Do not play with court orders, SC says to the young IAS officer

NEW DELHI: A young woman IAS officer was at the receiving end of the Supreme Court’s ire on Tuesday when a bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi ticked her off along with her superior, the Haridwar district magistrate, with a warning not to play with court orders.

Acting on a Uttarakhand HC order, Haridwar district magistrate Deepak Rawat and Rorkee joint magistrate Nikita Khandelwal initiated demolition drive against encroachments on public roads in Jaurasi village. But a CJI-led bench had on November 22 asked the district magistrate to first give notice to the alleged encroachers, hear objections and then take a decision.

However, when demolition was started in Jaurasi village on November 27, allegedly without following the protocol set by the apex court, some villagers through counsel Sanjay K Dubey and Suchi Singh moved an urgent contempt application against Rawat and Khandelwal. The SC on November 28 ordered stay of demolition and sought response from the two IAS officers.

After perusing identical responses filed by the two officers, both of whom took the alibi that they had got the SC’s November 22 order late, CJI Gogoi asked, “Is the story of the district magistrate believable? The SC order is of November 22, they get it on November 26 and did not understand till 5 pm of November 27. And the joint magistrate says she is a young IAS officer who did not understand.”

When the IAS officers’ counsel Abhishek Atrey was attempting to retrieve the situation with profuse apologies, the woman IAS officer raised her hand a couple of times from the visitor’s gallery to draw the CJI’s attention. The CJI responded by telling her that she was disturbing court proceedings and this could amount to contempt of court.

The bench said, “If we record that both of you are guilty of contempt of court and even if we let you go by accepting your apologies, it will stay in your records and haunt you for your entire life.”

Dubey tried to take advantage of the situation and attempted to intervene, but the bench shut him up by saying, “You are an encroacher, why should the court hear you? You should be evicted. We at present are on the conduct of the two IAS officers.”

When Atrey renewed his apology and promised that the officers would act strictly in accordance with the SC order, the bench adjourned the case to December 10 with a warning “don’t play with court orders”. It told them to correct their actions and approach.

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