Lethargy on part of the Government department in filing Appeals/SLP not acceptable after usage of IT & computerization- SC admonishes & deprecates the Public Authorities for casual approach.
The Apex Court has been consistently warning Government & it’s Departments for their casual approach in delayed filing of Appeals/SLPs in the higher Courts without any reasonable cause. The top Court has been admonishing the various functionalities of the Government but to no avail as they are harbouring a wrong notion that they are entitled to special treatment in matters of Condonation of Delay.
The Apex Court recently in S L P (CIVIL) Diary No(s). 1434/2021 decided on 29-06-2031 in the case of Union of India & Ors. Vs M/S Vishnu Aroma Pouching Pvt. Ltd. & Anr had an occasion to deal with this issue.
The brief facts of the case are the judgment in the instant case was pronounced by the High Court on 14.11.2019 but in a very casual manner the proposal for filing the SLP was sent after almost six months on 20.05.2020 and it took another three months to decide to file SLP on 25.08.2020.
The Court in clear terms held that such kind of lethargy on part of the revenue department when so much computerization has been achieved is no more acceptable. The Court therefore dismissed the application for Condonation of Delay and also the instant SLP without going into the merits of the case & held thus:
“The aforesaid itself shows the casual manner in which the petitioner has approached this Court without any cogent or plausible ground for condonation of delay. In fact, other than the lethargy and incompetence of the petitioner, there is nothing which has been put on record. We have repeatedly discouraged State Governments and public authorities in adopting an approach that they can walk in to the Supreme Court as and when they please ignoring the period of limitation prescribed by the Statutes, as if the Limitation statute does not apply to them.”
The Court reiterated the judgments in the State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. v. Bheru Lal [SLP [C] Diary No.9217/2020 decided on 15.10.2020] and The State of Odisha & Ors. v. Sunanda Mahakuda [SLP [C] Diary No.22605/2020 decided on 11.01.2021] wherein the Apex Court had in clear terms held that Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag & Anr vs. Mst. Katiji & Ors. (1987) 2 SCC 107 is no longer a correct proposition of law in view of changed circumstances induced by the technological advancements.
The Court reiterated that with the advancement of technology and means of communication, the earlier orders of the Courts granting leeway to the inefficient and careless petitioners are no more applicable in today’s scenario. The Court was appalled by the callous attitude of the Government/public authorities and held thus:
“The leeway which was given to the Government/public authorities on account of innate inefficiencies was the result of certain orders of this Court which came at a time when technology had not advanced and thus, greater indulgence was shown. This position is no more prevalent and the current legal position has been elucidated by the judgment of this Court in Office of the Chief Post Master General & Ors. v. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. – (2012) 3 SCC 563. Despite this, there seems to be a little change in the approach of the Government and public authorities.”
The Court further held thus:
“We have also categorized such kind of cases as “certificate cases” filed with the only object to obtain a quietus from the Supreme Court on the ground that nothing could be done because the highest Court has dismissed the appeal. The objective is to complete a mere formality and save the skin of the officers who may be in default in following the due process or may have done it deliberately. We have deprecated such practice and process and we do so again. We refuse to grant such certificates and if the Government/public authorities suffer losses, it is time when concerned officers responsible for the same, bear the consequences. The irony, emphasized by us repeatedly, is that no action is ever taken against the officers and if the Court pushes it, some mild warning is all that happens.”
While dismissing the SLP, the Court imposed an exemplary costs of Rs. 25000/- on the petitioner for wastage of valuable judicial time. The Court also made it abundantly clear that the said amount be recovered from the officers responsible for the delay in filing the SLP and also ordered that a copy of this order be placed before the Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue.
This case should be an eye opener for the Government & it’s functionalities to be compliant of the statutory limitations for filing of appeals/SLPs in higher Courts.