HC imposes cost of Rs 25 K on SE Department
Srinagar June 10: The J&K high Court today imposed a cost of rupees Rs 25,000 on the J&K School Education department for filing inordinately delayed appeal against a single bench judgment that quashed a government order suspending a government school principal in 2013.
“We find no merit in the appeal and dismiss it with costs quantified at Rs. 25,000/. These costs shall be apportioned between the respondent and the advocates Welfare Fund. The costs shall be paid within four weeks from today. It is made clear that these costs are in addition to the costs imposed by the learned Single Judge,” ordered a division bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rashid Ali Dar.
The case related to one Bashir Ahmad Mir principal, Higher Secondary School Dangerpora, Sopore suspended from service in 2013 till disciplinary enquiry.
As the department failed to conduct any inquiry with regard to the allegations leveled against the accused principal, he represented before the authorities requesting them to hold an inquiry.
An inquiry committee was constituted in 2014. Aggrieved by the committee report he filed a petition before the High Court which quashed the suspension order and directed for his reinstatement into service.
The single judge bench observed that though the petitioner/respondent stood placed under suspension since 2013 but no case had been registered against him in respect of the allegations and no memorandum of charges/charge sheet had been served on him.
It was also of the view that a period of almost three years had passed since the period of suspension and the respondents could not keep the fate of the petitioner hanging till infinity.
The statutory period of limitation for filing the Letters Patent Appeal assailing the judgment dated 15th November, 2017 expired on or around 14th January, 2018. But the appeal came to be filed for the first time on 14th February, 2019 some 465 days after the passing of the order.
A bald statement was made by the department saying “the delay is neither willful nor intentional”.
The division bench found that not a single relevant date which could enable it to conclude that the delay was not willful or intentional or that the applicants have acted bonafide, has been put on record. “The applicants (government) have not cared to give any explanation for the delay which has been occurred. The entire narration of facts would show that the applicants have acted with utmost neglect and indolence in the matter”, it said.
It observed that the respondent principal stands suspended for the long period of six years without any inquiry and that the applicants have caused wastage of public funds as well.
The court noted “on account of impersonal machinery and the inherited bureaucratic methodology imbued with the habit of note-making, file pushing and moving the files from table to table, unfortunately the matters are delayed on the part of the State”.
It added “the State represents collective cause of the community. Judicial precedents have observed that the decisions are taken by officers/agencies proverbially at slow pace and the encumbered process for moving the files from table to table and keeping of files on the table for considerable time causing delay intentional or otherwise, is a matter of routine”.
It suggested that the decision making be made accountable and delay in taking action penalized. “We cannot lose site of the fact that such delay may actually be actuated by collusion and mala fides”, said the court.
It directed the secretary of the department concerned should examine every file where a decision is taken to file an appeal where delay is occurred and proceed in the matter against the officer responsible.
It asked as to why an electronic file cannot be created in a tabulated format containing details of the case; date of the judgment and dates of its processing till compliance / filing of appeal.