The Bombay High Court on Monday lashed out at three senior bureaucrats working in different departments of the Government of Maharashtra for making false statements in their reply affidavit filed in response to an order by the Court dated November 25, 2019 passed adjourning the proceedings in a commercial execution application.
Justice GS Kulkarni while hearing a contempt petition in the execution application filed by Manaj Tollway Pvt Ltd allowed Manoj Saunik (resp no.3), Additional Chief Secretary, Public Works Department, CP Joshi (resp no.4), Secretary, Public Works Department, and Ajit Sagne (resp no.5), who is the Secretary, Works, Public Works Department to tender an apology in an affidavit. However, the Court noted that whether such an apology will be accepted needs to be considered.
After referring to the said affidavit-in-reply filed by the above three officers, Court noted that Ajit Sagne referred to himself as 'Government of Maharashtra' in his affidavit. Justice Kulkarni noted-
"It is unfortunate that Mr.Ajit Sagne is not even bothered to read his own affidavit when he described himself as "Government of Maharashtra", the inadvertence cannot extend to such negligence."
Although, Court had passed an order of simpliciter adjournment asking parties adjourning asking parties to stand over till December 2, 2019, the aforementioned officers had the following paragraph common to all their affidavits-
"At the hearing held on 25th November 2019, the Hon'ble Bombay High Court directed that the Consent Terms be filed in this Hon'ble Court by 2nd December, 2019. It was observed that it was in public interest to settle the aforesaid claim at Rs. 358.79 Crores which translated to a saving to the public exchequer of Rs. 22,80,918/- as well as the future interest could be limited to interest at RBI rates on the unpaid amount. The same was communicated to the Petitioner vide letter dated 25th November, 2019"
Court observed -
"All these averments in the affidavits of these parties are totally contrary to record and there is an impression when such averments are made and placed on record, these parties are actually indulging in creating a false record of the Court and which has to be taken to its logical conclusion more so considering that these are all public servants in the service of Government of Maharashtra. As to who has instructed them to make these averments which are not supported by any record of the Court is a matter which is required to be explained by them."
However, Court noted that respondent number 2 Dhananjay Deshpande filed an affidavit in reply to the same order of the Court dated November 25 but his affidavit reflected what actually happened.
In his affidavit filed on behalf of the Secretary, PWD, Deshpande stated that a settlement was reached between the PWD, Govt. of Maharashtra and the petitioner on November 25. The Secretary authorized Deshpande to sign and file the mutually agreed consent terms in the High Court.
Also, Rajendra Rahane, respondent number 2, stated in his affidavit that the Governor of Maharashtra had already passed an order on the matter -
"Interestingly, on 25th November 2019 nobody brought to the notice of the Honourable Court also that the Honourable Governor has passed any order"
Senior Advocate Prasad Dhakephalkar appeared for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Anil Anturkar for respondent number 1, Advocate Aseen Naphade for respondent number 2, Navroz Seervai on behalf of respondent number 3, Senior Advocate Kevic Setalvad for respondent number 4 and AGP Jyoti Chavan for respondent number 5.
Seervai, Setalvad and AGP Chavan stated that their respective clients would file affidavits withdrawing the objectionable paragraphs and correct the record of the Court. They submitted that their clients would also tender an unconditional apology for making such averments.
"In my opinion, it is in the interest of justice that these respondents are permitted to file any affidavit they desire to place on record. As and when these affidavits are placed on record, the Court would consider as to whether such an apology ought to be accepted or not and as to what appropriate orders can be passed on this issue.
It is with deep anguish and pain the averments as made in the respective affidavits are noted by the Court. If these averments of the respective respondents were to go unnoticed, it would have not only amounted to maintaining and permitting false records to be created, but also in this situation it would amount to putting a premium on the dishonesty of these respondents.
Prima-facie it appears that these respondents are guilty of deposing to such false averments/statements which may amount to perjury. It would also be very difficult in these circumstances at this stage to show any laxity to these respondents. However, let these respondents explain appropriately as to how these averments have come and explain their unconditional apology"
The court observed that it is only Dhananjay Deshpande who came with the correct case that it was not by the Court, but before the Government of Maharashtra on November 25, 2019 a direction was issued to bring about the settlement.
"It is surprising that none of the other respondents who are responsible servants of Government of Maharashtra were bothered to disclose that such were the orders passed by the Government of Maharashtra on 25 November 2019 and they sought it to attribute to the Court in making the kind of averments as noted above, when the Court had simpliciter adjourned the matter at the request of the parties."
Court asked all three respondents to file their affidavits on Tuesday (today) and adjourned the matter till March 9.
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