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Supreme Court stays contempt of court notice to Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari

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The Supreme Court has stayed the contempt of court notice to Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari sent by the Uttarakhand High Court for not paying the rent for government bungalow when he was chief minister of Uttarakhand.

A three-judge Bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman, K.M. Joseph and Krishna Murari issued the directions while hearing a plea filed by Koshyari contending that he was never a part of the process to determine market rent of the residential premises allotted to him. The plea has been tagged with another pending petition challenging the basis at which the High Court decided the market rent rates.

The High Court’s order has previously also been challenged by state of Uttarakhand and two other former Chief Ministers, where notice was issued by the apex court and stay was ordered on the contempt proceedings pending before the High Court.

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Article 361 provides protection to the President of India and the Governors of states from legal action before courts. Koshyari’s plea has stated that since he is the sitting Governor of Maharashtra, the bar under Article 361 of the Constitution of India cannot be ignored while issuing notice in a plea seeking contempt action against him. According to Koshyari, he had occupied the residential premises under an order issued by a lawful authority under a rule, which was not in dispute at the time of allotment and had vacated the residence as soon as he was required by law to do so. The impugned order of the High Court had held that after calculation of the market value of residential premises that Koshyari occupied when he was the Chief Minister, he owed Rs 47.5 lakh in dues. The High Court has also dismissed the review petition filed against its verdict in August  2019.

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