1. This application under section 5 of the Indian Limitation act, 1963 by the Special Deputy Collector, Hyderabad is to condone the delay of 177 days in filing the C.C.C.A. Sr. No. 50292/71 against the judgment of the Chief Judge, City Civil Court, Hyderabad in O. P. No. 260/28 enhancing the compensation in respect of land comprised in S. No. 616 admeasuring Ac. 9-31 Guntas situated at Malkajgiri Taluk, East Hyderabad district from Rs. 500/- per Acre to Rs. 5/- per Sq. Yard.
2. We are not concerned in this application with the respective merits of the parties relating to the value of the property acquired. The short point for our decision is whether the petitioner had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal till 8.12.1971. Mr. Ramachandra Reddy, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the Principal Government pleader contends that the delay of 177 days in the filing of the appeal was not due to any negligence on the part of the petitioner but due to the circumstances stated in the affidavit and the additional affidavit filed in support of this application. According to the counsel, the delay was only bona fide and the same should, therefore, be condoned. Sri Ramakrishna rao, the learned counsel for the respondent (land-owner) resists the claim of the petitioner contending inter alia that the affidavit and the additional affidavit filed in support of this application do not disclose valid and justifiable grounds for condoning the delay but, on the other hand, they disclose negligence on the part of the petitioner in not having preferred the appeal in time, and that in any event, every day's delay has not been satisfactorily explained to warrant condonation of the inordinate delay of 177 days by this court.
3. From the allegations and counter allegations made in the affidavits and the counters, we may briefly state the relevant dates for the purpose of finding out whether the delay was really bona fide, and the same was doe to sufficient cause within the meaning of section 5 of the Limitation act. The judgment of the lower court was pronounced on 27.11.1970. Application for certified copies of the decree and the judgment was filed by the Government pleader on behalf of the petitioner on 9.12.1970. on 25.1.1971, copy stamps were called for and on 28.1.1971, the requisite copy stamps were deposited. The certified copies of the decree and judgment were made ready by the lower court as early as 29.3.1971 and they had been received by the office of the pleader in the lower court on 6.4.1971. Though according to the additional affidavit a telephonic message was sent to the office of the petitioner asking to take delivery of the certified copies, no date is given as to when the telephonic message was received. There was N.G.O.'s strike from 12.4.1971 to 6.6.1971. A letter sent by the government pleader reached the petitioner on 1.7.1971. He wrote a letter to the Collector on 13.9.1971 requesting him to accord sanction to prefer an appeal to the High court. On 5.10.1971, the petitioner sent a copy of the judgment to the Collector pressing for an early communication in that regard. The collector addressed the Secretary, Board of Revenue on 6.10,.1971 seeking accord of Sanction to prefer an appeal.
4. The claimant had filed E.P. No. 11/71 in O.P.No. 260/68 in the lower court for executing the decree for Rs. 3,34,901.91p. on 5.2.1971. Notice under section 82, Civil P.C. was issued on 24.6.1971. The government pleader took time for filing the counter and filed it on 21.7.1971. Time for depositing the decretal amount was sought for. The lower court accordingly granted three week's time for the purpose and adjourned the E.P. to 18.8.1971. No amount was deposited by the said date. Further time was granted at the request of the Government Pleader till 31.8.1971, and the E.P. was adjourned to 10.8.1971. as the sum was not deposited, the execution court had to pass an order of attachment on 11.10.1971. When the bailiff went to the office of the Special Deputy Collector on 13.1.1972 for attachment, he was informed that the cheque was being sent through the clerk of the office.
5. The appeal was filed with a nominal court-fee of Rs. 5/- on 8.12.1971. Certified copies of the printed judgment have been applied for on 10.12.1971 in the lower court.
6. From the narration of the facts stated above, we are not satisfied that the petitioner had made out a case for condoning the inordinate delay of 177 days. It is well settled that every day's delay in the presentation of the appeal must be satisfactorily explained. Gajendragadkar, J., as he then was in Ramlal v. Rewa Coal Fields Ltd., : 2SCR762 , has observed as follows:-
'..........................................in all cases falling under section 5 what the party has to show is why he did not file an appeal of the last day of limitation prescribed. That may inevitably mean that the party will have show sufficient cause not only for not filing the appeal on the last day but to explain the delay made thereafter day by day. In other words, in showing sufficient cause for condoning the delay the party may be called upon to explain for the whole of the delay covered by the period between the last day prescribed for filing the appeal and the day on which the appeal is filed. To hold, that the expression ' within such period' means during such period would, in our opinion, be repugnant in the context.'
7. In the present case, the last date for filing the appeal is stated to be 17.6.1971. Admittedly as early as on 5.2.1971, the execution petition was filed by the claimant. In that E.P., the Government pleader in the lower court was served with a notice and he took time on 24.6.1971 for filing the counter. From the facts it is clear that the petitioner was aware of the execution proceedings and no diligent steps had been taken to file the appeal in time. Though the N.G.O's strike was from 12.4.1971 to 6.6.1971, we do not see any valid or justifiable ground for the petitioner for not obtaining the certified copies of the decree and judgment from 6.6.1971 to 1.7.1971. There was no strike from 29.3.1971 when the copies of the decree and judgment were made ready, till 12.4.1971. No explanation has been offered either in the affidavit or in the additional affidavit as to why the petitioner could not get the certified copies till 1.7.1971. we do not find any ground for the delay even thereafter. At every stage, the concerned officers had delayed the matter to such an extent that we have to hold that the delay really was not due to any bona fide mistake or for reasons beyond their control but it was due to their negligence. In matters were public interests are involved, the concerned authorities should think that they have a duty to see that the papers move swiftly and appeals are filed in time; otherwise, the rights of the parties would certainly be affected.
8. Mr. Ramachandra Reddy urged that public interest should not suffer because of the negligence of the petitioner and the counsel and in such a case, the court should take a lenient view and condone the delay. This submission cannot be accepted. It is well settled by the authority of the highest court of the land that the expression ' sufficient cause' within the meaning of Section 5 of the Limitation act cannot be construed too liberally merely because the party is default is Government. The learned judge Vaidialingam J. In State of West Bengal, v. Howrah Municipality, : 2SCR874a observed : -
' Mr. D. Mukherji, learned counsel for the first respondent is certainly well founded in his contention that the expression ' sufficient cause' cannot be construed too liberally, merely because the party in default is the Government. It is no doubt true that whether it is Government or private party, the provisions of law applicable are the same, unless the statute itself makes any distinction. But, it cannot also be gainsaid that the same consideration that will be shown by courts to a private party when he claims the protection of Sec. 5 of the Limitation Act should also be available to the State.'
9. Further it has also been held by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Union of India, v. Ram Charan, : 3SCR467 that there is no question of construing the expression ' sufficient cause' liberally because the party in default is the Government. We cannot, therefore, make a distinction between a private citizen and State in these matters.
10. Applying the principle enunciated by the Supreme Court to the facts of the present case, we must hold that the inordinate delay of 177 days in filing the appeal in the case on hand was not only not due to any sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 5 of the Limitation act but due to the negligence and laches on the part of the petitioner, the Government pleader in the lower court and the concerned officers to whom the matter was referred to obtain the requisite sanction. We may add that a number of cases of this type were the appeals by the State have been filed after inordinate delay without sufficient causes, have been brought to our notice. The concerned authorities should think it their duty to take proper and sufficient interest to protect the interests of the State Exchequer. We hope and trust that the concerned officers of the State would take note of these observations and sincerely try to act with diligence and promptitude and see that such delays do not recur in future resulting the grave and irreparable loss to the State. It is high time for the State Government to take note of such cases and issue immediately appropriate instructions to the Land Acquisition Officers, the Government pleaders and the concerned officers to treat such cases as urgent and file the appeals in time.
11. For all the reasons stated above, we are unable to agree with the contention of Mr. Ramachandra Reddy. This petition is accordingly dismissed with costs.
12. Petition dismissed.