August 26, 2011 12:08:35 am
In What the Delhi High Court described as a saga of lackadaisical approach,a penalty of Rs 1 lakh has been imposed on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for delaying prosecution in a land acquisition case by waiting for its final adjudication for more than three decades.
The case is a saga of lackadaisical approach adopted by the DDA in prosecuting its appeal… we are faced with this situation where the respondents have been compelled to engage a counsel for the hearings of these applications on account of negligence on the part of the DDA. We thus consider it appropriate to impose a further cost of Rs 1 lakh (besides Rs 25,000 imposed on an earlier occasion) on the DDA, a division bench of Justices S K Kaul and Rajiv Shakdher said.
Even as it slapped the penalty,the bench noted that it was inclined to impose a much higher cost,considering the negligent attitude of the DDA,but it refrained from doing so as a fraction of the delay had occurred at the doorstep of its counsels office. The counsel had admitted this in court. We may note that we would have been inclined to impose much higher cost,but for the fact that part of the blame for the subsequent delay lay at the door of the counsel for the DDA,for which we have not penalised the Authority, the bench said.
The bench also made it clear that the penalty must be paid to the private respondents in the case within two weeks,failing which the DDAs appeal would automatically result into non-restoration,and would remain dismissed for non-prosecution.
The bench,which had earlier shown its reluctance to revive the appeal filed by the DDA in 1994,relented only after noticing that the case dealt with an issue that involved larger public interest. We are conscious of the plea sought to be urged by the learned counsel for the DDA of larger public interest,but then we have to balance this with the negligent manner in which the DDA is prosecuting the appeal. Costs can be the appropriate remedy in such a situation, the bench held.
The land-owning agency had filed an appeal against a single-judge bench order passed in 1993 on a petition by one Bishan Devi,who had moved the court for getting her land released from the acquisition proceedings as the DDA had failed to acquire it within the stipulated time.
The acquisition notice was issued on Devis land in 1979 but the DDA did not take possession of it in accordance with the requirement of the Delhi Development Act,1957. The Act requires the Authority to either take possession of the acquired land,or to release it from acquisition,within six months.
The DDA filed an appeal in 1995 but it was dismissed in 2001 as nobody from the DDA appeared in court to contest the case. A lull followed,and it was only after the Delhi government inquired about the status of the impugned land that the DDA swung into action and filed an application to restore the appeal in 2006.
Through an order in January last year,a division bench agreed to condone the delay but on the condition that the DDA shelled out a cost of Rs 25,000 to the respondent in six weeks time.
The matter then remained on the regular board,and when it came up for hearing in April,the court noted that the DDA had not paid the cost and hence,dismissed the appeal again.
The counsel subsequently filed an application to restore the appeal by condoning the delay.
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