The Calcutta high court on Friday closed a petition filed 23 years back about a hospital’s alleged failure in handing over a newborn to his mother after his birth after the officials stumbled upon the plea’s file gathering dust in one of the court’s cupboard for over two decades. The matter was last heard on December 22, 1997.
A division bench of chief justice TB Radhakrishnan and justice Arijit Banerjee lamented the “great misfortune” that the matter had remained pending for so long.
“Though different directions were issued with the further order to the registry of this court to list the matter after three months [from December 22, 1997], it is a matter of great misfortune that this matter is listed today [Friday] after 23 years of hibernation of this file in the cupboard of the high court,” the bench said.
In 1997, the court had directed the police to register a case and investigate the matter when the petition was last heard.
“We are in a judicial system. We cannot afford to stack files without the same being listed in spite of judicial orders,” the bench said on Friday.
It added that the court should consider initiating action for misconduct against officers responsible, more so because it was a habeas corpus petition, which mandates that the involved party is brought before a court or a judge.
“When matters are not listed by the office of the high court in spite of judicial orders, it may, at least in certain situations, be appropriate that the courts should consider initiating action for misconduct against the officers concerned for having deflected the course of justice by disobeying judicial orders for posting a case,” the order said.
A senior official of the Calcutta high court told HT on condition of anonymity that more such files were found. “This is not the oldest case file that was found stacked in a cupboard. We have started re-listing old case files before the court so that they could be heard. There are a few files dating back to the mid-80’s, which have been listed. At present around 40 – 50 old files, dating back to the mid-80s and early 90s have been listed. There could be more.”
“Had anyone been arrested, his liberty taken away and then the matter went into a cold storage for two decades, that would have been condemnable. But at least none was arrested,” said Arunava Ghosh, a senior high court advocate.
Police officials refused to comment on the matter.