Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sherwood College: Supreme Court directs trial court to complete proceedings within six months, consider day-to-day trial, if need arises

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The Supreme Court has dismissed a Miscellaneous Application filed by the Sherwood Diocesan College Society, Nainital, against the Deputy Registrar, Firms, Societies and Chits, regarding the management of the Society. 

The Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed on September 26 that it was not inclined to entertain the present application, since the defendants’ evidence had already been commenced before the Trial Court. 

The Apex Court then directed the Trial Court to conduct proceedings on a day-to-day basis and conclude the same within six months.

On February 28 this year, the Apex Court had directed the Civil Judge of Nainital to complete the civil suit on the management of Sherwood College, between the Society and others, within the next six months.

The order was passed on a special leave petition filed by Sherwood Diocesan College Society, seeking modification of an earlier order to allow it to manage the day-to-day affairs of the institution.

This was for the second time that the top court of the country had set a timeframe. In February 2021, it had directed disposing of the suit in nine months.

The Society had moved the Supreme Court this year, seeking to modify the earlier order of 2021, since it wanted to re-establish control on the College, as its principal Amandeep Sandhu was running the college unchecked.

The conflict came to light in October, 2020, when the CNI Agra Diocese suspended Principal Sandhu for what it called financial irregularities. The Society in its plea before the Supreme Court in 2021, had said that Sandhu had been sacked for not obtaining its approvals over the money spent from college finances.

The Society then appointed Peter Dhiraj Emmanuel as the interim principal. However, Emmanuel was unable to take charge of the College since Sandhu and his officials did not allow him in, nor ceded control. Emmanuel got police protection from the Uttarakhand High Court in December 2021, but the High Court ordered status quo without a change in administration.

Two High Court judges had also recused themselves from the case. The Society then moved the Supreme Court, leading to the first timeframe for the Civil Judge to end the dispute in nine months in 2021.

Sandhu has blamed the entire fracas as a conspiracy against him and has been defiant in saying that he is not answerable to the Agra Diocese, which had in fact appointed him in 2004 and then confirmed him in 2008.

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan and Advocate-On-Record (AOR) Rohit Amit Sthalekar represented the petitioners, while Senior Advocate Vibha Datta Makhija and Advocate Shariq Ahmed appeared for the respondents. 

Case title: Sherwood Diocesan College Society, Nainital vs Deputy Registrar, Firms, Societies and Chits & Others

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