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Posted at: Feb 13, 2018, 1:21 AM; last updated: Feb 13, 2018, 1:21 AM (IST)ATTA-DAL SCHEME

IAS officer sentenced ‘till rising of court’

Rs 2,000 fine for ‘wilful disobedience’

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12

A year after IAS officer Shivdular Singh Dhillon and Bathinda Food Controller Jaspreet Singh Kahlon were convicted in a contempt of court case pertaining to the Atta-Dal scheme, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today sentenced them “till the rising of the court”.

Asserting that the court was inclined to impose “harsh fine” due to their “grave wilful disobedience”, Justice Jaswant Singh said it was constrained from doing so due to the limitations imposed by the Contempt of Courts Act.

Punishing them with Rs 2,000 fine each, Justice Jaswant Singh said: “On the one hand, the courts are being accused of using their powers excessively. On the other, officials like the respondents leave no stone unturned to provoke the court to use powers granted by the Constitution of India/legislature in order to meet the ends of justice”.

The directions came on a petition by depot holder Roshan Lal Prem Chand’s counsel Vijay K Jindal. In an order passed in October 2015, the state had been directed to pay transportation charges and “margin money” on wheat procured and distributed under the scheme.

For the purpose, the Bench had set a three-month deadline. At that time, the depot holders were provided transportation charges and margin money on pulses, but not wheat. Jindal contended that necessary payments had not been released within three months; and “no plausible justification whatsoever has been forthcoming”.

Justice Jaswant Singh said the OSD (litigation) had advised the state to comply with the order dated October 30, 2015, in December that year by making the payments directed by the High Court within the stipulated period. But the two respondents and other officials took their “own sweet time” in taking a decision on filing an appeal or complying with the order.

“It seems that the casual manner in which the decision-making process was done is due to the leniency shown by this court towards the officials at the time of entertaining contempt petitions, whereby, despite wilful default on part of the erring officials, they are let off without any action,” Justice Jaswant Singh said.

Referring to “lame apologies” from the respondents, the Judge ruled that a justifiable explanation was not coming forth to deter the court from taking a harsh view against them. Instead of complying with the order or filing an appeal within time, they were sitting over the file. “There is no doubt in the mind of the court that the respondents are liable to be punished…,” Justice Jaswant Singh said.

Contempt case

"It seems that the casual manner in which the decision-making process was done is due to the leniency shown by this court towards officials at the time of entertaining contempt petitions, whereby, despite wilful default on their part, they are let off without any action... There is no doubt in the mind of the court that the respondents are liable to be punished...." Justice Jaswant Singh

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