The Jharkhand High Court has criticised the Registry for an over three-month delay in registering a case.
Justice Ananda Sen was hearing a petition whereby a miscellaneous appeal was dismissed for default by a Coordinate Bench, which was not being available anymore. Therefore, it is the appropriate bench to hear the matter after the constitution of benches on June 7.
Siddhartha Roy, Advocate for the petitioner, mentioned to list the Civil Miscellaneous Petition and submitted that though he has filed this Civil Miscellaneous Petition in April 2021, yet till date, the Stamp Reporting of this Civil Miscellaneous Petition has not been done.
To verify the submission of the Counsel, the Court directed the Court Master to verify the same. The Court Master informed the Court that the case was filed on April 7, 2021, but the case was registered on May 13, 2021, . after 36 days. He also informed that the Stamp Reporting of this Civil Miscellaneous Petition is yet to be done.
Considering the information supplied by the Court Master, the Court directed the Officers of the Registry and the concerned Section to appear through Video Conferencing and explain the cause of the delay.
The Stamp Reporting Section submitted that a file has to reach to their Section from CMP Section, then only they can start the process of stamp reporting. They submitted that they have to date not received this file for stamp reporting, from CMP Section. The Assistant Registrar of the CMP Section stated that there are only two persons, who look after the CMP cases. He submitted that one of them got affected by Covid 19 who was in charge of this particular file and on 31.05.2021, resumed his duty.
As per him, by virtue of an administrative order of this High Court, the Sections are working with 50% of capacity, thus, the concerned Assistant, in view of the said administrative order, is working every alternate day. Assistant Registrar further submitted that for stamp reporting of a Civil Miscellaneous Petition, a connected file of Miscellaneous Appeal has to be called for, from the concerned Section before sending the file for Stamp Reporting. He also submitted that there is a shortage of staff in the Section.
The Court after hearing the submission said that the facts depict the sorry state of affairs about the functioning of the Judicial Sections of this High Court. Even if the Office and the Sections are functioning with 50% of its strength, then also it should not take 36 days to register a case. The Court cannot conceive a situation, wherein a High Court it will take 36 days to register a case. It is also not palatable that even after 70 days of registering a case, no stamp reporting will be done in that case, and the file will gather dust.
“I am of the opinion that since at 10.30 I directed my Court Master to furnish me the status, the concerned Section woke up from the slumber and then only has sent the requisition to the concerned Section seeking for the record of the Miscellaneous Appeal, which stood dismissed for default. The aforesaid act, prima facie, suggests that with the lethargic approach the Section and the Registry has worked,” criticized the bench.
The High Court said that the Judicial Sections and the Officers placed in the hierarchy must take some responsibility. There are Joint Registrars, Assistant Registrars to supervise the Sections. This action suggests an absolute failure of supervisory role by the higher officers. Shortage of staff cannot be an excuse or issue. Even if it is an issue, it is for the Registry to address the same. Sections should be revamped with suitable persons placed at the correct places, held by the Court.
“If the Registry feels that there is deterioration inefficiency, there are ways and means to improve the same. If some are beyond improvement and have become dead woods, there are provisions in the Jharkhand Service Code, which can very well be invoked against them. Lack of proper supervision is one of the reasons giving rise to this type of laches. The litigants cannot be made to suffer because of these avoidable situations,” the High Court highlights.
The Court directed the Registrar General to conduct an inquiry about the reasons for the delay in registering this case and also as to why to date the case has not yet been stamp reported. The Registrar General will also enquire about the average time, which is taken to register a case from the date of filing and the average time, which is taken from the date of filing till stamp reporting is done, ordered the Court.
The Court further sought information from the Registrar General about the maximum and minimum time, which had been taken by the Sections for undertaking the exercise in respect of each particular nature of the case. “It is expected that Stamp Reporting of each case filed should be completed immediately after the case is registered,” the order reads.