Libertatem Magazine

Supreme Court: Slams Government With Fine of Rs.1 Lakh for Repeated Ignorance of Limitation Period

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Union of India vs. Central Tibetan School Admin & Ors. 

Brief facts of the case 

A writ petition was filed in the year 2000, raising a question of parity in pay-scale of the employees of the Central Tibetan Administration and the writ petition was allowed by a single judge. The appellant- Union of India aggrieved by the Order preferred a Letters Patent Appeal, which was dismissed for non-prosecution on 15.12.2008. 

The Union of India woke up and preferred to restore the LPA in the year 2016 seeking condonation of delay of 2590 days. This was dismissed by the impugned Order dated 19.12.2018. 

The present Special Leave Petition was filed also after the delay of 532 days and 6616 days from the original Order. 

Contentions of the parties 

It was argued that the counsel appearing in the matter had been elevated as a judge of the High Court and the Department was not aware of the “peculiar circumstances””. Referring to the judicial view of the Supreme Court in the cases of Office of the Chief Postmaster General & Ors. vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. (2012) and Balwant Singh (Dead) vs. Jagdish Singh & Ors. (2010), it was opined that the appellant cannot be compared to an illiterate litigant. 

Observation by the Court

The Court observed that the error in the impugned order is that the petitioner is not an illiterate litigant because how the government was prosecuting its appeals reflect nothing better. The mighty government of India is manned with a large legal department having numerous officers and Advocates. The excuse given for the delay was preposterous. 

Despite the repeated counselling of various government departments, state governments, and other public authorities, by the Supreme Court through Orders, they did not learn to file appeals in time. The costs were also imposed in various matters with the direction to recover the same form officers responsible for the delay as the Court is of the view that officers must be made accountable for the delay. 

The Court, at many times, discouraged state governments and public authorities from adopting an approach that they can walk into 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. For this, it will be enough to refer to the judgment in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. vs. Bheru Lal and the State of Odisha & Ors. vs. Sunanda Mahakuda

The leeway was given to the public authorities/government due to innate inefficiencies as a result of certain Orders of the Supreme Court, which came at a time when technology had not advanced. This position is no more prevalent. Despite this, there seems to be little change in the approach of the Government and public authorities. 

These kinds of cases are categorized as “certificate cases” as they are 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 only to save the officers at default in the following due process or may have done it deliberately. 

The Court refused to grant such certificates and if the Government/public authorities suffer losses, it is time when the concerned officers responsible for the same, bear the consequences. 

The decision of the Court

Looking into the gross negligence and the impunity with which the Union of India had approached the Court in a matter like this, the Court considers it apt to impose special costs of ₹1 lakh to be recovered from the concerned officers and to be deposited with the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Welfare Fund. 

The Special Leave Petitions were dismissed as time-barred in terms of aforesaid. 

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