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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has deprecated the “inordinate delays” by government authorities in filing appeals before it, and said they “must pay for wastage of judicial time” and such costs can be recovered from officers responsible.

A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul said the apex court cannot be a place for the governments to walk in when they choose ignoring the period of limitation prescribed in the statute.

“We have raised the issue that if the government machinery is so inefficient and incapable of filing appeals/petitions in time, the solution may lie in requesting the Legislature to expand the time period for filing limitation for government authorities because of their gross incompetence. That is not so,” said the bench, also comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari.

“Till the statute subsists, the appeals/petitions have to be filed as per the statues prescribed,” the bench said in its order while dealing with an appeal filed by Madhya Pradesh after a delay of 663 days.

The top court noted the explanation given in the application for condonation of delay which stated that it was due to unavailability of documents and process of arranging them and also that in “bureaucratic process works, it is inadvertent that delay occurs”.

“We are constrained to pen down a detailed order as it appears that all our counselling to government and government authorities have fallen on deaf ears i.e., the Supreme Court of India cannot be a place for the governments to walk in when they choose ignoring the period of limitation prescribed,” it said.

The bench said a “preposterous proposition” is sought to be propounded that if there is some merit in the case, the period of delay is to be given a go-by.

“If a case is good on merits, it will succeed in any case. It is really a bar of limitation which can even shut out good cases. This does not, of course, take away the jurisdiction of the court in an appropriate case to condone the delay,” it said.

The bench noted that such approach is being adopted and the object appears to be to obtain a certificate of dismissal from the Supreme Court to put a quietus to the issue and thus, say that nothing could be done because the highest court has dismissed the appeal.

“It is to complete this formality and save the skin of officers who may be at default that such a process is followed. We have on earlier occasions also strongly deprecated such a practice and process. There seems to be no improvement,” it said.

“The purpose of coming to this court is not to obtain such certificates and if the government suffers losses, it is time when the concerned officer responsible for the same bears the consequences,” the bench noted.

The top court said no action is taken against the officers, who sit on the files and do nothing, and it is presumed that court would condone the delay.

“We are thus, constrained to send a signal and we propose to do in all matters today, where there are such inordinate delays that the government or state authorities coming before us must pay for wastage of judicial time which has its own value. Such costs can be recovered from the officers responsible,” the bench said.

It noted in its order that no doubt, some leeway is given for “government inefficiencies” but the sad part is that authorities keep on relying on judicial pronouncements for a period of time when technology had not advanced and a greater leeway was given to the government.

The bench, which dismissed the appeal on the ground of delay, imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on Madhya Pradesh and said it be deposited within four weeks with the Mediation and Conciliation Project Committee.

“The amount be recovered from the officers responsible for the delay in filing the special leave petition and a certificate of recovery of the said amount be also filed in this court within the said period of time,” it said.

The bench made it clear that if its order is not complied within time, it would be constrained to initiate contempt proceedings against the chief secretary of the state.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

2+2 talks: India, US clinch defence pact on satellite data

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NEW DELHI: India is set to sign a military agreement with the United States for sharing of sensitive satellite data, the defence ministry said on Monday, as New Delhi tries to narrow the gap with the powerful Chinese military.

The deal will be signed during the top-level 2+2 dialogue between the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper arrived in New Delhi earlier today for talks with external affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh.

Live updates: India-US 2+2 dialogue

The high-level visit comes at a time when India is locked in a serious military standoff with China along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

The landmark defence pact, known as Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation, or BECA, will allow India access to topographical, nautical and aeronautical data for better accuracy of weapons like missiles and drones.

It would also allow the United States to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft to India, an Indian defence source said.

US companies have sold India more than $21 billion of weapons since 2007 and Washington has been urging the Indian government to sign agreements allowing for sharing of sensitive information and encrypted communications for better use of the high-end military equipment.

“The two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) will be signed during the visit,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Earlier, Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart Mark Esper held talks on various defence and security issues ahead of 2+2 dialogue between both the countries scheduled on Tuesday.

The India-US talks on military issues here on Monday were “fruitful” and aimed at further deepening defence cooperation between two largest democracies in the world, Rajnath said after his meeting.

In its statement, the defence ministry said Singh and Esper reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing and defence trade.

The ministry said the two ministers also called for continuation of existing defence dialogue mechanisms during the pandemic, at all levels, particularly the Military Cooperation Group (MCG).

They also discussed requirements of expanding deployments of liaison officers in each other’s facilities.

Apart from strengthening military-to-military cooperation and boosting partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, the issue of expeditious supply of contracted weapon systems by the US to India figured prominently in the deliberations.

The sources said, while deliberating on regional security challenges, the two sides briefly touched upon India’s border row with China in eastern Ladakh.

The India-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years. In June 2016, the US had designated India a “Major Defence Partner” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.

The two countries inked the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies as well as provide for deeper cooperation.

The two countries signed another pact called COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for sale of high end technology from the US to India.

According to the US government, India maintains the largest fleet of C-17 and P-8 aircraft outside of the US, and as of 2020, Washington has authorised more than $20 billion in defence sales to India.

(With inputs from agencies)

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INDIA

Availability of graveyards, cremation grounds should be as per community population: Sakshi Maharaj

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UNNAO(UP): In yet another statement that may stoke a controversy, BJP‘s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj has said the availability of graveyards and cremation grounds should be in proportion to the population of communities living in an area.

Addressing a nukkad meeting for his party‘s candidate for the Bagarmau assembly bypolls, Sakshi Maharaj said, “If there is only one Muslim in a village, the graveyard is very big. You people, on the other hand, cremate your dead on the side of a farm or Gangaji. Is this not unfair?”

“Graveyards and cremation grounds should be as per population,” The Unnao MP said.

There should not be any test of “our patience and decency”, he added.

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INDIA

Hathras case: SC to deliver verdict on Tuesday on pleas seeking court-monitored probe

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce its judgment on Tuesday on a batch of pleas which have sought a court-monitored probe into the Hathras case, in which a Dalit girl was allegedly brutally raped and died of injuries, and transfer of trial to Delhi.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justice A S Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian had on October 15 reserved its verdict on a public interest litigation (PIL) and several intervention pleas of activists and lawyers who have argued that a fair trial was not possible in Uttar Pradesh as the probe has allegedly been botched up.

The lawyer, appearing for the victim’s family, had told the apex court that trial in the case be shifted out of Uttar Pradesh to a court in the national capital after completion of investigation.

A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras on September 14. She died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital during treatment.

The victim was cremated in the dead of the night near her home on September 30. Her family alleged they were forced by the local police to hurriedly conduct her last rites. Local police officers, however, said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”

During the hearing in the apex court, activist-lawyer Indira Jaising had also raised apprehension of not having a fair trial in the case in Uttar Pradesh.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had referred to the affidavit filed in the apex court by the Uttar Pradesh government which gave details about the security and protection provided to the victim’s family and witnesses in the case.

The state government, which has already transferred the case to the CBI and has given consent to monitoring by the apex court, had filed the affidavit after the top court sought details on witness protection and on whether the victim’s family has chosen a lawyer.

Referring to the compliance affidavit, Mehta said that victim’s family has informed that they have engaged lawyer and they have also requested that government advocate should also pursue the case on their behalf.

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