Doctrine of Laches

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 4, 2022, 7:59

Every human has certain rights, duties, and obligations while he is living in the state. A doctrine is a set of rules or principles, that are commonly used and held by a court. The Doctrine of Laches is a rule that legally supports those who know their rights and advises them to deny access to those who are lazy to take timely actions. This doctrine specifies that no assistance will be provided to applicants who have unreasonably delayed submission.

Doctrine of Laches - Meaning

The dictionary meaning of laches is malaise and the traditional meaning is a mistake in complying with legal obligations. It comes from the Latin word "laxare," which means "relax" or "legally." The legal meaning of Laches means not claiming or complying with one's legal rights or privileges.

The doctrine is based on the Vigilantibus Non-Dormientius Aequitas Subventil which signifies that justice helps those who are alert, not those who sleep over their rights. The Doctrine of Laches is a strong defence available to defendants can use to obtain court immunity as their proceedings have weakened over time. The defendants' fair trial opportunities can also be affected by testimonies, loss of evidence, and even witnesses who can affect the judgment.

This maxim identifies that legally the courts enforce their judiciary quickly, to only those who are alert and attentive and not to those who forget to claim their rights at the right time. This maxim helps the defendant not to give a reasonable immunity to a claimant other than the supervisor. This doctrine helps in cases related to property, time-critical torts, and other perspectives. It is slightly different from the statute of limitations.

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Example of Doctrine of Laches

Mr ABC and Mr XYZ were partners. They had a common piece of land. Mr XYZ begins to expand his fortune by using the land for his purposes. Mr ABC was aware of this, but he never raised this issue. 20 years later, Mr ABC filed a proceeding against Mr XYZ which is a very long time to file a proceeding, even though he was aware of the matter and decided not to do anything. Therefore, the accused can rely on the Doctrine of Laches and prove that Mr XYZ overslept his rights.

Characteristics of the Doctrine of Laches

The Doctrine of Laches is based on the principle that courts do not help those who oversleep their rights, but only those who are aware of and vigilant of their rights. The parties are said to be held liable if they claim their rights after a significant delay.

  • Laches refers to the submission of a reminder request under the Constitution, but in contrast to the statute of limitations, there is no specific period before the reminder request is legally banned.
  • The basic principle is that courts should not investigate obsolete cases as they aim to assist those who are vigilant and not lazy.
  • Reasons for the delay are generally accepted, as long as they are valid and reasonable.

Therefore, this Doctrine of Laches is the guard dog of the legal system that guarantees that only appropriate cases will be dealt with, and excessive delay in filing a complaint will not be entertained by the legal system.

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FAQs on Doctrine of Laches

Q.1. What does the Doctrine of Laches mean?

The Doctrine of Laches is just a defence. This legal system may prohibit the party from pursuing the claim due to an unreasonable delay.

Q.2. What is the difference between the Doctrine of Laches and the statute of limitations?

The Doctrine of Laches limits those who do not know their rights, or who know their rights but do not take action in a reasonable amount of time. Strict compliance with the law is essential. It is based on the principle of fairness and is a fact-based defence.

The statute of limitations, in some jurisdictions, prohibits a person from proceeding for longer than the prescribed time. It is up to the judge to decide whether the delay is reasonable or unreasonable. It is based on public policy and legal defence.

Q.3. What is the purpose of the Doctrine of Laches?

In most cases, it is in the interest of the other party to delay the complainant's proceeding. Due to the delay, witnesses disappear, proof or evidence may fade away, and memories hold no significance. It helps the defendant uphold the doctrine and shifts the burden of proof to the plaintiff. The applicant must provide a reasonable explanation for the delay. Article 32 guarantees the right to appeal to the court but does not limit the judge's decision to provide relief.

Q.4. What are the elements of the Doctrine of Laches?

To keep the petitioner out of the count, several factors must be met to accommodate this Doctrine of Laches:

  • The delay must be unreasonable when the issue is submitted
  • Negligence in claiming rights
  • Prior knowledge of the claim by the claimant