SC slaps `50,000-fine on Kerala Govt

via PNS | New Delhi published on July 26, 2010

Setting zero tolerance standards for Governments in filing appeals before superior courts, the Supreme Court on Monday set a precedent by imposing a heavy fine of ` 50,000 on the Kerala Government for preferring a “frivolous” appeal against an interim order of the Kerala High Court.

The order passed by an Apex Bench of Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly came on an appeal filed by the Kerala Government challenging a direction by the Kerala High Court to produce a report on the acquisition of a land disputed as forest.

Finding the State’s action to file an appeal as “unnecessary” and “vexatious,” the Bench noted, “By an interim order, all that the High Court sought to know was whether the land in question was a forest. We do not understand why the State is opposed to it.”

The dispute related to a two-acre plot in village Pottasseri in Palakkad in possession of one Rosamma Joseph, a resident of the area. But the Government challenged her claim and by an Award, the Forest Tribunal held the possession in favour of the State Government. Almost 31 years later, Joseph moved the Kerala High Court challenging the Tribunal’s decision. After a single judge dismissed the petition, a Division Bench of the High Court on March 27, 2008 entertains the appeal seeking reply from the State Government.

The High Court sought to know why the petitioner’s plot alone was earmarked as forest while the neighbouring plots were private property. In this regard, it sought a report from the Forest Custodian within a month.

Finding no merit in the State’s appeal, the Apex Bench dismissed the State’s appeal with exemplary costs. “We cannot tolerate this tendency of the State to rush to court on every interim order. It amounts to wasting the time of court and a drain on the public exchequer.” The court asked the State Forest Secretary to file a report and to take to task the officers concerned who failed to implement the Award of the Tribunal for 31 years.

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