Irked by 636-day delay in filing appeal against POCSO accused’s acquittal, SC admonishes HP govt; imposes costs

THE Supreme Court Monday admonished the Himachal Pradesh Government over a delay of 636 days in filing an appeal against the high court’s acquittal of a man charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 for allegedly mentally and physically torturing his minor daughters and trying to have a physical relationship with his elder daughter.

The top court directed the government to hold an inquiry, fix responsibility, and recover costs of Rs.25,000/- from the concerned official responsible for the delay.

The advocate appearing for the state government blamed Covid19 for the delay in filing the appeal against an order passed by the high court on 05.12.2018. This led the Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy to ask the lawyer if the world was affected by Covid 2019 or 2020.

The lawyer’s answer initially was 2019, “possibly to cover the delay but realizing that it was 2020”, he stated he had not received the papers related to the case.

“To say the least, we are shocked at the conduct of the state and the manner of conducting the litigation in such a sensitive matter,” an irked court said.

“There is not even a semblance of an explanation for the delay. We, however, would not like to dismiss the petition on limitation because of the seriousness of the issue involved. But that is no excuse why the state should not be made accountable for the delay”, the bench said.

Given the seriousness of the matter, the bench condoned the delay with a fine and issued the notice on the appeal.

Click here to read the order

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