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Wilful Disobedience: Telangana High Court Holds District Collector Guilty Of Contempt; Sentences To Three Months

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
12 March 2021 9:36 AM GMT
Wilful Disobedience: Telangana High Court Holds District Collector Guilty Of Contempt; Sentences To Three Months
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The Telangana High Court recently held a District Collector and two others guilty of contempt of court for wilful disobedience of its order restraining dispossession of certain farmers from their agricultural lands for the purpose of building a reservoir. A Single Bench of Justice MS Ramachandra Rao sentenced them to undergo simple imprisonment for three months and to pay...

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The Telangana High Court recently held a District Collector and two others guilty of contempt of court for wilful disobedience of its order restraining dispossession of certain farmers from their agricultural lands for the purpose of building a reservoir.

A Single Bench of Justice MS Ramachandra Rao sentenced them to undergo simple imprisonment for three months and to pay fine of Rs.2,000/-. They have also been directed to pay costs of Rs.10,000/- to each of the petitioners.

The direction was made to the District Collector, Joint Collector and Administrator, (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) and Land Acquisition Officer – cum – Revenue Divisional Officer of the Rajanna Sircilla District in the State.

In its order, the Court observed that the Respondent-officers had proceeded in defiance of Court's order dated October 12, 2018, and in the process, seized some land which was subject matter of a writ petition, in March 2019.

"Though the 1st respondent pleaded in para no.6 that attempts were not made to dispossess the petitioners from their agricultural lands or residential houses at any point of time, this is also a false plea as petitioners' lands were dug away and submerged on account of inundation as can be seen from photographs filed by the petitioners," the order stated.

The bench was also informed that when the Petitioners' objected to such wilful disobedience of a judicial order, they were threatened by the police employed by the Respondents.

In its order, the Single Bench also rejected a contention raised by the District Collector that he was not holding office in October 2018 and thus, he had no responsibility to ensure obedience to the orders passed by the Court at the time.

It held, "Respondent was admittedly the District Collector of the said District in October,2019 when the agricultural lands of petitioners were submerged (this is discussed below in detail) and it was his duty to prevent it's violation since the Office of District Collector, Rajanna Sircilla District was a party in the Writ Petition (5th respondent in the WP) and to the said order dt.12.10.2018 and it binds him as well even if he joined later in the said Post."

The Bench further noted that the Respondents were unable to show any document showing that rehabilitation and resettlement awards under Section 31 of the Right to Fair Compensation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 was paid to the Petitioners in lieu of acquisition of their agricultural lands.

It said,

"To a specific question put by me to the Special Government Pleader, Sri A. Sanjeev Kumar, attached to the Office of the Additional Advocate-General to show to me a single award under Section 31 of the Act r/w Schedule II of the Act towards Resettlement and Rehabilitation for acquisition of agricultural lands of the petitioners under the notifications mentioned by the petitioners above, he was not able to point out to a single document in any of the Annexures filed along with the counter-affidavits filed by the respondents to show that such awards were passed and such compensation was paid."

Reliance was placed on a Division Bench ruling in AP Agricultural Union & Anr. v. Spl. Chief Secretary Land & Ors., WP (PIL) No. 191/2016 where it was categorically held that a land owner who loses land or other immovable property to acquisition process by the State would fall within the definition of 'affected family' under Section 3(c) (i) of the Act.

In parting, the Court directed that an adverse entry shall be recorded in the service records of Respondents as regards their wilful disobedience of the Court's orders. It also suspended the sentence of imprisonment for six weeks.

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