A positive rule of limitation cannot depend upon whether there is laches or not and, except in the case of discretionary orders, the defense of laches or acquiescence cannot prevail when a statutory period of limitation is prescribed for an action.
In other words, in cases where the court is bound to grant a relief if the plaintiff proves his case, there is no question of laches affecting the plaintiff’s rights, provided the suit is instituted within the time limited by law.
If a party having a right stand by and sees another, acting in a manner inconsistent with that right and makes no objection while the act is in progress, he cannot afterwards complain. This is the proper sense of the word acquiescence.
The chief points to be considered in connection with laches are:
(1) Acquiescence on the plaintiff’s part;
(2) Any change of position on the defendant’s part.
The whole fault of the plaintiff lies in this that he remains standing by while the violation of the right is in progress. This may be construed to mean the giving of assent in an implied manner after the plaintiff has become aware of the violation of his right; it is unjust to give the plaintiff a remedy where he has by his conduct done that which might fairly be regarded as a waiver of that remedy.
It may also be regarded that by his conduct and neglect he has put the other party in the position in which it would be reasonable to allow the plaintiff to assert the contrary. In such cases lapse of time and delay are most material and upon them rests the doctrine of laches. ‘A’ is the owner of a plot of land. By mistake a portion of the plot belonging to A has been included in a sale-deed executed by ‘C’ a contiguous owner, in favour of B.
B thinking that he is the owner of the whole property purchased by him and for which he has paid money, begins to construct a building on the part of which A is the real owner. A being aware of his own ownership and of the fact that his own plot has been wrongly included in the sale deed of B and that his own plot is being built upon by B under a mistaken belief that A’s plot really belongs to B. If A allow? B to continue the construction, without disabusing B of mistake A will lose the right of recovering his plot of ground back.
In equity it was the duty of A to inform B of A’s ownership and to disabuse B of his mistake. A stands by and allows B complete the construction. A is guilty of laches and is stopped from asserting his own title because it was by his own conduct that B was induced to continue the construction and change his position by spending a lot of money over the construction.
Here the right of A would be barred by laches and acquiescence although the period of limitation to file the suit is still unexpired. This shows that the remedy of a person by the application of the doctrine of laches may become barred before the period prescribed by law has expired.
Laches and acquiescence are based upon general principles while limitation is a matter of express and inflexible rules of law and applies independently of the existence of laches of acquiescence. Acquiescence and laches again may be pleaded either against the plaintiff or the defendant, while limitation can be pleaded generally only against the plaintiff.