The Delhi High Court has pulled up the Enforcement Directorate for the 775 days’ delay in filing a condonation plea for moving an appeal against an order of the Appellate Tribunal for Foreign Exchange under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973.

Dismissing the plea, Justice S.P. Garg said: “The delay has not been explained. The reasons given by the appellant for delay in filing the appeal do not constitute ‘sufficient cause’. Rather, it reveals that there was inaction and negligence on the part of the various officers.”

The Appellate Tribunal had allowed an appeal of Morgan Industries Limited and quashed the adjudication order against it in October 2003.

Counsel for the Directorate argued that the Appellate Tribunal passed the order on August 21, 2009, and it was communicated to it on September 17, 2009. The decision to file an appeal was taken at various levels which consumed valuable time. There was no intentional delay on the part of the appellant, counsel for the Directorate argued.

However, Justice Gag did not buy this argument saying that “even if provisions of Section 54 are taken into consideration, there is no sufficient ground made out by the appellant to file the appeal after an inordinate delay of 775 days. The delay has not been explained. The reasons given by the appellant for delay in filing the appeal do not constitute “sufficient cause”.

Section 54 of FERA permits an appeal to be filed in the High Court within 60 days. It clearly prescribes that the High Court shall not entertain any appeal under Section 54 if it is filed after the expiry of 60 days of the date of communication of the decision or order of the Appellate Tribunal unless the High Court is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time, the Court noted.

“Nothing has been explained in the application as to at what specific level the delay to take decision occurred and what was its duration. Each day’s delay has not been explained. There was slackness on the part of the appellant to take remedial steps. Delay cannot be condoned as a matter of routine as vested right accrues in favour of the opposite party and benefit of such right cannot be disturbed lightly,” the Court stated. Justice Gupta said he found no merit in the application of the appellant seeking condoning of delay in filing the appeal. Accordingly, he dismissed the application.

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