Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Govt may face contempt action

Govt may face contempt action
Justice Saldanha slams state for going ahead with war memorial work in violation of the HC fiat

The construction of National Military Memorial by the state government at the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park in violation of the Karnataka High Court order, could invite contempt action.
Justice M F Saldanha, chairman, Karnataka chapter of Transparency International India, slammed the government for going against the court’s decision and warned of contempt action if it refuses to stop work at the site. Saldanha, an authority on contempt, told Bangalore Mirror the government’s decision to go ahead with the construction could attract contempt action.
“The high court has clearly said status quo should be maintained at the park. The construction of any type can be at all, done in the light of the total prohibition under the Park and Gardens Act, is sub judice before the Karnataka High Court.”
He said the verdict over the case is reserved and all the parties thereto, which include the state government, are legally prohibited from doing anything that will interfere with the course of judicial proceedings. Adding further, he said, “It is not permissible to undertake any work of any type or to force the issue before the judgement. In having commenced the work, the state government is in contempt.”
“Assuming a petition is allowed, it is not a question of undoing the damage because the respondents have acted in contempt of the proceedings by interfering with the course. The obvious attempt is to present the court with a fait accompli by trying to say that the work or construction has already been done and therefore it is too late,” said Saldanha.
Reacting to defendant lawyers’ reply that there was no interim order or injunction, Saldanha said, “When a case is sub judice, there is no requirement of an interim order or an injunction; the parties must maintain the status quo and anyone who tries to force the issue commits criminal contempt.” He said that both in Mumbai and Karnataka, over a dozen government officers and politicians who tried to use muscle power while cases were sub judice were jailed by him. The structures put up were demolished at the cost of contemnors.
“If the government does not have any respect for the high court and does not stop work immediately, contempt action needs to be advised,” he said.


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