As God’s own country, Kerala struggles to get back up after being raved by floods, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has been ordering several litigants to deposit money in the Kerala Chief Minister’s flood relief fund as costs.
Over 55 such orders have been passed by Justice Ramendra Jain since 20 August, imposing costs of Rs. 10,000 on several such litigants, and directing them to pay Rs. 8,000 out of the total costs to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. The remaining Rs. 2,000 was directed to be deposited with the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana High Court within one week.
In total, over 60 such orders have been passed since by various judges. Larger amounts have also been imposed. For instance, a Bench comprising Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli directed a firm to deposit Rs. 50,000 to the flood relief fund, after finding that the firm had misled the court.
Having failed to disclose significant information about one of its partners, the firm not just obtained an interim order in its favour, but also filed a contempt petition alleging its non-compliance. Scorning at the attempt, the Court then directed,
“Thus while dismissing both the petitions as withdrawn, we impose costs of Rs. 25,000 in each case. A total sum of Rs. 50,000 may be deposited by the petitioner in the account of Principal Secretary (Finance), Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (Kerala), within a period of one week from today and produce a receipt before the Registrar General of this Court, failing which the Registrar General shall intimate the Collector of the district concerned to realize the aforesaid amount from the petitioner as arrears of land revenue and remit the same in the Distress Relief Fund.”
Earlier, Jharkhand High Court had also issued similar directions as a condition for grant of bail. According to available orders, Justice Sen has allowed more than 20 such bail applications since 27 August, with the amount directed to be deposited ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 75,000. A total amount of more than Rs. 4 lakhs has been ordered to be deposited to the fund.
The Delhi High Court had also undertaken a similar exercise, when on August 21, it had agreed to quash an FIR against a petitioner, subject to payment of Rs. 15,000 towards Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund for the State of Kerala.
Besides, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had recently imposed a condition of payment for Kerala flood relief for restoration of a petition which got dismissed for default, observing that “people of Kerala are facing the natural calamity in the form of severe flood”.
Kerala has been facing an unprecedented crisis, having been hit by the worst-floods in a 100 years. The State has lost nearly 400 people and more than a million have been displaced. While water levels are receding, Kerala now faces the challenge of rebuilding, with economic cost of damages being estimated in billions of dollars.