The Supreme Court on Thursday made no bones about its utter dissatisfaction with the Centre for continuously failing to file appeals in several matters in time, terming "preposterous" a delay of 6,616 days in filing a special leave petition after the original order.
Agonized with the excessive delay in the matter, a bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and comprising Justices 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!"
Not mincing words in criticising Centre in the six-page order, the bench said it has been repeatedly being counselling, through its orders, that various government departments, state governments and other public authorities must learn to file appeals in time and set their house in order so far as the Legal Department is concerned.
The bench also unleashed a no holds barred criticism on government officers responsible for such delays and warned them of consequences. "This appears to be falling on deaf ears despite costs having been imposed in number of matters with the direction to recover it from the officers responsible for the delay as we are of the view that these officers must be made accountable. It has not had any salutary effect and that the present matter should have been brought up, really takes the cake!"
Defending the delay, the Centre said the counsel appearing in the matter was elevated as a judge of the High Court and the department was not aware about the "peculiar circumstances".
The bench noted that the present special leave petitions have been preferred also after delay of 532 days and 6616 days from the original order. "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," it said.
It observed that the irony, emphasised repeatedly by it, is that no action is ever taken against the officers and if the court pushes it, some mild warning is all that happens.
In this case, a writ petition was filed in 2000, raising a question of parity in the pay-scale of the employees of the Central Tibetan School Administration and this petition was allowed by single judge through an order on May 7, 2002. The Centre, aggrieved by this order, preferred a Letters Patent Appeal (LPA), which was dismissed for non-prosecution in December 2008. "The Union of India decided to wake up and preferred an application seeking restoration of the LPA in the 2016 seeking condonation of delay of 2,590 days. This application was dismissed by the impugned order dated December 19, 2018 by the detailed order," the bench noted.
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 top court said: "We consider it appropriate to impose special costs of Rs 1 lakh in this case to be recovered from the concerned officer(s), to be deposited with the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Welfare Fund within four weeks."
The top court said this order be placed before the Law Secretary and the Education Secretary to look into the matter personally.