“Unnecessary harassment of the officers”, says SC as it rebukes Allahabad HC for summoning UP officials despite top court’s stay of order for which contempt was alleged

THE Supreme Court Tuesday expressed shock at the Allahabad High Court decision to go ahead with contempt proceedings and asking the officer concerned to personally present himself to court despite the top court having already stayed the order in which contempt was alleged.

“To say the least, we are quite shocked at the perusal of the order dated 02.03.2021. Once the operation of the order has been stayed, the natural consequence would be that the contempt proceedings would be kept in abeyance”, a bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said.

On March 2, a bench of Justice CD Singh of the High Court exempted the personal appearance of Additional Chief Secretary Amit Mohan Prasad and Director General, Medical and Health Devendra Singh for March 2 but asked them to remain present before the court on April 8.

Rebuking the high court, the Supreme Court said “Once the order of which contempt was alleged was stayed, there would be no cause for calling the officers as there was no question of any non-compliance of the order which had been stayed”.

The top court while staying the contempt proceedings said as and when, if the occasion so arises, for restarting the contempt proceedings, the matter will be placed before a bench of another judge.

It added that even on occasions through judicial pronouncements, it had deprecated the practice of unnecessarily calling officers to court.

Referring to the decision of the Supreme Court in State of U.P. & Ors. v. Jasvir Singh & Ors, the bench which also had Justice Hemant Gupta, said the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judiciary cannot be frittered away by unnecessary and unwarranted show or exercise of power. Greater the power, greater should be the responsibility in exercising such power1. The frequent, casual and lackadaisical summoning of high officials by the court cannot be appreciated

“No doubt if the order is not complied with, presence can be directed unless exempted. However, if the operation of the order is stayed, we fail to understand what purpose was being served by calling the officers for the next date as no specific date had been fixed by the Court post the stay having been granted”, the SC said.

It said it believed that this was unnecessary harassment of the officers and there was no occasion to pass the order on 02.03.2021.

The Supreme Court on February 22 issued notice on the appeal filed by the UP government against the Allahabad High Court’s order directing it to calculate and pay 50 % of the back wages to its employee for the period 05.07.2003 to 28.12.2016 and complete the entire exercise of not only paying the amount but also granting all the consequential benefits which he was entitled to in accordance with law.

The high court’s division bench on March 5, 2020, dismissed the appeal against single judge order against which UP government had approached the top court. While admitting the appeal, the top court had stayed the high court’s order.

Read the Order