M A I N   N E W S

Maharashtra minister gets 1-month jail

New Delhi, May 10
The Supreme Court today sentenced Maharashtra Transport Minister Swaroop Singh Nayak and state Additional Chief Secretary Ashok Khot to one-month simple imprisonment for violation of court orders.

Nayak was the state Forest Minister and Khot was Principal Forest Secretary in 2004, when they permitted six veneer and plywood mills to operate from the reserve forest area in the state. This was in violation of the apex court order passed in 1997, ordering the closure of over 100 such mills operating from the forest area.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice S.H. Kapadia, in their order observed, “The contemners were guilty of insertion of notes in the official file with oblique motive. In this case, they deserve severe punishment and this will set an example for those who have the temerity to disregard the court order irrespective of their social and official status.”

The Minister has, however, taken the defence that he had accepted the report of the seniormost officer in his ministry, who was having a difference of opinion with his deputy secretary. He also pleaded that the licence to the six mills was granted by the Centre under the Industries Development Regulation Act and the state government had no role to play.

Meanwhile, Mr Tapesh Kumar Singh, counsel for the contemner, said he would file a review petition along with the application for suspension of the sentence.

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his deputy R.R. Patil today declined to comment on the one-month simple imprisonment given by the Supreme Court to their colleague Swaroop Singh Nayak, saying they have not yet seen the court order.

The Chief Minister, after presiding over the weekly Cabinet here today, did not brief the media as has been customary, apparently to avoid making comment on the issue.

When chased, Mr Deshmukh cryptically said “No comments” while getting into his car at the state civil secretariat here this afternoon.

Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil said, “Since we have not seen the judgement, it will be premature to comment.” Asked if Mr Naik will resign, he said, “No comment right now.” —UNI


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