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HC sets aside single-judge bench order against MD SICOP

Post by Syed Rukaya on Sunday, January 15, 2023

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Srinagar, Jan 14: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has held that the proceedings for contempt do not lie against the person who was neither a party in the writ petition nor there is any specific direction issued by the writ court to such party.

Setting aside a single judge bench order passed on September 26, 2022 directing the Managing Director SICOP to deposit an amount of Rs 11,54,154 with interest @ 18 % in the Registry of the Court or else to appear in person on the next date of hearing, a division bench comprising Justices Sanjeev Kumar and M.A Chowdhary said that the direction is beyond the scope of the judgment passed by the writ court.

However, the bench asked the single judge to proceed in the matter against other respondents for committing contempt of the court, if the judgment passed by the writ court is not complied with.

The court was hearing an appeal filed by Managing Director of SICOP challenging single bench order in contempt plea on the ground that no such direction as is contained in the order dated September 26, 2022 could have been passed against it when the Corporation was neither a party in the main petition which was disposed of by the single bench on December 14, 2017 nor the Corporation was a party in the contempt petition which was filed in the year 2020.

It was submitted that the Managing Director, SICOP was arrayed as party respondent in the contempt petition vide order dated June 29, 2022 that too by designation alone.

The court noted that SICOP was not arrayed as one of the parties in the petition nor any relief was claimed against it.

Taking note of the single judge bench verdict passed on December 14, 2017, the bench underscored that it is abundantly clear that the writ court has not issued any direction to SICOP to either release the salary of the employee (writ petitioner) or to pay him post retiral benefits.

"In that view of the matter, we have no doubt in our mind that no proceedings for committing contempt of the court can be initiated against the appellant (SICOP) in absence of any specific allegation against SICOP for deliberate or willful non compliance of the direction issued by the court," the bench said.

The bench said, "May be, it is true, that sum of Rs. 11,54,154 has been transferred by the Executive Engineer, Rural Engineering Wing Budgam, to the C.C account of SICOP maintained in the J&K Bank, Karan Nagar, Srinagar, but that does not render the appellant Corporation liable to be proceeded for committing contempt of the Court in absence of the proof that the SICOP has either violated the judgment of the writ court or has acted in a manner to frustrate its compliance."

The court said that the department of Rural Development may be well within its right to receive back the aforesaid amount transferred to SICOP, if it is permissible in law, but "this cannot render SICOP liable to be proceeded for contempt of the Court unless a willful disobedience of the court is demonstrated."

Allowing the plea, the court left it open to other respondents to get back the amount deposited in the account of the Managing Director, SICOP, if the same is erroneously deposited and is required to be reimbursed to the department of Rural Development under law.

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