The Bombay High Court recently imposed a cost of Rs. 1 lakh on the State of Maharashtra for failing to complete construction of a building at the District and Sessions Court, Sangli, for breaching their own undertakings and repeatedly missing deadlines.
A division bench of Justice AS Oka and Justice MS Sonak was hearing a civil application in a writ petition filed by the Sangli Bar Association regarding infrastructure work at the District and Sessions Court, Sangli. Although the petition was disposed of in a judgment in 2016, the application was filed by an engineer in the public works department in Sangli.
A proposal was moved by the high court administration for construction of a new building at the District and Sessions Court, Sangli, consisting of A and B wings. The state approved the proposal partly, and refused to approve proposal with regard to B wing. The said writ petition was filed opposing this decision of the state.
Once the petition was filed, the said decision was withdrawn by the state and high court administration was asked to submit a fresh proposal. The writ petition was disposed of in a judgment dated August 23, 2016.
In the judgment, the high court directed the state to complete construction of A wing by August 31, 2017, so that the building can start functioning from September 1, 2017, and to complete construction of B wing by December 31, 2018, so that it can start functioning from January 1, 2019.
In the present civil application, an extension of four months was sought to complete the work for B wing. Although a statement noting reasons for the delay was filed by Government Pleader AB Vagyani, the court asked him how the State intends to compensate the judiciary for loss of time and delay. To this, he sought one month’s time for taking instructions which was opposed by the counsel for petitioners Umesh Mankapure.
The court noted that the state failed to abide by its own undertaking-
“Further orders passed from time to time will show that not only that the time schedule was not abided, but several directions were required to be issued by this Court for making available sweepers, lift operators and gardeners for functioning of A wing. It can be safely said after the perusal of the orders passed from time to time that neither the orders of this Court were complied within stipulated time nor the undertakings given to the Court were abided by.”
The bench observed that the state had failed to come up with any concrete suggestions regarding setting up of air conditioning facilities for the benefit of litigants and members of the bar as suggested by the court. Thus, it decided to indulge the State in their request to extend the deadline only after payment of costs for failing to comply with their own undertakings.
“This Court would have been justified in issuing a notice of Contempt to the State for committing the breaches of the undertakings given to the Court. We propose to quantify the costs at Rs.1,00,000/ which will be payable to the petitioner for utilising the same for the benefit of poor litigants. The petitioner may consider of using the costs amount for setting up a permanent fund for providing legal aid to poor and needy litigants or for holding legal literacy camps in villages,” the court said.
Read the Judgment Here