Tuesday, August 08, 2017

HC finds civic candour irresistible; condones delay of 452 days in filing appeal

Times of India: Mumbai: Tuesday, August 08, 2017.
A delay of 452 days by the civic administration in appealing against an order, attracted no rebuke or rejection, but was condoned by Bombay high court for the "irresistible candour'' in its justification.
In 2009, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) filed an appeal, more than 15 months after its 30-day deadline, against a stay of a notice it had issued in a case of an alleged unauthorized construction. It attributed the delay to heavy work load; thousands of litigation, an unrelenting typing burden, a unending queue of queries under Right To Information (RTI) Act, reasons which the HC said were "refreshing in their irresistible candour" and must be accepted. The action that BMC had sought to take was in 1998. It was for removal of alleged unauthorized construction in a room near a terrace of an old Colaba building. The nearly two decade old action will now thus be heard again, nine years after a stay by a lower court against a civic notice.
The civic plea for condonation of delay was filed in 2009. It came up for a hearing on August 1, 2017 when it was allowed. In his order, Justice Gautam Patel observed that the delay was "explained by some exceptional justifications." The BMC said it was challenging a decree of January 29, 2008 passed in a suit filed in 1998 by Savitri D'Souza against a notice issued by the BMC. It said it received the certified judgment copy in May 2008, "after making several complaints to the city civil court registrar for its expeditious issuance."
The law provides 30 days to appeal, from date of receiving a certified copy. The BMC had reasons for its delay. It said its officers were busy with attending to part heard matters where instructions were sought from the ward and hence the appeal papers could not be sent to the 'typing section' immediately. It then also had to contend with translating documents relied on in the lower court, "from Marathi or other languages" to English, for the appeal. The BMC also blamed the "thousands of litigations" filed against it, due to notices issued by the civic body and the fact that officers who may have issued those notices are routinely transferred or promoted and also answerable to RTI queries, or facing contempt for action taken or not. Civic officers being occupied with public projects or busy attending to innumerable Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in HC and also Supreme Court for the hoardings and hawkers' matters, were also reasons for "administrative difficulty" in the "unintentional delay."
The BMC has been at the receiving end in several of these PILs. But on Tuesday, it received, a benevolent smile as Justice Patel, observed, "these reasons are, in my view, refreshing in their irresistible candour (to say nothing of their anodyne guilelessness), and must be accepted."