The Doctrine of Laches and Acquiescence

The Doctrine of Laches and Acquiescence by Opeyemi Adesegun

 
Laches is a doctrine of time limit when seeking redress in the court of law. It is a doctrine that combates delay in seeking remedy.
 
1. In Common Law, S12 of the Limitation Act of 1966 mentions that an action to recover land in the case of a state authority should be brought within 20 years and in case of individuals, within 12 years. If it is not brought within this time frame, it is presumed that the time has lapsed. 
 
2. In Equity, Lord Condemn in Smith v. Clay supports the application of limitations to an action of redress as regards time. The courts of equity thus developed the doctine of Laches and Acquiescence. 
 
3. In Customary Law through the case of Sunmonu v. Disu Raphael, the court held that limitation is inapplicable to land held under customary law.
 
 
Laches applies where a person culpably stands by and delays to take action to enforce his legal rights when infringement thereto has been brought to his notice. Although the omission or delay in taking action is culpable, it does not carry with it an implication of fraud or bad faith, it is share indolence, inordinate delay or indifference to a person's rights. It raises the implication of a waiver. Thus, in Linsay Petroleum Co. v. Hurd (1874) L.R. 5 P. C. 221, Lord Selbourne stated the circumstances that are important in order to found laches: "Two circumstances always important in such cases are the length of the delay and the nature of acts done during the interval, which might affect either party and cause a balance of justice and injustice in taking the one course or the other so far as relates to the remedy".

A person is said to acquiesce in a course of conduct affecting his right if he behaves in such a way that a reasonable man is led to believe that he consents to that course of conduct and it would amount to fraud on the part of the true owner later to assert his right against the occupier. 

Thus acquiescence means conduct from which it can be inferred that a person has by so doing agreed to a certain state of affairs affecting his legal rights. If a person has agreed to his right being contravened, or taken away, he should not afterwards complain about it; he would be estopped by the fact of his having consented to the act complained of. It follows, therefore, that acquiescence operates by way of estoppel.

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