The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Mayawati government for not taking seriously its September 11 restraint order on construction of memorials, and said the affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary was lacking in sincerity and was just“eyewash.”
“What differentiates democracy from majoritarianism is Constitution and the rule of law. As a democratic government you should have stopped construction after we passed the order,” said Justice Aftab Alam in his oral observations during the hearing of a petition against building memorials in Lucknow.
Justice B.N. Agrawal concurred with the observations of Justice Alam.
Justice Agrawal told senior counsel Harish Salve and senior counsel S.C. Mishra, appearing for Uttar Pradesh: “The Chief Secretary, in his affidavit, has admitted that work was going on at least at three sites, saying they were not the subject matter of the writ petitions. If you have any doubt or confusion, you ought to have approached this court for clarifications. Construction seems to have been continued on instructions from the highest level. You tell us who has given the instructions. No Tom, Dick or Harry would have given it. It must have come from the highest level.”
Justice Alam told Mr. Salve: “You [government] don’t play politics with the court. You don’t’ behave in the court as you do with other political parties in the Assembly. I am saying this with deep pain. You seem to take this court as an adversary.”
When Mr. Salve said the entire construction site covered 75 acres and construction was continued at three sites spread over about 30 acres, which were not the subject matter of the writ petitions, Justice Alam said: “I say it was an imprudent act. You are behaving as if this court is hostile and antagonistic to you. Don’t take the court as an adversary as if you have to score points in court. After the court’s order you ought to have come to us. Any prudent government would have stopped work. You force us to look at you with suspicion.”
Earlier, senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for petitioner Mithilesh Kumar Singh, asserted that the government was continuing construction at the memorial sites in Lucknow despite the restraint order. He said the projects had been split into 24 sites and there was an attempt to show that they were not covered under the restraint order and on that basis construction was continued.
Mr. Singhvi said the fact that the Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, N. Ram, had filed an affidavit in support of the reports published in the newspaper on the information given by its correspondent and the photographer explaining how the construction activities were continuing on September 10 was enough to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the government for violating the order.
Mr. Singhvi said: “Neither The Hindu nor Mr. Ram has any animus towards the Mayawati government to say something false. There is a clear case for initiating contempt going by the affidavit of Mr. Ram.”
Justice Alam told Mr. Salve, “Mr. Ram is a reputed journalist in India and head of a newspaper. You have to give due respect to his affidavit.”
Mr. Salve maintained that there was no violation of the order. He said what was done was only maintenance, cleaning, and removing garbage at the sites which were not the subject matter of the writ petitions.
Mr. Agrawal asked Mr. Mishra on whose instructions he gave the undertaking. “Was it the Chief Secretary or any one else?”
Mr. Mishra said he gave the undertaking on his own and immediately informed the senior officials, including the Cabinet Secretary and the Chief Secretary.
Arguments will continue on Tuesday.