State of Jharkhand through SP, CBI occasioned a delay of 157, 113 and 222 days in filing appeals before the SC against Lalu Prasad [Crl. A. 394/2017], Sajal Chakraborty [Crl. A. 393/2017] & Dr. Jagannath Mishra [Crl. A. 395/2017].
It was submitted by Ram Jethmalani that the averments made in the applications seeking condonation of delay were based upon earlier authorities which no longer was good law. He relied on Postmaster General, (2012) 3 SCC 503 and Amar Nath Yadav, (2014) 2 SCC 422. His submission was that law of limitation binds everybody equally including the government and defense by the government of impersonal machinery and inherited bureaucratic methodology cannot be accepted in view of the modern technology being used and available; more so in the light of the aforesaid decisions. The CBI Manual provides for filing appeals expeditiously. The CBI was bound by its Manual and in violation of the provisions contained in Manual without sufficient explanation, the delay could not be condoned.
Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, gravamen of matter and also the divergent views taken by the same Judge of the High Court in the same case vis-à-vis different accused persons on the same question, the SC considered it its ‘duty’ not to throw away the petition on the ground of delay.
Isn’t it judicially improper [*] to reject a Jethmalani Submission? Hon’ble Justice Arun Mishra thus noted:
“The criticism made by the Senior Counsel is not wholly unjustified. CBI ought to be guided by its Manual. It is expected of it to be more vigilant. It has failed to live up to its reputation. In the instant case, lethargy on its part is intolerable. If CBI fails to act timely, peoples’ faith will be shaken in its effectiveness. Let the Director of CBI look into the matter and saddle the responsibility on a concerned person. In important cases Director, CBI should devise methodology which should not be cumbersome as reflected in these cases, otherwise in future, Director, CBI cannot escape the responsibility for delay in such cases to be termed as deliberate one, which is intolerable. Being the head of the institution it was the responsibility of the Director, CBI to ensure that appeals were filed within limitation. There should not have been delay in filing Special Leave Petitions at all.”
Strange Jurisprudence. Our quest for the single noble equation continues.