prpri Penalty imposed on Revenue for lethargy delay in filing SLP Penalty imposed on Revenue for lethargy delay in filing SLP

Case Law Details

Case Name : Union of India & Ors. Vs Vishnu Aroma Pouching Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. (Supreme Court of India)
Appeal Number : Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 1434/2021
Date of Judgement/Order : 29/06/2021
Related Assessment Year :

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Union of India & Ors. v. M/s Vishnu Aroma Pouching Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. [Special Leave Petition(Civil) Diary No(s). 1434/2021 dated June 29, 2021] has imposed penalty of 25000/- INR on the Revenue Department for delay in filing the Special Leave Petition (“SLP”) for wastage of judicial time. Further, directed to recover the amount from officers responsible for the delay in filing the SLP.

Facts:

This petition has been filed by the Revenue Department (“the Petitioner”) against the judgment of the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court in the case of M/s Vishnu Aroma Pouching Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India [R/Special Civil Application No. 5629 of 2019 dated November 14, 2019], wherein the Court held that, the assessee cannot be saddled with the liability of paying excessive interest at the rate of 18% p.a. on the tax liability, which was already discharged on time, but not recorded due to system-glitch/crash without there being any default on assessee’s part.

Issue:

  • Whether the SLP filed by the Petitioner without any valid reason for condonation of delay is admissible?

Held:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Special Leave Petition (Civil) Diary No(s). 1434/2021 dated June 29, 2021 held as under:

  • Noted that, the proposal for filing the SLP was sent by the officials of the Petitioner after six months on May 20, 2020 and after that, the same was filed after another three months on August 25, 2020.
  • Opined that, such kind of lethargy on part of the Petitioner with so much computerization having been achieved is not acceptable and the delay in filing SLP in a casual manner and without any cogent or plausible ground for condonation of delay, shows incompetence of the Petitioner.
  • Stated that, the Court has repeatedly discouraged State Governments and public authorities for adopting thecasual approach towards the Supreme Court and ignoring the period of limitation prescribed by the statutes, as if the limitation statute does not apply to them.
  • Categorized the matter as “certificate case” filed with the only object to obtain a quietus from the Court as a last resort, and 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.
  • Imposed penalty of INR 25000/- on the Petitioner looking to the period of delay and the casual manner in which the application has been filed, and for wastage of judicial time which has its own value
  • Directed to deposit the penalty in the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Welfare Fund within four weeks.
  • Further directed the Petitioner to recover the amount from the officers responsible for the delay in filing the SLP and to file a certificate of recovery.

FULL TEXT OF THE SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT

1. We have heard learned Additional Solicitor General both on the aspect of delay and merits. We say so despite the fact that we find that there is no reason to condone the delay. A perusal of the application shows that the judgment was pronounced on 14.11.2019. The proposal for filing the Special Leave Petition was sent after almost six months on 20.05.2020 and it took another three months to decide whether to file Special Leave Petition or not on 25.08.2020.

2. We are of the view that such kind of lethargy on part of the revenue department with so much computerization having been achieved is no more acceptable.

3. 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. In this behalf, suffice to refer to our judgment 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]. 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.

4. 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.

5. Looking to the period of delay and the casual manner in which the application has been worded, we consider appropriate to impose costs on the petitioner(s) of Rs.25,000/- for wastage of judicial time which has its own value and the same be deposited with the Supreme Court Advocates On Record Welfare Fund within four weeks. The amount be recovered from the officers responsible for the delay in filing the Special Leave Petition and a certificate of recovery of the said amount be also filed in this Court within the same period of time.

6. The Special Leave Petition is dismissed as time barred in terms aforesaid.

7. Pending application stands disposed of.

8. A copy of this order be placed before the Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue.

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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are strictly of the author and A2Z Taxcorp LLP. The contents of this article are solely for informational purpose. It does not constitute professional advice or recommendation of firm. Neither the author nor firm and its affiliates accepts any liabilities for any loss or damage of any kind arising out of any information in this article nor for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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