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Laches or Unreasonable Delay is defined as:

Failure to do something at the proper time, especially such delay as will bar a party from bringing a legal proceeding.

It is principally a question of inequity of permitting claim to be enforced.

Lache as a self-defense

Laches acts as a defense to an equitable action, that bars recovery by the plaintiff because of the plaintiff's undue delay in seeking relief.

Laches and Statute of Limitation

Laches is the equitable equivalent of statutes of limitations. However, unlike statutes of limitations, laches leaves it up to the court to determine, based on the unique facts of the case, whether a plaintiff has waited too long to seek relief.

Elements of Laches

Unreasonable lapse of time

The concept of Laches is based on the legal maxim "Equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights." Laches recognizes that a party to an action can lose evidence, witnesses, and a fair chance to defend himself or herself after the passage of time from the date the wrong was committed. If the defendant can show disadvantages because for a long time he or she relied on the fact that no lawsuit would be started, then the case should be dismissed in the interests of justice.

It is a form of delay for such time as to constitute acquiescence.

Delay such as to preclude court from arriving at a safe conclusion as to truth.

Delay that makes it inequitable to accord relief sought.

Delay that warrants presumption that party has waived his right.

Delay that works or results in disadvantage, injury, injustice, detriment or prejudice.

Failure to prosecute claim within reasonable and proper period.

It is implied waiver from knowledge of existing conditions and acquiescence in them.

Inexcusable delay in assertion of rights.

It is lack of diligence on part of plaintiff to injury, prejudice, or disadvantage of defendant.

Lapse of time and acquiescence in alleged wrong.

Lapse of time together with change in condition or relation of parties.

Lapse of time together with prejudice or lapse such that prejudice will be presumed.

Neglect to asset a right or claim

A neglect to assert a right or claim may operate as a right to waiver. A waiter is the voluntary relinquishment or surrender of come known right or privilege.

Laches implies a neglect to do that which the party ought to do for his own benefit or protection. Hence laches may be evidence of acquiescence.

To the detriment of another

In the happening of an event when the disadvantage of the party allows the other party to not to assert the right or the claim within the reasonable time happens to be an element of laches.

It is an inequity founded on some change in the condition or relations of the property or parties.

Laches is, or is based on, delay attended by or inducing change of condition or relation.

It is a neglect for unreasonable and unexplained length of time under circumstances permitting diligence to do what could have or should have been done

It is neglect for unreasonable length of time to do what should have been done

Neglect or omission for unexplained and unreasonable length of time

Neglect or omission to assert right as, taken in conjunction with lapse of time and other circumstances, causes prejudice to adverse party


In the event of causing loss of marriage of the defendant the petitioner may not present the original photographs of the marriage so that the marriage is held null and void. And if the petitioner comes to know about the same after the lapse of reasonable time it might be the case of laches and the court may presume the same.

Laches and Judicial Review

Courts are not bound by imitation law because cases can be refused on ground of unreasonable delay because the extra-ordinary remedy is discretionary.

Related Cases / Recent Cases / Case Law

  • Dr Het Ram Kalia v Himachal Pradesh University, AIR 1977 Him Pra (NOC) 246 is a case about irregular appointment, Quo Warranto, Writ under Article 226 of Constitution of India, application of Res judicta and treatment of writs when delay and laches exits particularly when a continuing wrong exits.
  • Arun Kumar v S E Railways: Appeal has been made in regard to representation against the seniority list to the administration in 1967 which was replied in 1973. The Supreme Court of India held that there is no inordinate delay in filing the petition in view of the fact that the railway administration was itself guilty of delay.
  • Mohd Ismail v State of Karnataka: Karnataka High Court ignored a four year delay in view of serious adverse consequences to the petitioner.
  • M S Mudol (Dr) v S D Halegkar, Supreme Court held that the challenge of appointment of principal on grounds of not fulfillment of the required qualification after nine years of appointment was not allowed.
  • Ramachandra Shanker Deodhar v State of Maharashtra: A case of seniority between two groups of Government employees arose. The Cause of Action arose in 1968 but the writ petition under Article 226 was claimed under violation of Fundamental Rights. The court has been assigned the role of a sentinel on the qui vive for protection of fundamental rights cannot easily allow itself to be persuaded to refuse relief solely on the jejune ground of laches, delay or the like.
  • Jawahar Lal Sazawal v State of J & K: A writ petition filed before High Court in 1982 and coming for hearing after 16 years long gap is not barred by laches due to special circumstances.
  • Crowder v. Terhorst, 107 Ind.App. 288, 21 N.E.2d 141, 146
  • Brady v. Garrett, Tex.Civ.App., 66 S.W.2d 502, 504
  • Norman v. Boyer, 111 Colo. 531, 143 P.2d 1017, 1018
  • Wallace v. Fiske, C.C.A.Mo., 80 F.2d 897, 912
  • Geiss v. Trinity Lutheran Church Congregation, 119 Neb. 745, 230 N.W. 658, 661
  • State v. Platte Valley Public Power and Irrigation Dist., 143 Neb. 661, 10 N.W.2d 631, 634
  • Jones v. McNabb, 184 Okl. 9, 84 P.2d 429, 430
  • Shea v. Shea, 269 Mass. 454, 4 N. E.2d 1015, 1018
  • Collier v. Caraway, Tex.Civ.App., 140 S. W.2d 910, 914, Poulin v. Poulin, 60 R.I. 264, 197 A. 878, 881
  • Mary Jane Stevens Co. v. First Nat. Bldg. Co., 89 Utah 456, 57 P.2d 1099, 1125.
  • Grant v. Hart, 192 Ga. 153, 14 S.E.2d 860, 869, 870
  • Thorpe v. Wm. Filene's Sons Co., D.C.Mass., 40 F.2d 269
  • Cartmell v. Nigro, 19 Del.Ch. 231, 165 A. 625, 626
  • Harrison v. Miller, 124 W.Va. 550, 21 S.E.2d 674, 679
  • Bank of Marlinton v. McLaughlin, 123 W.Va. 608, 17 S.E.2d 213, 218
  • Marsh v. Marsh, Sup., 49 N.Y.S. 2d 759, 761
  • Anderson v. Wyoming Development Co., 6C Wyo. 417, 154 P.2d 318, 345
  • Sample v. Romine, 193 Miss. 706, 8 So.2d 257, 263
  • Burton v. Ryan, 88 Ind.App. 549, 165 N.E. 260, 261
  • Jacksonville Public Service Corporation v. Profile Cotton Mills, 236 Ala. 4, 180 So. 583, 586
  • City of Lafayette v. Keen, 113 Ind.App. 552, 48 N.E.2d 63, 70
  • Pehlert v. Neff, 152 Pa. Super. 84, 31 A.2d 446, 448
  • Winget v. Rockwood, C.C.A.Minn., 69 F.2d 326, 332, Lipsitz v. Parr, 164 Md. 222, 164 A. 743. 745
  • Johnson v. Umsted, C.C.A.Ark., 64 F.2d 316, 323
  • Rome Grader & Machinery Corporation v. J. D. Adams Mfg. Co., C.C.A.Ind., 135 F.2d 617, 619
  • Lamar v. Rivers, 235 Ala. 130, 178 So. 16, 18
  • Croyle v. Croyle, 184 Md. 126, 40 A.2d 374, 379, 380
  • In re Associated Gas & Elec. Co., D.C.N.Y., 61 F.Supp. 11, 43
  • McKnight v. Basilides, 19 Wash.2d 391, 143 P.2d 307, 312
  • Lindberg v. Linder, 133 Cal.App. 213, 23 P.2d 842
  • Engel v. Mathley, 113 Ind.App. 458, 48 N.E.2d 463, 467

Columbia Theological Seminary v. Arnette, 168 S.C. 272, 167 S.E. 465, 468

  • Prudential Insurance Co. v. Sailors, 69 Ga.App. 628, 26 S.E.2d 557, 561
  • Bell v. Mackey, 191 S.C. 105, 3 S.E.2d 816, 824, 825, 830
  • Triangle Oil Co. v. City of New Orleans, La.App., 5 So.2d 558, 561, 562
  • Pennington Engineering Co. v. Houde Engineering Corporation, D.C.N.Y., 43 F.Supp. 698, 705, 706
  • State ex rel. Phillips v. Ford, 116 Mont. 190, 151 P.2d 171, 176
  • McInnes v. McInnes, 163 Md. 303, 163 A. 85, 89
  • Hynes v. Silver Prince Min. Co., 86 Mont. 10, 281 P. 548
  • People ex rel. Mulvey v. City of Chicago, 292 Ill.App. 589, 12 N.E.2d 13, 16
  • neglect or omission to do what one should do as warrants presumption that one has abandoned right or claim, Shirley v. Van Every, 159 Va. 762, 167 S.E. 345, 350
  • Eldridge v. Idaho State Penitentiary, 54 Idaho 213, 30 P.2d 781, 784
  • Negligence by which another has been led into changing his condition with respect to property or right, Heyburn Bldg. Co. Highland Motor Transfer Co., 245 Ky. 514, 53 S.W.2d 944, 946
  • Negligence of complainant, good faith of defendant, and prejudice occasioned, or likelihood thereof, to defendant
  • Crandol v. Garrison, 115 N.J.Eq. 11, 169 A. 507, 511
  • Negligence or omission seasonably to assert a right
  • Davidson v. Grady, C.C.A.Fla., 105 F.2d 405, 408
  • Sine11 v. Town of Sharon, 206 Minn. 437, 289 N.W. 44, 45, 46
  • Omission of something which a party might do and might reasonably be expected to do towards vindication or enforcement of his rights
  • Wynne v. Conrad, 220 N.C. 355, 17 S.E.2d 514, 518
  • McCauley v. Northern Texas Traction Co., Tex.Civ. App., 21 S.W.2d 309, 313
  • Omission to do what law requires to protect one's rights under circumstances misleading or prejudicing adverse party
  • School Dist. No. 14, Fractional, Niles Tp. and Buchanan Tp. v. School Dist. No. 1, Buchanan Tp., 266 Mich. 479, 254 N.W. 174
  • Unconscionable, undue, unexcused, unexplained or unreasonable delay in assertion of right
  • Loveland Camp No. 83, W. 0. W., v. Woodmen Bldg. & Benev. Ass'n, 108 Colo. 297, 116 P.2d 195, 199
  • Calkin v. Hudson, 156 Kan. 308, 133 P.2d 177, 184, 185
  • Sample v. Natalby, 120 Fla. 161, 162 So. 493
  • City of Paducah v. Gillispie, 273 Ky. 101, 115 S.W.2d 574, 575
  • unreasonable or unexplained delay in asserting right which works disadvantage to another
  • Kennedy v. Denny, 237 Ky. 649, 36 S.W.2d 41, 42
  • Caswell v. Bathrick, 53 R.I. 114, 164 A. 505, 507
  • Want of activity or diligence in making a claim or moving for the enforcement of a right, Wissler v. Craig, 80 Va. 30
  • Babb v. Sullivan, 43 S.C. 436, 21 S.E. 277
  • Graff v. Portland, etc., Co., 12 Colo.App. 106, 54 P. 854
  • In re Wallace's Estate, 299 Pa. 333, 149 A. 473, 475.