Working on a case pertaining to property and rights thereupon, I was reminded of the maxim “ Vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt”.

Translated it means ” The laws serve the vigilant, not those who sleep.” In legal parlance, those who claim a legal right should be vigilant in exercising the same. The reverse also holds true – those who claim they have been wronged should as well be prompt in putting forward their claims.

This maxim finds clearest expression in the Limitation Act. Essentially, if an offense is alleged to be committed, legal recourse has to be taken by the person wronged within a ‘prescribed period ‘ as given in the Limitation Act. Else the complaint is liable to be dismissed.

Almost all other Acts also have provisions based on this fundamental maxim. For instance, per Negotiable Instruments Act. S. 138, if a cheque ‘bounces’ the payeee is liable to punishment as prescribed provided that :

a) the cheque has been presented to the bank within a period of six months from the date on which it is drawn or within the period of its validity, whichever is earlier;
b) the payee or the holder in due course of the cheque, as the case may be, makes a demand for the payment of the said amount of money by giving a notice in writing, to the drawer of the cheque within thirty days of the receipt of information by him from the bank regarding the return of the cheque as unpaid; and
c) the drawer of such cheque fails to make the payment of the said amount of money to the payee or, as the case may be, to the holder in due course of the cheque, within fifteen days of the receipt of the said notice.

All the timelines underlined are limitation periods for the wronged or the wrongdoer, non-obeyance of which affects one or the other. If, for example, the payee gives a notice in writing AFTER the period of thirty days as asked in para ‘b’ above, proceedings and punishment under this section may not hold ( subject to various exceptions etc. ) . Some other legal provisions may need to be resorted to.

In ” Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd. vs Ucb on 29 June, 2005, Equivalent citations: 2005 (31) PTC 14 Guj ( Gujarat High Court) ‘, the Hon’ble HC says , for instance:
…..2. On filing of counter statement by the applicant, a copy thereof was served on the opponent vide official letter dated 18.07.2003 calling upon him to file evidence in support of opposition. But, the opponent did not file evidence within the prescribed/extended time…..

15…….I am cautious with the proposition that the evidence should not be shut down. But, at the same time in the circumstances, when the provision of Rule 50(2) are made mandatory with an absolute legal fiction, and Rule 50(1) has mandate of S. 21(4) in accordance with S. 21(S) as stated above, the opponent should not be allowed to file his evidence at his sweet will at any point of time in violation law. ……..

…The law cannot help them. The equity comes to the aid of the vigilant and not the slumbering. Vigilantibus non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Taking excuse as one of the grounds that opponent attorney’s computer data was corrupted due to computer viruses cannot be believed as they have not filed any proof to that effect….

Hence always be vigilant and timely in asserting your rights, and in protesting against any wrongs done to you !

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