Supreme Court pulls up Himachal Pradesh after it cites COVID as reason for 636-day delay in filing appeal against 2018 POCSO order

Himachal Pradesh had moved the Supreme court after 636 days challenging the acquittal order of the accused passed by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh at Shimla
Supreme Court pulls up Himachal Pradesh after it cites COVID as reason for 636-day delay in filing appeal against 2018 POCSO order
Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy

The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a fine of ₹ 25,000 on the State of Himachal Pradesh for a delay of 636 days in filing an appeal against a High Court order acquitting an accused in a case under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).

Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy expressed shock at the conduct of the State in its conduct of the litigation in such a sensitive matter.

"There is not even a semblance of explanation for delay", the Court remarked.

Interestingly, the Court also took critical note of how the State had tried to cite the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for not filing the appeal earlier, even though the order under challenge was passed over a year before the pandemic struck.

"On our query as to what is the reason, learned counsel seeks to contend it is because of COVID. The order was passed on 05.12.2018 and thus, we asked the counsel as to which year was the world affected by Covid 2019 or 2020 to which learned counsel’s answer initially was 2019, possibly to cover the delay but realizing that it was 2020, he states that the papers were not received by him", the Court observed.

All the same, since the matter concerned POCSO Act charges, the Bench observed that the plea cannot be dismissed on the grounds of delay.

The top court went on to condone the delay but directed that costs of ₹ 25,000 be deposited with the Supreme Court Group ‘C’ (Non-Clerical) Employees Welfare Association within four weeks.

The State government was also directed to hold an enquiry, fix responsibility and recover the amount from the officers concerned who were responsible for the delayed appeal.

[Read Order]

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State of HP vs Gorkha Ram.pdf
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