New Delhi, January 16: The Supreme Court has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on Gujarat for wasting judicial time, irked over the “lethargy and incompetence” of the state government in filing a petition before it after a delay of over a year.
A bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, pulled up the state for approaching the apex court in a “casual manner” and dismissed the plea on the ground of delay.
It observed that such kind of “certificate cases” are filed with the only objective to obtain a quietus from the top court on the ground that nothing could be done because the highest court had dismissed the appeal, news agency PTI reported.
The petition was filed in the top court by the state government after a delay of 427 days against an order of the Gujarat High Court passed in March 2019 in a case.
“The objective is to complete a mere formality and save the skin of the officers who may be in default in following the due process or may have done it deliberately. We have deprecated such practice and process and we do so again.
We refuse to grant such certificates and if the government suffers losses, it is time when concerned officers responsible for the same bear the consequences,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy.
“The irony, emphasised by us repeatedly, is that no action is ever taken against the officers and if the court pushes it, some mild warning is all that happens,” the bench said in its order passed earlier this week.
The plea also noted the explanation given in the application for condonation of delay.
“The aforesaid itself shows the casual manner in which the state government has approached this court without any cogent or plausible ground for condonation of delay. In fact, other than the lethargy and incompetence of the petitioner government, there is nothing which has been put on record,” it said.
“We have repeatedly discouraged state governments and public authorities in adopting an approach that they can walk in to the Supreme Court as and when they please ignoring the period of limitation prescribed by the statutes as if the limitation statute does not apply to them,” the bench said.
The apex court directed that amount of cost imposed on the state be recovered from the officers responsible for the delay in filing the plea and a certificate of recovery be also filed in the court.
“Looking to the period of delay and the casual manner in which the application has been worded, we consider appropriate to impose costs on the petitioner/state of Rs 25,000 for wastage of judicial time, which has its own value and the same be deposited with the Supreme Court Advocates On Record Welfare Fund within four weeks,” the bench said, dismissing the special leave petition.
It said that copy of its order be placed before the chief secretary of Gujarat “cautioning that any non-adherence with the aforesaid order within timeline would result in appropriate proceedings being initiated against the chief secretary himself”.