The Supreme Court on Thursday has imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the Central government over the frequent delay in filing appeals by government departments, state governments and public authorities. The Court said that despite its consistent saying, it seems that lice are not crawling in their ears.
A three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy, opened the order saying:
“The approach of the Union of India in the manner it has filed the present special leave petition exasperates us as all earlier counsel appears to have been thrown in the dustbin!”
The six-page order deprecated the practice of filing appeals belatedly by the government just to obtain a quietus from the Apex Court on the ground that nothing could be done because the highest court has dismissed the appeal and termed such cases as “certificate cases”.
A writ petition was filed in 2000, raising a question of parity in the pay scale of employees of the Central Tibetan School Administration. A single-judge bench of the High Court allowed it in May 2002. The Centre filed an appeal but no one appeared when it was called for hearing before a division bench which dismissed it. After eight years, the Centre sought restoration of the appeal saying the council had become a judge and it wasn’t aware of the “peculiar circumstances”.
The Apex Court bench observed taking note of the delay to file SLP,
“We have heard learned Additional Solicitor General for some time and must note that the only error which seems to have occurred in the impugned order is of noticing that it is not an illiterate litigant because the manner in which the Government is prosecuting its appeal reflects nothing better! The mighty Government of India is manned with large legal department having numerous officers and Advocates. The excuse given for the delay is, to say the least, preposterous.”
Making further sharp comments on the delay in filing the appeal, the top court said that the Centre has moved 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,” said the bench, citing its previous two orders where it criticized the government for the inordinate delay.
“The mighty Government of India is manned by a large legal department having numerous officers and advocates. The excuse given for the delay is, to say the least, preposterous”,
-the bench observed.
The bench said that filing of an appeal should not be merely a courtesy. It has asked for the fine in this case to be recovered from the officer responsible for filing the appeal. The fine has been asked to be deposited in the account of the Supreme Court Advocate on Record Welfare Association within four weeks.
Also, the Court has asked to send a copy of the order to the Law Secretary of the Government of India and the Secretary of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. He has also been asked to look into the matter privately. The bench said that it should be ensured by these officials that in future we do not have to face such cases.