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Supreme Court warns TN govt officers, drops contempt proceedings against them

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The Supreme Court has decided to close the contempt proceedings against nine officers of the Tamil Nadu Government for not implementing a direction to revise the seniority list of officers in the Public Works Department. 
In October last year, the Court had found them guilty of contempt of court for violating the Court’s judgement and the matter was kept for sentence hearing. Later, the directions were implemented and the contemnors expressed remorse. 

Warning the contemnors to be careful in future for prompt implementation of the Top Court’s directions, the bench of Justices LN Rao and BR Gavai in their order said.

On October 1, 2021 the Supreme Court had held nine officers guilty of contempt of court for their failure to follow the order passed by the Supreme Court on January 22, 2016. These include M Vijayakumar IAS (Secretary, Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission); S. Thinakaran (Engineer-in-Chief, WRD and Chief Engineer (General), TN PWD); S Swara IAS (Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu, P & AR Dept; K Ramamoorthy (Engineer-in-Chief(WRO) and Chief Engineer(General), TN PWD); K Nanthakumar IAS (Secretary, TNPSC); K Shanmugham (Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu; K Manivasan IAS (Principal Secretary to Govt of TN); SK Prabhakar (Secretary, PWD), and Bhaktavachalam. 
The contempt petitions stated that the respondents published a revised seniority list breaching the principle laid down by the Supreme Court. The Court had also directed the respondents on October 1, 2021 to revise and publish the seniority list of the selectees, who were selected in the selection process conducted in pursuance of the notification issued by TNPSC dated September 10, 1999, strictly on the basis of the merit determined by it in the selection process and not on the basis of roster point.This was directed to be done within a period of 12 weeks.

While posting the matter for January 10, 2022 for hearing the contemnors on the quantum of punishment, the Court had also directed the officers to be present before the Court for hearing. Reporting compliance of the directions issued by the top court of the country by way of an affidavit, the counsel informed the court that the seniority list of all the persons concerned and not restricted to the petitioners has been altered.

Appearing for the petitioners, Advocates Prashant Bhushan and N.Subramanian had submitted that the contemner’s conduct of disobeying the Top Court’s order 
despite repeated directions was wilful, with an ulterior motive and no leniency should be shown to them. They had also voiced their grievances by stating that they had to knock the doors of the top court on several occasions for implementation of the directions issued in 2016.

It was also their contention that the contemnors had scant respect for the orders of this court and deserve to to be punished by being sent to jail at least for a month.

Appearing for the contemnors, Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, CS Vaidyanathan, P Wilson and V Giri submitted that the contemnors being public servants were bound to
implement the policies of the State Government. It was also submitted that during the pendency of the litigation, a legislation was enacted and a decision was taken to file a review petition in the High Court. Senior Counsel(s) also submitted that the contemnors had no personal animosity towards the petitioner.

It was further submitted that the contemnors tendered unconditional apology for not carrying out the directions issued by this Court promptly and, therefore, they should be pardoned for the mistake committed by them.

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