prpri Law on Delay Condonation does not differentiate between Government & private party: SC Law on Delay Condonation does not differentiate between Government & private party: SC

Case Law Details

Case Name : Deputy Conservator Of Forests Vs. Timblo Irmaos Ltd. & Ors. (Supreme Court)
Appeal Number : Special Leave Petition (Civil) Diary No(S). 19059/2020
Date of Judgement/Order : 18/12/2020
Related Assessment Year :

Deputy Conservator Of Forests Vs. Timblo Irmaos Ltd. & Ors. (Supreme Court)

The law on Delay Condonation does not differentiate between Government & private party- Mst. Katiji & Ors., AIR 1987 SC 1353 out dated due to technological advancements.

The Apex Court has been repeatedly reiterating that the Government cannot take the plea of differential treatment in matters of condonation of Delay. The Apex Court in the case of Deputy Conservator of Forests vs. Timblo Irmaos Ltd. & Others decided on 18 December 2020 refused to differentiate between the government and a private party/individual in matter of belatedly approaching a Court without sufficient cause. The Apex Court reprimanded the petitioner for belatedly approaching the Court without any ‘sufficient cause’ only by way of formality and to obtain a certificate of Dismissal from the Apex Court and imposed costs of Rs. 15000 to be recovered from the officers responsible for 462 days’ delay in filing the SLP for wastage of judicial time of the Apex Court.

The brief facts of the case are that the respondents filed a suit in 1977 before the Additional Sessions Judge, South Goa against the present petitioner claiming ownership rights to a particular property. The suit was ultimately decreed by the ADJ on 25.08.2003. The petitioner filed a first appeal against the said judgment which was admitted by the High Court of Bombay at Goa in the year 2003. The appeal came up for hearing on10.02.2014 when fresh notices were issued to the parties. On 07.08.2014 the petitioner was unrepresented by the counsel. Thus the matter was adjourned. Ultimately, the appeal was dismissed for non prosecution on 03.09.2014. Despite this mishap, no application for restoration was filed till 05.01.2016 seeking condonation of delay in moving the restoration application. The said application was dismissed by the impugned order dated 07.02.2019.

From the perusal of the impugned order of the High Court, it transpires that the petitioner relied on the judgement of the Apex Court in Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr. Vs. Mst. Katiji & Ors., AIR 1987 SC 1353. It was also argued that the petitioner should not suffer for the fault of the counsel. The High Court held that such substantial delay could not be condoned by mere shifting the blame on the counsel as the parties were also required to keep track of the matter and there is gross negligence attributable to the instant petitioner despite affording numerous opportunities.

The Apex Court expressed utmost displeasure at the apathy of petitioner and observed thus:

“This is one more case which we have categorized as a “certificate cases” filed before this Court to complete a mere formality and save the skin of the officers who have been throughout negligent in defending a litigation!”

The Court while dismissing the SLP held that the Law as declared by Mst. Katiji (supra) as outdated in view of changed circumstances and technological advancements and applied the dictum of Office of the Chief Post Master General & Ors. vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. (2012) 3 SCC and held thus:

“We have dealt with the issue of Government authorities in approaching Courts belatedly as if the Statute of Limitation does not exist for them.While referring to some reasons given for insufficiencies, we observed that the parties cannotkeep on relying on judicial pronouncements for a period of time when technology had not advanced and a greater leeway was given to the Government,(Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr.(supra). This situation no more prevail and this position had been elucidated by the judgment of this Court in Office of the Chief Post Master General & Ors. vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. (2012) 3 SCC 563.”

The Apex Court deprecated the practice of the Government in delaying matters irreparably just for completing a formality with the object of issuance of certificate of dismissal for face saving and held thus:

“These aspects have been analyzed by us recently in SLP © No..D. 9217/2020- State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. vs. Bheru Lal decided on 15.10.2020. In the aforesaid judgment we have defined “certificate cases” the objective of which is only to put a quietus to the issue by recording that nothing could be done because the highest Court had dismissed the appeal. We have repeatedly deprecated such practice and process. The irony is that despite observations, no action was ever taken against officers who sit on the file and do nothing.”

After the authoritative pronouncement of the emergence of the new position of law in the said case with regards to condonation of delay, it is expected that the Government & it’s functionaries would not sleep over its matters, be vigilant and file & pursue their pending matters within the statutory time limit without any delay as the Government will not get any preferential treatment in Condonation of Delay.

FULL TEXT OF THE SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT

The special leave petition has been filed after a delay of 462 days. This is one more case which we have categorized as a “certificate cases” filed before this Court to complete a mere formality and save the skin of the officers who have been throughout negligent in defending a litigation!

The respondent(s) filed a suit in 1977 before the Additional Sessions Judge, South Goa at Margao against the petitioner calming ownership rights to property known as “Aforamento Perpeto” situated at Verlem of Sanguem Taluka. The prayer was made for permanent injunction against the petitioner. The suit was contested by the petitioner but it appears that the written statement was filed only in the year 1980. The suit was ultimately decreed by the ADJ on 25.08.2003. The petitioner filed a first appeal against the said judgment which was admitted by the High Court of Bombay at Goa in the year 2003. The appeal came up for hearing on 10.02.2014 when fresh notices were issued to the parties. On 07.08.2014 the petitioner was unrepresented by the counsel. Thus the matter was adjourned. Ultimately, the appeal was dismissed for non‑prosecution on 03.09.2014. Despite this mishap, no application for restoration was filed till 05.01.2016 seeking condonation of delay in moving the restoration application. That application was dismissed by the impugned order dated 07.02.2019.

A perusal of the impugned order shows that once again a reference has been made, as in similar cases of delay by the State to the judgment of this Court in the case of Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr. Vs. Mst. Katiji & Ors., AIR 1987 SC 1353. A claim was also made that the petitioner should not suffer for the fault of the counsel. The High Court opined that such substantial delay could not be condoned by mere shifting the blame on the counsel as the parties are required to keep track of the matter and there is negligence despite numerous opportunities.

We have dealt with the issue of Government authorities in approaching Courts belatedly as if the Statute of Limitation does not exist for them. While referring to some reasons given for insufficiencies, we observed that the parties cannot keep on relying on judicial pronouncements for a period of time when technology had not advanced and a greater leeway was given to the Government, (Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr. (supra). This situation no more prevail and this position had been elucidated by the judgment of this Court in Office of the Chief Post Master General & Ors. vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. (2012) 3 SCC 563.

These aspects have been analyzed by us recently in SLP © No..D. 9217/2020- State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. vs. Bheru Lal decided on 15.10.2020.

In the aforesaid judgment we have defined “certificate cases” the objective of which is only to put a quietus to the issue by recording that nothing could be done because the highest Court had dismissed the appeal. We have repeatedly deprecated such practice and process. The irony is that despite observations, no action was ever taken against officers who sit on the file and do nothing.

The matter is further aggravated in the present case and even the present petition is filed with a delay of 462 days and once again the excuse is of change of counsel.

We have repeatedly deprecated such attempts of the State Governments to approach this Court only to complete a mere formality. Learned counsel for the petitioner strenuously contends that there is valuable land involved. In our view, if it was so, then the concerned officers responsible for the manner in defending this petition must be made to pay for it.

We are thus constrained to dismiss the petition as barred by time and impose cost of Rs.15,000/- on the petitioner for wastage of judicial time. We put it to the learned counsel that the cost would have

been much greater but for the fact that a young counsel is appearing before us and we have given considerable concession in the costs on that factor alone.

The costs be recovered from the officers responsible for the delay and costs be deposited within a month with the Supreme court Employees Welfare Fund. The certificate of recovery be also filed within the same period of time.

The special leave petition is dismissed in aforesaid terms.

Pending application stands disposed of.

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