Claims, counter claims over contempt of court expenses

Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar   | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

The Telangana High Court on Wednesday issued notices to the State government in a PIL petition which challenged sanctioning of ₹58.95 crore towards expenses for pending contempt of court cases against Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar.

A bench of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy instructed the government not to release any money under GO Routine No. 208 (Revenue) which was issued on this June 7. The CJ said “no question of releasing money” under the said GO till further orders from the court.

The bench directed Revenue Secretary, Finance Secretary, Director of Treasuries and Accounts and Chief Commissioner of Land Administration to file counter affidavits in the matter within four weeks. The petitioner Prabhakar Chouti, a research scholar from Osmania University, stated that Revenue department had issued GO 208 allocating ₹58.95 crore towards expenses for pending contempt cases against Somesh Kumar holding the posts of Chief Secretary and Chief Commissioner of Land Administration.

The petitioner stated that more than 180 contempt of court cases were pending against Mr. Somesh Kumar. The petitioner’s counsel, presenting his contentions, said an amount of ₹32.57 lakh was being spent for each of the contempt case on an average. He stated that the GO had multiple illegalities. The GO would send wrong signals that the State government was sponsoring litigation to violate court orders.

After hearing contentions of the petitioner, the bench issued notices to the government and posted the matter to October 27. The bench sought to know under which head of the account the money was sanctioned. The government needs to be explain what were the norms followed by Treasuries department to release such amount.

Within hours of the HC orders, Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar, who also holds the post of Revenue Secretary, reportedly filed an affidavit in the HC clarifying that the sum of ₹58.95 crore was not meant for expenses towards contempt of court cases against him. The money pertained to revalidation of the amount sanctioned for satisfaction of the execution petitions in Land Acquisition Original Petitions as directed by the bench in PIL petition No. 345/2017.

According to him, the government gave administrative sanction of ₹457.79 crore for disposal of pending execution petitions in Land Acquisition Original Petitions. Some District Collectors said the Treasury department returned the bills due to freeing of the budget. Eventually, that amount lapsed as it was not withdrawn during the financial year of 2019-20.

This compelled the government to place a request for revalidation for the year 2020-21. Stating that the averments made in the PIL petition were unfounded, Mr. Somesh Kumar requested the HC to dismiss the plea and impose exemplary costs on the petitioner.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 5:16:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/claims-counter-claims-over-contempt-of-court-expenses/article35731678.ece

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