The Bombay High Court has expressed shock over the arbitrary manner in which Maharashtra Lokayukta was functioning and warned its chief with a contempt notice if it fails to comply with the court’s orders.
A division bench of justices V M Kanade and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi was irked when it was informed that Lokayukta M L Tahaliyani was hearing and passing orders in a matter despite the high court directing it to not do so.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by ‘The Middle Income Group Co-Op Housing Society Bandra East Group Limited’, challenging an order passed by the Lokayukta directing the Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (MHADA) no to act against eviction of occupants of a dilapidated building in suburban Bandra.
The Lokayukta had passed the order after some of the occupants filed a complaint there alleging that they are being evicted without following due procedure laid down in law.
Senior counsel Iqbal Chagla, appearing for the petitioners (who are also occupants of the building but are ready to shift), argued that the Lokayukta does not have jurisdiction to pass interim orders under the Maharashtra Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayuktas Act, 1971.
Advocate Vishwajit Sawant, appearing for MHADA, told the HC that the authority will take at least eight weeks to issue show-cause notice to the petitioners, who are the occupants, after which hearing will be given to them and only then an order will be passed.
The high court had on August 4 stayed further hearing before the Lokayukta pending hearing and final disposal of this petition.
“Prima facie, we are of the view that Lokayukta does not have jurisdiction to pass interim order, direct the public or the government authorities to act or prevent them from acting under any of the provisions of the said Act. The impugned order is stayed,” the HC had said on August 4.
However, on August 26 the court was informed by the petitioners that despite this order, the Lokayukta was passing orders in the matter.
“We are shocked with this behaviour. Doesn’t the Lokayukta chief realise that he is subordinate to the High Court? This is contemptuous. We will issue contempt against him. How can he (Lokayukta) hear and pass orders in a matter that has been stayed by us,” Justice Kanade said.
The court adjourned the petition for further hearing till September 1 and said, “We are repeating that till this petition is pending, all proceedings pertaining to this matter before the Lokayukta are stayed.”