Right to livelihood is guaranteed right, can’t be denied on official delays: CAT

Srinagar, Dec 24: Pulling up J&K’s three top officers for resorting to delays to defy its orders, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Srinagar has held that “contempt is between the court and the contemnor”.

“Regarding the disobedience shown by the Administrative Secretary and the Commissioner Secretary and the Transport Commissioner, we feel it proper at this point of time to defer further proceedings against them,” a division bench of M S Latif, Member (J), and Prasant Kumar, Member (A), said and listed a contempt plea on January 29, 2024.

“By that time, the order of the court will be complied with in its letter and spirit,” it said.

The matter related to the release of wages earned by a man since 2007.

“Right to livelihood as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is a guaranteed right and same cannot be denied without any reason or based on any official delays or otherwise,” the court said. “Official delays and absence of motivation can be no ground to subvert the orders passed by the courts as people approach the courts with the hopes being the temple of justice.”

Miffed over the attitude of the Transport Commissioner for defiance, the court reiterated the observations of J&K’s Chief Secretary that “it was the joint responsibility of the judiciary and the executive to mitigate the sufferings of the citizens”.

The court noted that the instant case was a case where a wage earner was deprived of his wages from the year 2007.

The court observed that earlier the Transport Commissioner made a statement in the open court that the case of the release of the legitimate dues to the petitioner had been forwarded to the Finance Department and the statement of the officer was taken on record.

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While the bench underscored that it could not ignore the law that contempt was between the court and the contemnor, it said: “The irresponsible attitude of the official and unnecessary delay in compliance of the orders passed by the court prima facie is tantamount to not only contempt of court but (it) also entail disciplinary proceedings as warranted under law.”

The court made the observations while noting that in keeping with its directions neither the Administrative Secretary of the Transport Department Was present nor the Commissioner Transport.

However, it said that RTO Kashmir, Shahnawaz Bukhari was present in the court along with Arif Parvez Shah, Assistant Transport Commissioner (ATC), J&K.

Regarding an application filed by the Transport Commissioner for seeking his exemption from personal appearance, the court observed that the application was signed by Arif Parvez Shah, ATC, and the same was verified and supported by a duly sworn affidavit solemnly affirmed by the officer.

The court observed that the ATC submitted in the application that the absence of the respondent before the tribunal was not deliberate or willful.

“Perusal of the exemption application reveals that Rahul Sharma, Transport Commissioner, J&K cannot cause his personal appearance as he was presently stationed at Jammu,” the court observed.

The court observed that the ATC while signing the affidavit had also signed the verification which had been verified on December 20, 2023, at Jammu.

The court observed that the officer had affirmed that the grounds as projected in the affidavit were true and correct to his knowledge.

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“Prima facie it appears that the deponent Arif Parvez Shah, Assistant Transport Commissioner, has filed a false affidavit before this court, which needs to be dealt with separately by the law,” the court observed.

While the court observed that it was not concerned with the official wrangles or the inordinate delays in complying with its orders, it said: “This court is squarely concerned about the compliance of the orders in their letter and spirit.”

Eventually, the court noted the submission of Government Advocate, Waseem Gul that the compliance of the court orders was under active consideration.

The court also observed that RTO Kashmir in the open court submitted that there was significant progress in the case and he expected that the same would be complied with.

“Taking a lenient view once again, though not warranted in the facts and circumstances, as we were inclined to frame a rule but having a lenient view yet again and the statement made by RTO Kashmir, that there is a significant progress in the matter, we adjourn the matter by two weeks,” the bench said.

The court ordered that on January 29, 2024, the next date of hearing, the Transport Commissioner along with RTO Kashmir would remain present before it at 4:30 pm as it would not like the officers to utilise public time in the court.

It also directed its Registry to send a copy of the order to the Chief Secretary.

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