High Court finds three varsity officials guilty of contempt of court

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has found three top officials of the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University — the then Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar and the Controller of Examinations — guilty of contempt of court, but did not impose any punishment because they tendered apology.

Justice K.P. Sivasubramaniam took a "lenient view" of the non-compliance of the court order and "clearly intentional dereliction of duty," and let them off with a warning. He said, "Let the three officials bear in mind that the rule of law is more important than personal likes and dislikes."

The matter relates to the shifting of an examination venue from S. Chattanathan Karayalar College of Arts and Sciences at Tenkasi.

Owing to disturbances on college campus, the university had imposed certain conditions for retaining the examination centre at the college.

However, even during the pendency of the writ petition and ignoring the fact that the advocate representing the university had intimated the authorities about the matter, the officials discussed the issue of shifting the venue from the college and communicated their resolution to the college.

Describing it as an act of contempt, the college preferred a petition against the then Vice-Chancellor, K. Chockalingam, Controller of Examination P. Gomathinayagam, and Registrar P. Nagarajan.

Quoting extensively from the deposition of the officials, Mr. Justice Sivasubramaniam concluded that they made "motivated and untrue statements" which were "unworthy of acceptance and was nothing but a pack of lies."

Referring to the former Vice-Chancellor's statement that he was under pressure from some members of the Syndicate to shift the venue, the judge said, "The result of the pressure was to throw the order of the court to the winds."

The judge said the very survival of judiciary depended on its orders being obeyed. "If a party thinks that he can disobey the order on his own self-serving opinion and self-appreciation...then that will sound the death knell for judiciary."

Concluding that the officials had deliberately violated the orders of court "buckling under pressure from interested groups," Mr. Justice Sivasubramaniam said, "I am inclined to view the disobedience in a lenient manner and let them off with a warning."