The Madras High Court on Wednesday made stern remarks against State government for its failure to file a status report on time and for citing the COVID-19 pandemic to justify the delay (C Kumar v. State of Tamil Nadu and 3 ors).
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy was dealing with 2019 PIL concerning the provision of an approach road for the villagers of Arunthathiyar Palayam, Thindivanam Taluk, Villupuram District. The matter was listed for reporting compliance today, when the State counsel sought more time to file it status report.
Earlier, on April 7, the Court had 10 more days’ time as a ‘last chance’ for the State to “complete the work and file a status report.”
The State’s request for more time today, however, drew the ire of the Court, which observed,
“The exasperation of the court can only be expressed by first noticing the order passed nearly three weeks back on this petition … Even as the common man remains apprehensive and fears for his life while praying that he does not get affected by the virus since the medical facilities remain suspect, the State’s indolence knows no bounds to use the pandemic as an excuse for acting in flagrant breach of orders of this Court. It is the virus which is blamed for the status report not being filed despite the previous order on this matter.”
The Court has now asked Advocate General Vijay Narayan to be present on April 30 when the State is expected to file its status report. The Court has directed the AG to explain the State’s conduct as well.
Last week, the Court had passed similar strictures when the State failed to file a counter-affidavit in time in a mining case, despite February 2 order directing that this response be filed by March 19.
The Court noted that, “despite observations in repeated orders that directions issued by the Court to file affidavits continue to be flouted frequently, there is no improvement in the situation.”
The Court further remarked that while it has often glossed over the State’s failures to adhere to its directions on account of the pandemic or otherwise, “in crucial matters pertaining to illegal quarrying when reports or affidavits are not forthcoming, there is every reason to draw an adverse inference that the officials are mixed up with those involved in the illegal quarrying activities and actively resist the Court investigating into such matters.”
Opining that such insolence cannot be accepted, the Court had directed the Advocate General to submit on how the malaise may be arrested. The April 22 order reads,
“While it is appreciated that in view of the surging pandemic, the State’s responsibilities in such regard increase significantly, insolence cannot be accepted nor can a system be allowed to continue when directions for filing affidavits hold no meaning at all. Learned Advocate General should represent the State and indicate how the malaise may be arrested.”