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High court issues contempt notice to senior bureaucrats

The Bombay High Court has issued notice to two senior bureaucrats of Maharashtra, asking them to show cause why should they not be punished for committing contempt by not complying with the earlier orders of a bench.
The notice was issued to top officers in Housing and Urban Development departments on a petition filed by Sarla Agencies Ltd, whose application (in a case of redevelopment of a property) was not processed on the appointed date despite an assurance given by the government.
Justices A K Menon and V M Kanade made the notices returnable on April 2.
One of the respondent is Debashish Chakraborty, the Principal Secretary of Housing Department. The other respondent is the Principal Secretary of Urban Development.
“The respondents are high ranking officers in the bureaucracy. If such officers show scant respect to the orders passed by this court, it would not be possible for the judiciary to perform its functions and duties effectively,” said the judges.
“The Apex Court in several cases has observed that this court should not issue notices to such high ranking officers directing them to remain present.
“We also accepted the statement made by government pleader and granted time on five occasions. Lastly, on February 12, we disposed of the petition in view of a statement made by the pleader that the order passed by the bench would be complied by February 28,” said the judges.
Despite solemn assurance given by the respondents, again no steps have been taken, when the affidavit has been filed in disposed of contempt petition. Again, time was given to the respondents, but no reply has been filed so far, the judges said adding that they had no other option but to issue notice to the respondents.
“This is a sorry state of affairs. This court had granted time on at least five occasions to the respondents, however, despite the statement made by the respondents through their counsel, the directions given by this court have not been complied,” the judges said.
The bench noted that the respondents had not even shown courtesy to file a short affidavit giving explanation as to why the delay was caused in not complying with the order, nor have they tendered an apology to this court.
The petitioner had initiated the redevelopment process of a property owned by them and NOC was given by Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) on April 9, 2009. Thereafter, on July 7, 2009, ‘Intimation of Disapproval’ was given by the corporation.
The occupants who are residing in the said dilapidated building were shifted to transit accommodation in July 2009.
Thereafter, the commencement certificate was given by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai on December 21, 2009.
MHADA granted NOC on October 23, 2010. Thereafter, this court vide its order dated March 20, 2013 struck down a portion of clause 10(a) of Development Control Rules 33(7) and held it unconstitutional and ultra vires the provisions of Act and Constitution of India. The petitioner thereafter filed a Petition on account of inaction on part of the respondents.
The petition was disposed of by the court by an order dated August 12, 2013 in which directions were given to the respondents to decide pending application of the petitioner within four weeks from the date of the order. However, since the said order was not complied, the petitioners issued legal notice to the contemnor on November 1, 2013.
Thereafter, the matter came up for hearing five times and on every occasion, the state sought time to respond.
Finally, on February 12, a statement was made on behalf of the contemnors that they would decide the petitioner’s application before February 28.
The court, in the order, recorded this statement and observed that in view of the statement made by respondents, the contempt petition was disposed of. However, liberty was granted to the petitioners to apply again, in the event of non-compliance of the original order of August 12, 2013.
“We are informed that no action was taken by the respondents and when the petitioners went to the office of the respondents, they were informed that since they have obtained the order from the court, they should approach the court again,” the judges noted.
Petitioner’s counsel Sanjay Kadam submitted that the respondents granted revised NOC to other developers and did not process the petitioners’ application. Besides, they did not comply with the orders passed by the court.

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