Mumbai: The Bombay High Court, earlier this week, in a strongly worded order, highlighted the 'casual and callous' approach of Maharashtra government authorities in dealing with litigations in the courts. The HC said it's high time the officials of the state become diligent.
A bench of Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing a plea filed by one Gopal Rajendra, a resident of Nashik. He had challenged the orders of a civil court that had condoned a delay of 2 years, 8 months and 16 days on part of the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) to file an appeal against a 2012 verdict.
In 2012, a civil court had ordered the NMC to grant proper compensation to Rajendra as the civic body had acquired a property that was owned by him. However, the civic body didn't challenge this decision till 2015 and when it challenged the same, it sought to condone the delay on the ground that the officer concerned, who was dealing with the matter in question, was transferred to some other department.
The civil court had allowed this delay and permitted the NMC to challenge the 2012 verdict.
Having noted facts of the case, Justice Dangre said, "It is, no doubt, true that justice to a party cannot be defeated merely on the ground of delay. However, one cannot forget the Limitation Act, which prescribes the period within which an action can be instituted."
"The power to condone the delay and permit the claim to be entertained, no doubt, has to be construed liberally, but the rhetoric delay being on account of administrative reason must receive a rebuke," the judge said, adding, "Gone are those days, when the officers used to say that the file was required to be moved from one table to another and one officer to another and this caused the delay."
"With the advancement of technology and when the officers of the government and other authorities, specifically the NMC, are well equipped with the assistance of the Law Officers, this travelling of files from one table to another can no longer be considered as an excuse," Justice Dangre said in her order.
This casual manner, in which the government / semi-government departments function and come up with the lame excuses has to be deprecated, the judge added.
"The plea of the NMC depicts a perfunctory approach of the officers of the department with an assumption that merely throwing an excuse that delay has been accounted on part of administrative reason, the court is likely to be condone the delay. The government and its authorities must be treated as any other ordinary litigant and the due diligence on the part of the individuals to approach the court would apply with equal force to the government and its officers," Justice Dangre observed.
"The habit of awakening out of slumber, one fine hour of the day and throwing jargon of scanty reason justifying the delay must be discouraged and, particularly, when the government and its officers are in lis with its own citizens, since it is the fundamental duty of the state to protect the rights of the citizens. Such a callous approach on part of the government and its officers has to be deprecated," the judge added.