SC junks Delhi govt appeal citing 576-day delay in cattle smuggling case

The Supreme Court has junked an appeal by the Delhi government in the cattle smuggling case, as it was filed after a gap of 576 days, due to “gross incompetence and inefficiency” of its officers.

A bench headed by Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R. Subhash Reddy said: “We have said that if the government machinery is so inefficient and incapable of filing the appeals/petitions in time, the solution may lie in requesting the Legislature to expand the time period for filing limitation for the government authorities because of their gross incompetence.”

The Delhi government counsel contended it was really concerned with the Delhi High Court order, which let off two convicts with the period of five years imprisonment already served by them. The top court said if the matter was really such an important legal issue to be examined, it would have expected bare minimum efficiency from the government department, even keeping in mind the so-called inefficiencies which permeate them.

The bench noted that the special leave petitions (SLPs) were filed after a delay of 576 days. The draft SLPs were sent to department for vetting on August 9, 2018.

It took the department one year to vet the draft when it was sent back to Central Agency Section (CAS) on August 6, 2019. The bench said “So much for the efficiency and importance of the matter! The draft application for delay was received in the CAS on 07.08.2019 and completing the annexures took another five months when they were sent back on 09.01.2019. Another reflection on the inefficiency of the department!”

The court also observed that no action has been taken against any officer for the inordinate delay.

The government submitted that the delay has been occasioned due to “government procedures and concurrence required from a number of authorities”. The bench said: “We have repeatedly emphasised that the period of limitation cannot be ignored by government and government authorities and the Supreme Court of India cannot be a walk-in place for the government.”

In March 2018, the Delhi High Court reduced the sentences of the convicts from 10 years to five years jail term under various provisions of the IPC, the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, (PDPP Act) and the Delhi Agriculture Cattle Preservation Act and under the Arms Act.

The appeal was filed on January 10, 2020. “We have thus, no option but to dismiss the present Special Leave Petitions as time barred though we desist from imposing costs in the present cases.”, said the top court.