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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Contempt of Court - Not tenable pleas to say that the plaintiff is not possession – the plaintiff is trying to grab the land – without vacating the interim injunction orders . The submission of the learned Government Pleader for Revenue that as the petitioner was never in possession of the subject land the question of his dispossession does not arise is wholly meritless. Assuming that the petitioner was not in physical possession of the property, when the respondents were directed not to dispossess the petitioner till a finding is rendered by this Court that he was not in possession and the order is vacated, the petitioner is deemed to be in possession of the property. If the petitioner was not in physical possession of the subject land and trying to enter the land in the guise of the interim order, the only option left to the respondents was to file a counter affidavit seeking vacation of the interim order and evict the petitioner after getting the interim order vacated. In the guise of protecting the government land, the respondents cannot take law into their hands when the dispute is sub judice and an order directing them not to dispossess the petitioner was passed in unequivocal terms. By asserting that the petitioner was not in possession and acting based on such assertion, the respondents have usurped the role of the Court instead of seeking adjudication of the disputed question of possession by the Court. If such conduct of public servants is allowed to pass muster of this Court, there is every scope for judicial orders being violated with impunity based on the self-adjudication by the public servants regarding factum a persons possession of the property. If the acts of the public servants in forcibly entering the properties ignoring the orders of the Courts are condoned, there is a likelihood of their throwing out the persons who are in actual possession of the properties by raising a false plea that they were never in possession of the property and that they are trying to occupy the same in the guise of the order of the Court, as pleaded in this case. Such a situation must never be allowed to crop up as that would not only frustrate the judicial orders, but also undermine the authority of the Courts.

THE HONOURABLE SRI JUSTICE C.V. NAGARJUNA REDDY            

Contempt Case No.1770 of 2014

05-8-2015

Todeti Mallaiah Petitioner

B.Sammi Reddy    Tahsildar   Burghampahad Mandal   Burghampahad, Khammam      
District  and others  Respondents

COUNSEL FOR THE PETITIONER: Mr. P.Vishnuvardhan Reddy        

COUNSEL FOR THE RESPONDENTS: G.P. for Revenue (TS)        

<GIST

>HEAD NOTE:  

? CITATIONS:

THE HONBLE SRI JUSTICE C.V. NAGARJUNA REDDY          

       
CONTEMPT CASE NO.1770 of 2014    

DATED:5-8-2015


THE COURT MADE THE FOLLOWING:        


ORDER:

        The petitioner in W.P. No.37639 of 2013 filed this contempt case
alleging wilful disobedience of interim order dt.23.12.2013.
2.      The facts in a nutshell are as under.  Alleging unlawful interference
with his possession of land admeasuring Ac.3.00 in Sy.No.263 of
Tallagommuru Village, Burghampahad Mandal, Khammam District (for  
short, the subject land), by the respondents, the petitioner filed
W.P.No.37639 of 2013 before this Court.  In the affidavit filed in support
of the writ petition, it was averred that his father, late Venkateswarlu was
the cultivator of the subject land, which is conceded to be a government
land.  That his father has occupied the said land in 1950 and his name
was recorded in the revenue records, such as pahanies for the years
1963-64, 1969-70, 1971-72, 1978-79, and that after his fathers death in
the year 1982 he has succeeded to the subject land and he is in
possession of the same.  The petitioner further averred that on
25.11.2013 at about 8.30 a.m. respondent No.1 highhandedly started
erecting fencing poles surrounding the petitioners land without issuing
any show cause notice and without initiating proceedings under the
Andhra Pradesh Land Encroachment Act.  On 23.12.2013 this Court  
passed the following order:
        Pending further orders, the respondents shall not dispossess the
petitioners from the land admeasuring Acs.3.00 in Survey No.263 of
Tallagommuru Village, Burghamphad Mandal, Khammam District.  

3.      Thereafter, a complete quietus ensued for nearly 11 months.  In
the affidavit filed in support of the contempt case, the petitioner alleged
that on 15.10.2014 respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 illegally entered the subject
land and tried to demolish the temporary shed with JCB and that on the
objection raised and resistance put up by the petitioner and the villagers,
the said respondents have left the place with a warning that they will
come along with Police.  The petitioner further averred that he has
contacted his counsel and got legal notice dt.16.10.2014 issued through
Registered Post, which was received by the aforementioned respondents
on 18.10.2014.  That despite receipt of the contempt notice, respondent
Nos.1, 2 and 4 again came to the petitioners land on 19.10.2014 with
police force and that when the petitioner has shown the order of this
Court to the Police, they left the place stating that they will not interfere
with the Courts order while advising the respondents also not to destroy
the trees and temporary shed.  That without heeding to the advise of the
Police, respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 criminally trespassed into the land with
JCB, demolished temporary shed and removed one year old eucalyptus  
plants.
4.      In response to the notice of this Court, respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4
filed separate counter affidavits.  In his counter affidavit, respondent No.1
has pleaded that in pursuance of the policy decision taken by the
government to protect and safeguard the government lands situated in
urban and semi-urban areas by fencing around the same, the District
Collector directed all the Tahsildars in the District to protect the
government lands by fencing around them, vide his proceedings
dt.26.8.2013, that as per the directions of the Government and also of the
District Collector, respondent No.1 has surveyed the lands on 3.11.2013
and identified the government lands in Sy. Nos.262 and 263 of
Tallagommuru Village, Burghampahad Mandal, and requested respondent  
No.2 to sanction amount for laying fencing around the identified
government lands, and that respondent No.3 in turn issued proceedings
dt.21.11.2013 releasing a sum of Rs.1.00 lakh to meet the expenditure for
fencing the government lands and issued demand draft dt.21.11.2013.
That acknowledging the said sum of Rs.1.00 lakh, respondent No.1 has
requested respondent No.3 to release the balance sum of Rs.81,575/- on
2.12.2013 and since then the land admeasuring Ac.6.20 guntas in
Sy.No.263 was in the custody of the Government and the Village Revenue
Officer and the Mandal Revenue Inspector, Burghampahad, were directed
to protect the property.
5.      As regards the claim of the petitioner regarding his possession,
respondent No.1 has denied the same.  He has further averred that order
dt.23.12.2013 of this Court was received by the office of respondent No.1
on 3.1.2014.  He has also alleged that the petitioner has approached this
Court with unclean hands by making a false a claim that he has been in
possession of the subject land, though he has never been in possession of
the same.  He has termed the pahanies, cist receipts, title deeds and
pattadar pass books filed by the petitioner as forged and fabricated.  He
has further alleged that in violation of order dt.23.12.2013 and taking
advantage of Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, the petitioner
damaged the barbed-wire fencing, trespassed into the government land,
removed the signboard erected by the government and started
construction with cement bricks by engaging labour and that immediately
after noticing the same, respondent No.4 and Mandal Revenue Inspector
resisted the action of the petitioner and removed all the material on the
spot including the cement bricks wall and thereafter respondent No.1 has
filed a vacate stay petition, being W.V.M.P.3487 of 2014 in the writ
petition, and the same is pending.  Respondent No.1 has referred to an
earlier incident of the petitioner allegedly trying to destroy the fence
around the government land and filing of the complaint by the Mandal
Revenue Inspector and lodging Police report dt.15.1.2014.
6.      Respondent No.1 while admitting receipt of legal notice,
dt.16.10.2014, caused to him by the petitioner, on 18.10.2014, however
stated that he has issued a suitable reply dt.22.10.2014 claiming that the
government is in possession of the land and fencing work was also
completed in all respects.  He has also averred that on 16.10.2014 he has
filed a Police report.  Along with the counter affidavit, respondent No.1
has filed correspondence between himself and respondent No.2 in support
of his plea that barbed fence was erected. He has also filed photographs
showing existence of barbed wire fence.  The counter affidavit filed by
respondent Nos.2 and 4 are also of similar tenor as that of respondent
No.1.
7.      I have heard Mr. P. Vishnu Vardhan Reddy, learned counsel for the
petitioner, and the learned Government Pleader for Revenue (TS).
8.      Before undertaking further discussion on the merits of the case, I
would like to clarify that I do not intend to render any finding on the
entitlement or otherwise of the petitioner to remain in possession of the
subject property.  The narrow scope of this contempt case is confined to
whether the admitted action of respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 constitutes
wilful violation of the order of this Court.
9.      The following facts are not in dispute.  That the subject land is
Government land.  That this Court has granted interim order
dt.23.12.2013 in W.P. No.37639 of 2013 restraining the respondents from
dispossessing the petitioner from the subject land.  That when the
respondents have entered the land and tried to remove the structures the
petitioner caused legal notice dt.16.10.2014 on the respondents, which
was received by them on 18.10.2014 and that on 19.10.2014 they have
removed the structures and the entire material lying on the subject land.
10.     As noted above, the only defence of the respondents was that the
petitioner was never in possession of the subject property as a fence was
laid even before the petitioner filed the writ petition and secured an
interim order.  Let me assume for the present case that the petitioner was
not in possession of the property when the writ petition was filed and he
was making repeated attempts to enter the land.  On this admitted fact
situation, what should be the conduct of the respondents, needs to be
discussed.  When the petitioner has filed the writ petition allegedly based
on false allegations and fabricated documents, the respondents are
expected to approach this Court within a reasonable time by filing a
counter seeking vacation of the interim order.  On their own showing till
they have removed the structures and thrown away the material from the
subject land they have not even filed a counter affidavit.  When the
petitioner has allegedly tried to enter the property in the guise of the
interim order, being responsible public servants, the respondents are
expected to at least issue a notice to the petitioner calling upon him to
refrain from doing so.  Far from issuing such notice, the respondents have
not even responded to the contempt notice caused by the petitioner
through his Lawyer on 16.10.2014 which was admittedly received by the
respondents on 18.10.2014.  Though respondent Nos.1 and 3 in their
counter affidavits have claimed that they have replied to the legal notice
dt.16.10.2014, neither proof of receipt of such reply by the petitioner has
been adduced, nor at least a copy of the same has been filed by them
along with the counter affidavits.  Even if the respondents felt justified in
trying to allegedly prevent the petitioner from entering the land by cutting
the barbed wire fence and trying to erect the shed on 15.10.2014, at least
after they have received the contempt notice on 18.10.2014 they ought to
have refrained from causing further interference and obtained legal
advice.  The nonchalant conduct of respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 is reflected
from the fact that disregarding the interim order as well as the contempt
notice, they have engaged a heavy equipment such as JCB and removed  
the shed which appeared to be partly constructed as evident from the
photographs.  Such conduct on the part of the respondents is highly
deplorable, in the face of the order granted by this Court to the effect that
they shall not dispossess the petitioner from the subject land.
11.     The submission of the learned Government Pleader for Revenue
that as the petitioner was never in possession of the subject land the
question of his dispossession does not arise is wholly meritless.  Assuming
that the petitioner was not in physical possession of the property, when
the respondents were directed not to dispossess the petitioner till a
finding is rendered by this Court that he was not in possession and the
order is vacated, the petitioner is deemed to be in possession of the
property.  If the petitioner was not in physical possession of the subject
land and trying to enter the land in the guise of the interim order, the only
option left to the respondents was to file a counter affidavit seeking
vacation of the interim order and evict the petitioner after getting the
interim order vacated.  In the guise of protecting the government land,
the respondents cannot take law into their hands when the dispute is sub
judice and an order directing them not to dispossess the petitioner was
passed in unequivocal terms.  By asserting that the petitioner was not in
possession and acting based on such assertion, the respondents have
usurped the role of the Court instead of seeking adjudication of the
disputed question of possession by the Court.  If such conduct of public
servants is allowed to pass muster of this Court, there is every scope for
judicial orders being violated with impunity based on the self-adjudication
by the public servants regarding factum a persons possession of the
property.  If the acts of the public servants in forcibly entering the
properties ignoring the orders of the Courts are condoned, there is a
likelihood of their throwing out the persons who are in actual possession
of the properties by raising a false plea that they were never in possession
of the property and that they are trying to occupy the same in the guise
of the order of the Court, as pleaded in this case.  Such a situation must
never be allowed to crop up as that would not only frustrate the judicial
orders, but also undermine the authority of the Courts.
12.     It is indeed intriguing that the respondents have slept over the case
for almost one year without even filing a counter affidavit and raised a
bogie of protecting the government property by interfering with the
petitioners right of being in possession conferred by the interim order of
this Court.  Such brazen violation of the judicial orders seriously damages
the fabric of rule of law and brings down the majesty of the Courts.  The
respondents being public servants must jealously protect the dignity of the
Court and follow and implement judicial orders of the Courts in their letter
and spirit.  On the admitted facts, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever
in  my mind that respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 have brazenly violated the
order of the Court in the guise of protecting the government land.  Their
act borders on a complete lack of respect, responsibility and accountability
towards the judicial order passed by a Constitutional Court.
13.     For the above reasons, I have no hesitation to hold that respondent
Nos.1, 2 and 4 have deliberately and wilfully violated the order of this
Court and they are accordingly held guilty of committing contempt of
court.
14.     As regards sentence, considering the facts and circumstances of
the case, I feel that imposition of fine of Rs.1,000/- (Rupees one thousand
only) on each of respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 would meet the ends of
justice.  Ordered accordingly.  Respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 are allowed
four weeks time for paying the fine failing which they must suffer simple
imprisonment for one week.  The appointing authority shall enter the
conviction and sentencing of respondent Nos.1, 2 and 4 in their respective
service registers.

__________________________  
C.V. NAGARJUNA REDDY, J    
05-8-2015 

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