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Bombay High Court Drops Contempt Proceedings Against State Government Officers

Apologies Lead to Resolution

In a recent development, the Bombay High Court has decided to drop contempt of court proceedings against five high-ranking State government officers who faced legal action for non-compliance with court orders. This decision came after the officers personally appeared in court and tendered their apologies.

Court’s Disapproval of Officer Conduct

A Bench consisting of Justices GS Kulkarni and Jitendra Jain expressed disapproval of the conduct of high-ranking officers who failed to comply with court orders. The judges emphasized that such actions could convey to citizens that court orders were not binding.

All five officers appeared in court and formally apologized for their actions. The Advocate General, Dr. Birendra Saraf, acknowledged the delay in compliance but highlighted that the orders were eventually followed. He also pointed out that these officers did not face contempt proceedings in any other court.

Accepting the apologies, the Bench decided to drop the contempt proceedings against the officers. It’s worth noting that on August 31, 2023, the same Bench had sentenced these officers to one month of civil imprisonment for contempt of court.

Officers Involved

The five officers involved in this case were:

  • Aseem Gupta (former Principal Secretary of Relief and Rehabilitation Department)
  • Bijaysinh Deshmukh (Pune Additional Collector)
  • Uttam Patil (Deputy Collector in Rehabilitation Department)
  • Sachin Kale (Revenue Officer)
  • Praveen Salunkhe (Land Acquisition Department)

Proposed Changes in Procedure

During the hearing, Justice Kulkarni suggested considering a provision where ‘last-minute apologies’ through affidavits are not accepted. The Court discussed the possibility of allowing officers to file undertakings within the administration, detailing any previous contempt proceedings against them. This would help identify if an officer had a history of disobeying court orders.

Call for a Special Cell

The Court advised the State government to establish a special cell to coordinate with lawyers on the numerous cases related to land acquisition. It emphasized that relying solely on Collectors was insufficient and that many individuals were awaiting justice in land acquisition matters.

Background of Contempt Petitions

The contempt petitions stemmed from 26 farmers who claimed that the State had not allocated land to them as project-affected persons, as directed by a High Court order from March 2022. Despite receiving notices, the officers failed to respond, leading to the contempt proceedings.

Stay Granted and Resolution

After Senior Advocate Milind Sathe requested a stay on behalf of the contemnors, the Court granted the officers one last chance and stayed its previous order for a week, ultimately leading to the resolution of the case.


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