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Damages rap for ‘slow’ state

Lucknow, March 29: The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court yesterday rapped the state government for “default”, “indifference” and slowness while ordering immediate compensation to the family of a man who was run over by a government vehicle a decade ago.

A state government jeep had crushed Shankar, a resident of Unnao, in January 1993, but the government had refused to acknowledge its liability and compensate his wife Rajkumari, three children and his aged parents for the loss of their bread-winner.

Rajkumari won the legal battle in August 2000, with the court asking the government to pay Rs 5 lakh to the victim’s family. But the district magistrate refused to comply.

The government filed an appeal in the high court on September 19, 2002 — more than a year after the statutory limitation period. Worse, it had no qualms in admitting that the delay was because the government machinery moved at a snail’s place.

“The state government machinery works very slowly and, therefore, a liberal view should be taken in condoning the delay if the state government is the litigant in the matter,” its appeal said.

When the appeal came up for disposal yesterday, the Lucknow bench was enraged. “The state cannot be permitted to say that because of its reticence or slow machinery or delay in disposal or taking a decision the advantage be given to the state for approaching the court beyond the time prescribed,” Justices Pradeep Kant and G.K. Gupta said, dismissing the appeal.

The court noted that it was a serious matter that Shankar’s wife, three children and aged parents had no source of income to survive after his unfortunate death. “In such a matter, the state government could not have a right to take advantage of its own default or indifference,” it said.

While ordering the government to pay compensation without further delay, the court directed that a copy of the verdict be sent to the state chief secretary so that action is taken against officials delaying payment to the victim’s family.

The verdict was a victory for the victim’s widow, but she doubted if the government would comply with the high court’s order.

“We will be relieved only when we get the money. When I had won the case in the lower court, I repeatedly begged district magistrate for early payment. Though he kept assuring me for more than a year, the government ultimately decided to appeal against the order,” she pointed out.

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