Centre forgets it is largest litigant, takes needless adjournments: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court, while observing the Government of India’s conduct in a specific case, criticised the Centre, stating, “We are no strangers to repeated assertions from the Union Government itself regarding the pendency of cases, mounting arrears, frequent adjournments, and impediments allegedly caused by our courts to what the government calls ‘the ease of doing business.’ Conveniently overlooked in all these assertions is the fact that it is the Government that is by far the largest litigant, and it is the government that most often seeks adjournments, frequently needlessly. This case is an example.”

A bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata heard a petition filed by Ramkali Gupta in 2016 concerning a property issue. The specific matter revolved around a communication from the Air Force Station at Lohgaon, Pune, which refused an NOC for building construction on the grounds that it fell within 100 meters of the Air Force station’s boundary wall.

Seven years and 57 hearings later, the bench, led by Justice Patel, expressed shock that the petition was still pending admission. Even at the latest hearing, an advocate representing the Union sought an adjournment because Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Devang Vyas was engaged in another court.

The bench stated, “We do not expect the ASG to appear in every single one of the matters that involves the Union of India. Obviously, it is not unreasonable to expect that there will be perfectly competent advocates from his office who will be able to lighten his load and assist him in discharging the duties of his office. We see no reason why no one else is prepared to go on with this matter.”

The court observed that both parties had completed the necessary legal processes in the case, including filing affidavits, additional affidavits in reply, and rejoinders. However, the Union continued to seek adjournments. The bench expressed strong disapproval of these repeated adjournment requests, stating, “The conduct of the Union Government in this matter does not leave much to be desired. It leaves everything to be desired.”

The court emphasized that the issue raised in the petition was narrow and warranted a final hearing at the admission stage. Therefore, it expressed its displeasure with applications for repeated adjournments. The bench, while adjourning the case for the last time, clarified that it did so only as a courtesy to the Additional Solicitor General.

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