Delhi HC Holds Three City Govt Officials Guilty of Contempt

Delhi High Court has found three city government officials, including the chief secretary, guilty of contempt for “wilfully disobeying” the “unambiguous directions” of a judicial order relating to payments to certain entities providing private stage carriage services to it under a cluster scheme.

The high court has also sought the presence of the chief secretary, special commissioner (transport) and the labour secretary before it.

Observing that the law of contempt is meant to serve the public interest and build confidence in the judicial process, Justice Rekha Palli said it was necessary to deal with the authorities in the present case “with a heavy hand”.

She listed the case for arguments on sentence on July 14.

A division bench of the high court had in December 2017 directed the authorities to separately redetermine the amount payable to the concessionaires providing private stage carriage services in view of an upward revision in the minimum wages.

In the contempt proceedings initiated by these concessionaires for non-compliance, the court rejected the authorities’ defence that there was no requirement to work out the incremental increase separately for each cluster, saying it was “wholly misconceived” and all pre-conditions for holding them guilty of contempt were made out.

“In the present case, the respondents, despite having repeatedly failed in their challenge to the order passed by the division bench, are deliberately attempting to circumvent and undermine the unambiguous directions issued by the division bench. It is, therefore, necessary to deal with the respondents with a heavy hand,” the court said in its order dated April 21.

“For the aforesaid reasons, this court finds the respondents guilty of contempt of court for wilfully disobeying the orders passed by the division bench

“List for arguments on sentence on 14.07.2023 on which the date the contemnors, ie, special commissioner transport, the chief secretary and the secretary labour of the government of the NCT of Delhi will remain present in court,” it ordered.

The court stated that the directions “were crystal clear” and the authorities were expected to effectuate necessary amendments to their formula by working out the amount payable to each cluster individually.

“The insistence of the respondents in applying the incremental increase of ‘Cluster 6’ to all other clusters, despite being well aware that the factual matrix of each cluster is different, and in fact, even the initial service hour rate of each cluster was always different, leaves no manner of doubt that the disobedience on the part of the respondents is wilful,” the court added.

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