Consider restitution if passage of time makes relief unattainable: Supreme Court | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Consider restitution if passage of time makes relief unattainable: Supreme Court

ByAbraham Thomas
Feb 22, 2024 04:47 PM IST

The court directed ₹1 lakh compensation to a petitioner as compensation within six weeks along with an additional sum of ₹25,000 towards litigation costs

Pleas related to cases wherein relief from constitutional courts becomes unattainable due to the passage of time should not be dismissed on grounds of “perceived futility” and an alternate equivalent should be devised as restitution for the wrongs done, the Supreme Court has said.

The Supreme Court appreciated the petitioner’s spirit for steadfastly arguing his case. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Supreme Court appreciated the petitioner’s spirit for steadfastly arguing his case. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“In public law proceedings, when it is realised that the prayer in the writ petition is unattainable due to passage of time, constitutional courts may not dismiss the writ proceedings on the ground of their perceived futility... we must formulate an appropriate system for preserving the rights of the parties till the final determination takes place. In the alternative, we may also formulate a reasonable equivalent for restitution of the wrongful action,” said a bench of justices PS Narasimha and Sandeep Mehta on Tuesday.

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The court directed 1 lakh compensation to one Manoj Kumar as compensation within six weeks along with an additional sum of 25,000 towards litigation costs. Kumar moved court after he was denied a job at Delhi’s Model Integrated Primary School in 2017.

At the time of reserving judgment, the institute filed an affidavit saying the post for which Kumar applied was no longer available. Kumar applied under the Scheduled Caste category. In April 2023, the school was closed down.

The petitioner scored 57.5 points during the recruitment process while the person who was appointed 58.25. Kumar found the authorities did not award him six additional marks for having a post-graduate degree. The institute claimed Kumar was not entitled to the additional marks as the post-graduate degree was not in the relevant subject. The court found no merit in this argument and set aside the institute’s order along with the decisions of the Delhi high court in the case.

The Supreme Court appreciated Kumar’s spirit for steadfastly arguing his case since 2017. “In the life of litigation, the passage of time can stand both as an ally and adversary,” said Justice Narasimha, who wrote the judgment. He added the duty of constitutional courts “is to transcend the constraints of time and perform the primary duty of a constitutional court to control and regulate the exercise of power or arbitrary action.”

The court noted similar situations were bound to arise in other cases. “The delay in this case is not unusual. We see several such cases when our final hearing board moves. Appeals of more than two decades are awaiting consideration. It is distressing but certainly not beyond us. We must and we will find a solution to this problem.”

The court noted that a single Delhi high court judge first decided Kumar’s petition in January 2018 followed by a division bench. Kumar moved the top court in 2019. “The protracted timeline spanning from the filing of a writ petition, service of notice, filing of counter-affidavits, final hearing, and then the eventual delivery of judgment, coupled with subsequent appellate procedures, exacerbates delays,” the top court said.

“This is an unfortunate situation where the court finds that the action of the respondent was arbitrary, but the consequential remedy cannot be given due to subsequent developments...In this situation, we must consider an alternative restitutory measure in the form of monetary compensation.”

The court said the inherent difficulty in bridging the time gap between the illegal impugned action and restitution is certainly not rooted in deficiencies within the law or legal jurisprudence but rather in systemic issues inherent in the adversarial judicial process. “As time elapses, the status of persons, possessions, and promises transforms, directly influencing the nature of relief that may be formulated and granted.”

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