The victim is justice and the same cannot be allowed. The deliberate lapses and inaction on the part of the officers cannot be a ground to sacrifice justice, the Bench observed.
Last month, Live Law had reported a Judgment by Bombay High Court which had held that merely because applicant is a State, delay in filing appeals cannot be condoned and no separate standards to determine the cause laid by the State vis-à-vis private litigant could be laid to prove sufficient cause.
Last week, the Calcutta High Court has adopted a “pragmatic” approach towards condonation of delay on the part of state observing that deliberate lapses and inaction on the part of the officers of the State cannot be a ground to sacrifice justice. The Court observed that Corporation as such is not responsible for the delay but its officers/agents.
The First Bench presided by the then Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court Dr. Manjula Chellur (Presently Chief Justice of Bombay High Court), in Calcutta Municipal Corporation & Anr. Vs. The Cricket Association of Bengal, imposed a cost of one lakh and directed corporation to take action against those erring officials and also to recover the costs from those officers who are responsible for the delay.
A delay of 299 days had occurred on the part of Corporation in filing appeal in the matter of demand of advertisement tax imposed by Calcutta Municipal Corporation so far as the advertisements undertaken within the Eden Garden grounds by the Cricket Association of Bengal.
NO SEPARATE STANDARDS, BUT PRAGMATIC APPROACH
The Court said: “If the application is not allowed it would affect definitely public exchequer thereby the appellant Corporation will be deprived of huge money, if they are successful so far as their stand before this Court. Time and again the Apex Court of this Country has said certain amount of latitude no doubt is always expected from this bureaucratic approach of the officers since they work in an impersonal bureaucratic set up but how long this would continue. In spite of constituting legal cells to examine the matter and to take final call on the matter huge delay is being caused. No doubt, the very nature of foundation of governmental machinery requires serious re-look into the matter. However, one cannot forget that pragmatic approach should be there in justice oriented process. At one blush one cannot totally reject the very claim of the appellants as explained in the memorandum of appeal. Though there cannot be separate standards to determine ‘sufficient cause’ shown by the State vis-à-vis private litigant since the public cannot directly approach the Court on behalf of the governmental machinery there has to be pragmatic approach since the imprompt action to be pursued by the officers/agents would affect the interest of public at large.”
DELAY CAUSED BY OFFICERS, NOT STATE AS SUCH
The Bench observed: “it is not the Corporation as such who is responsible for the delay but the officers/agents handling the matters are responsible for the latitude with which they have taken the entire exercise. The files clearly indicate delay has occurred only on account of indifferent attitude of the officers concerned in not showing the anxiety to take a final call in spite of huge money being involved in the matter. Ultimately it would lead to defeat of justice by causing delay only on account of impersonal manner in which they dealt with the files. The victim is justice and the same cannot be allowed. The deliberate lapses and inaction on the part of the officers cannot be a ground to sacrifice justice. In order to make the ends of justice meet since large public interest is involved, we are of the opinion we have to take a lenient view in the matter.”
ACT AGAINST ERRING OFFICIALS
The Bench further opined: “There has to be serious action against those persons who are responsible for the present situation on account of absence of timely action. Such inaction of the officers is to be curbed and the way we can express our displeasure is by imposing costs while condoning the delay in filing the appeal. We direct the appellant/corporation to take action against those erring officials and also to recover the costs imposed by us from those officers who are responsible for the delay.”
Read the Judgment here.