay ex parte.
In Commissioner of Wealth Tax, Bombay v. Amateur Riders Club, Bombay, (1994 Supp (2) SCC 603, on a petition by the revenue which was delayed by 26r days, the Court had due regard to the fact that the Government should not be treated as any private litigant, as in the case of the former the decision is to present and prosecute appeals are not individual, but the institutional decision necessarily bogged down by proverbial red tape. But even then there were limits. In the fact of the case, where the affidavit in support of condonation of delay merely recited the movement of files from the advocate on record to the department and back, the court held that it was not a judicially acceptable ground for condonation of delay.
In Union of India v. Visveswaraya Iron and Steel Ltd (1987) Supp SCC 192, A Special Leave Petition was filed by the Union of India after delay of one year of the receipt of the certified copy of the impugned Judgment. The delay was due to slow action by different department through which the certified copy of the judgment was routed. One year and nine months after the filing of the application for condonation of delay, another application was moved seeking time for filing a supplementary affidavit explaining the delay. The Court refused to condone the delay.
In the case of Collector Land Acquision, Anantnag v. Mrs. Katiji (1987) 2 SCC 107, the Supreme Court held that "sufficient cause" as employed by the legislature under section 5 of the Indian Limitation Act would apply to Special Leave Petition as well. The court held that a liberal approach is adopted in condoning the delay as it was realised that:
1. Ordinary Litigant does not stand to benefit lodging an appeal late
2. Refusing to condone delay can result in a meritorious matter being thrown out at the very threashold and cause of justice being defeated. As against this when delay is condoned the highest that can happen is that a cause would be decided on merits after hearing the parties.
3. The requirement that "every day's delay must be explained" does not mean that a pedantic approach should be made. Why not every hour's delay, every second's delay? The doctrine must be applied in a rational, commonsense and pragmatic manner.
4. When substantial justice and technical considerations are pitted against each other, the cause of substantial justice deserves to be preferred for the other side cannot claim to have vested right in injustice being done because of non deliberate delay.
5.There is no presumption that delay is occasioned deliberately or on account of culpable negligence, or on account of mala fides. A litigant does not stand to benefit by resorting to delay. In fact he runs a serious risk.
6. The judiciary is respected not on account of its power to legalize injustice on technical grounds, but because it is capable of removing injustice and is expected to do so.