J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: Taking a serious view of the Karnataka Government filing an appeal after nearly 17 years against a judgment of the Karnataka High Court and 300 days against the order in a review petition, the Supreme Court has slapped an exemplary cost of Rs.10 lakh on the State to be paid to the partners of a firm whose lands were found in excess of the land ceiling.

A Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat (since retired) and Justice A.K. Ganguly in a recent judgment said: “On a perusal of the explanation offered, it is clear that the officials who were dealing with the matter have either deliberately or without understanding the implications dealt with the matter in a very casual and lethargic manner.”

Large sum involved

The Bench said: “This stand is more noticeable where vast tracts of lands or large sums of revenue are involved. Even though the courts are liberal in dealing with the belated presentation of appeals/applications, yet there is a limit up to which such liberal attitude can be extended.” In the instant case, the State filed special leave petitions against the High Court judgment dated November 7, 1990 and an order dated September 26, 2007 in a review petition filed 14 years after the judgment.

Y. Moideen Kunhi and Company, a partnership firm had a little over 4,000 acres of land in Neriya Village of Puttur taluk. The Land Tribunal declared that 368.16 acres of land was in excess of the ceiling limit.

Though the firm challenged the Tribunal’s order, later it withdrew the petition. The State’s appeal was dismissed by the High Court. The review petition was filed after 14 years and the SLPs were directed against these orders.

Court direction

The Bench said: “It appears that there is a delay of more than nearly 6,500 days against the original order and about 300 days so far as the review petition is concerned. Keeping in view the importance of questions of law which are involved, we are inclined to condone the delay subject to payment of exemplary costs which we fix at Rs. 10 lakh to be paid within a period of eight weeks to the respondents. It is imperative that the State shall immediately initiate action as available in law against every person responsible for the alleged fraud and delay in pursuing the remedies, fix responsibility and recover the amount paid as costs from them.”