25 Jan 2022 11:18 AM GMT
The Gauhati High Court on Friday issued contempt notices to the Secretary and the Director of the Social Welfare Department of the Assam government for non-compliance of the Court's earlier order dated September 22, 2021, wherein the government had been instructed to make arrangements for funds for three shelter homes catering to members of the transgender community. A Bench comprising Justice...
The Gauhati High Court on Friday issued contempt notices to the Secretary and the Director of the Social Welfare Department of the Assam government for non-compliance of the Court's earlier order dated September 22, 2021, wherein the government had been instructed to make arrangements for funds for three shelter homes catering to members of the transgender community.
A Bench comprising Justice N. Kotiswar Singh and Justice Malasri Nandi sought the personal appearance of Mr. Partha Pratim Mazumdar, Secretary to Govt. of Assam, Social Welfare Department, Dispur (respondent 2) and Mr. Bibhash Modi, Director to Govt. of Assam, Social Welfare Department, Uzanbazar (respondent 9) and accordingly observed,
"We direct the Respondent Nos. 2 and 5 to appear before this Court in person on 01.02.2022 at 10:30 Hrs. and explain as to why they should not be proceeded further under the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971."
The Bench had issued the order dated September 22, 2021, while adjudicating upon a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition moved by All Assam Transgender Association which largely pertained to the issue relating to shelter homes in Assam which are three in number- one at Kamrup (Metro), another at Dhubri District, and the third is at Bongaigaon. These are the shelter homes for members of the transgender community. The problem highlighted in the petition was that these shelter homes were starving of funds and it was submitted that each shelter home has a monthly expense of around Rs.15 lakh each.
The Court on Friday took on record a letter dated January 20, 2022 issued by the Director, Social Welfare, Assam wherein it had been stated that the authorities are examining the matter afresh and that on being satisfied that the funds will be properly utilized, the necessary action will be taken.
Pursuant to the perusal of the letter, the Court opined,
"Perusal of the aforesaid instruction, however, shows that it does not indicate the reasons for which the order passed by this Court on 22.09.2021 in PIL No. 24/2021 could not be complied with. 10. From the aforesaid letter dated 20.01.2022, what appears is that the authorities are examining the matter afresh for release of funds on being satisfied that the funds will be properly utilized, but there is no explanation as to why the order passed by this Court on 22.09.2021 could not be implemented. Thus, the crux of the aforesaid letter is how to ensure proper utilization of funds to be released."
The Court further observed that although the authorities will always be at liberty to examine if the funds had been properly utilized or not and also take necessary action in the event there is misappropriation of funds, however these could not constitute grounds for not releasing funds as per the directions of the Court.
"In our view, though the authorities will be always at liberty to examine if the funds had been properly utilized or not and also to take necessary actions if there be any misutilisation of funds but these could not be grounds for not releasing the funds as directed by this Court on 22.09.2021 in PIL No. 24/2021 and more so, when the issue relating to release of funds in respect of shelter home "TritiyoNivas" jointly run by NEVARD and All Assam Transgender Association at Hatigaon, Ajanta Path, Guwahati, was already considered by the District authorities as also reflected in the order dated 17.01.2022 referred to above", the Court underscored.
The Bench further noted that utilization certificate dated February 22, 2021 in respect of an amount of only Rs.1,60,00,000.00 (Rupees one crore sixty lakhs) had been issued by the authorities out of Rs.2,00,00,000.00 (Rupees two crores) which was sanctioned during the year 2019-20. Furthermore, it was certified that there was no unspent balance at the end of the financial year, which was signed by the Director, Social Welfare, Assam, Deputy Director, Directorate of Social Welfare, Assam and Finance & Accounts Officer, the Court noted further.
Accordingly, the Court ruled that it is not satisfied with the affidavit-in-opposition filed by the respondent authorities pertaining to the reasons behind the non-compliance of the Court's order dated September 22, 2021. The Bench also clarified that in the instant contempt plea they would confine themselves to the issue of non release of funds for the shelter home in Kamrup (Metro) district only and not in respect of shelter homes in Dhubri and Bongaigaon Districts.
The matter is slated to be heard next on February 1.
Advocate Swati B. Baruah appeared for the petitioner. Advocate M. Bhattacharjee appeared for the State.
Case Title: All Assam Transgender Association v. Mukesh C Sahu and Ors
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