prpri SC pulled up department for delay in filing of appeal, imposes personal cost of Rs 25,000 SC pulled up department for delay in filing of appeal, imposes personal cost of Rs 25,000

Hon’ble SC has in the case of UNION OF INDIA & ORS v/s M/S VISHNU AROMA POUCHING PVT. LTD. & ANR in SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) Diary No(s). 1434/2021 has come down heavily on the lethargy on part of the revenue department in late filing of appeals, even when so much computerization have been achieved.

Hon’ble Sc has 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. Hon’ble SC after looking to the period of delay and the casual manner in which the application has been worded, considered it 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 has to 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.

The order of Hon’ble SC is as under:-

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 on14.11.2019. 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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

Pending application stands disposed of. 

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

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