SC reiterates that mere Government Inefficiency Not A Ground For Delay Condonation

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The Supreme Court has reiterated that mere government inefficiency cannot be a ground for condoning the delay.

While dismissing the Special Leave Petition filed by the State of Odisha on the ground of delay, the bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph observed that it is for the state to ‘put its own house in order’.

The Government, in this SLP, had assailed a High Court order that discharged a public servant from a corruption case.

The court said that the delay has not been satisfactorily explained in terms of the judgment of Supreme Court in the case of Post Master General v. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. In the said judgment, the Court had observed that the law of limitation undoubtedly binds everybody including the Government. he claims on account of impersonal machinery and inherited bureaucratic methodology of making several notes cannot be accepted in view of the modern technologies being used and available, it had said. It was further observed:

It is the right time to inform all the government bodies, their agencies and instrumentalities that unless they have reasonable and acceptable explanation for the delay and there was bonafide effort, there is no need to accept the usual explanation that the file was kept pending for several months/years due to considerable degree of procedural red-tape in the process. The government departments are under a special obligation to ensure that they perform their duties with diligence and commitment. Condonation of delay is an exception and should not be used as an anticipated benefit for government departments. The law shelters everyone under the same light and should not be swirled for the benefit of a few. Considering the fact that there was no proper explanation offered by the Department for the delay except mentioning of various dates, according to us, the Department has miserably failed to give any acceptable and cogent reasons sufficient to condone such a huge delay.

It is true that Government should not be treated as any other private litigant as, indeed, in the case of the former the decisions to present and prosecute appeals are not individual but are institutional decisions necessarily bogged down by the proverbial red-tape. But there are limits to this also. Even with all this latitude, the explanation offered for the delay in this case merely serves to aggravate the attitude of indifference of the Revenue in protecting its common interests.