InITA 401/2023 -DEL HC- Delhi High Court dismisses revenue's delay condonation application, slams government officials for lethargic attitude
Justice Rajiv Shakdher & Justice Girish Kathpalia [23-08-2023]
New Delhi, September 18, 2023: In a recent decision, the Delhi High Court has dismissed a delay condonation application filed by the revenue in an income tax case. The Court took a strong view of the lethargic attitude of some government officials, and called for drastic measures to be taken against them.
In the matter at hand, the appellant/revenue had sought condonation of delay of 498 days in filing the appeal under Section 260A of the Income Tax Act. The counsel for the applicant/revenue had argued that the power to condone delay must be exercised liberally in favour of the applicant, especially where the applicant was a government body and the exchequer was involved.
The division bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice Girish Kathpalia observed that although the provisions under Section 5 of the Limitation Act must be liberally construed, the court cannot ignore the fact that when an appeal is barred by time, a definite right accrues to the opposite party and such right should not be taken away in a routine manner without disclosure of good and sufficient cause for condonation of delay.
In the present case, the bench held that there was not even a hint of any circumstance that this court could analyse to conclude that the delay in filing the appeal was beyond the revenue's control.
The bench observed that the legislature has already granted a comparatively much longer period of 120 days to the revenue to file appeals under Section 260A of the Act. This in itself should call for a rather stricter scrutiny of the matrix set up by the revenue to explain delays in filing its appeals. However, in the present case, the appellant/revenue chose not even to set up a specific factual matrix, apparently under the overconfidence that the delay in filing the appeal would surely be condoned because the applicant is a government body and the issue concerns the exchequer.
The bench remarked, “Despite anguish expressed by courts at all levels through various judicial pronouncements, no change in work attitude of officials of some of the government departments has taken place. Largely, behind such delays on the part of government agencies in initiating appropriate legal proceedings lies extreme laxity, negligence and dereliction of duties on the part of government officials.”
The bench added that even in this age of high-tech click-of-a-mouse work, some government officials still love to work at a snail's pace.
The bench stated that it was high time to take drastic measures to penalize government officials who cause litigation delays through their lethargy. This was necessary to recompense the exchequer and to prevent chaos in judicial functioning from spreading further.
Accordingly, the revenue’s delay condonation application was dismissed.
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