Supreme Court of India cannot be a place for the Governments to walk in when they choose ignoring the period of limitation prescribed, the Apex Court bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul remarked.
The court observed thus while dismissing a Special Leave Petition filed by the State of Madhya Pradesh with a delay of 663 days. The bench, also comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, imposed costs of Rupees twenty five thousand on the state. In its application, the state had submitted that reason for such an inordinate delay was "due to unavailability of the documents and the process of arranging the documents". The delay was also attributed to "bureaucratic process works, it is inadvertent that delay occurs".
"No doubt, some leeway is given for the Government inefficiencies but the sad part is that the authorities keep on relying on judicial pronouncements for a period of time when technology had not advanced and a greater leeway was given to the Government." , the court said. It added that the counsel presume that the Court will condone the delay and while making submissions, they straight addresses the court on merits without referring even to the aspect of limitation.
We are constrained to pen down a detailed order as it appears that all our counseling to Government and Government authorities have fallen on deaf ears, the bench said. The following observations are made in the judgment.
Bar of limitation which can even shut out good cases
"A preposterous proposition is sought to be propounded that if there is some merit in the case, the 5 period of delay is to be given a go-by. If a case is good on merits, it will succeed in any case. It is really a bar of limitation which can even shut out good cases. This does not, of course, take away the jurisdiction of the Court in an appropriate case to condone the delay.
Strongly deprecates filing of certificate cases
"We are also of the view that the aforesaid approach is being adopted in what we have categorized earlier as "certificate cases". The object appears to be to obtain a certificate of dismissal from the Supreme Court to put a quietus to the issue and thus, say that nothing could be done because the highest Court has dismissed the appeal. It is to complete this formality and save the skin of officers who may be at default that such a process is followed. We have on earlier occasions also strongly deprecated such a practice and process. There seems to be no improvement. The purpose of coming to this Court is not to obtain such certificates and if the Government suffers losses, it is time when the concerned officer responsible for the same bears the consequences. The irony is that in none of the cases any action is taken against the officers, who sit on the files and do nothing. "
Appeals/petitions have to be filed as per the Statues prescribed
"We have raised the issue that if the Government machinery is so inefficient and incapable of filing appeals/petitions in time, the solution may lie in requesting the Legislature to expand the time period for filing limitation for Government authorities because of their gross incompetence. That is not so. Till the Statute subsists, the appeals/petitions have to be filed as per the Statues prescribed."
Constrained to send a signal
We are thus, constrained to send a signal and we propose to do in all matters today, where there are such inordinate delays that the Government or State authorities coming before us must pay for wastage of judicial time which has its own value. Such costs can be recovered from the officers responsible
Case : STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH vs. BHERULAL [DIARY NO.9217 OF 2020]
Coram: Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Dinesh Maheshwari
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