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Wednesday, February 21, 2001

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Ex-Mayor held guilty of contempt of Lok Ayukta

JABALPUR, FEB. 20. In a pioneering judgment, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has held the former Bhopal Mayor, Mr. Uma Shankar Gupta, guilty of contempt of Lok Ayukta for his defamatory remarks against the body.

The judgment was delivered by a Division Bench, comprising Mr. Justice C.K. Prasad And Ms. Usha Shukla, in exercise of suo motu power By the High Court. Mr. Gupta had alleged at a press conference on October 22, 1999 that in order to influence Lok Ayukta, Mr. Justice Faizanuddin, the Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh, exerted pressure on officials involved in cases under investigation by the Lok Ayukta, to award a Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) contract to the Lok Ayukta's son, Mr. M.Z. Siddiqui, against the wishes of the Mayor-in-Council, which had revoked the contract.

The judgment assumes further significance in the wake of the State Cabinet's recent approval of a Bill seeking to give the same power and authority to the Lok Ayukta and Upalok Ayukta in matters regarding their contempt, as are enjoyed by the High Court.

The letter of intent was issued by the BMC Commissioner in exercise of the State Government's statutory authorisation. The court observed that Balaji Traders, which was given the tender, was a consortium of several constituents, one of whom was Mr. Siddiqui, who had a five per cent stake in the firm in his capacity as engineer.

Mr. Gupta's statement amounted to contempt of the high office, as it gave the impression that the Lok Ayukta could be influenced, the Court said, adding that this tended to affect the credibility and dignity of the office and people's faith in it. ``What impression will an individual have when it is sought to be conveyed that the Lok Ayukta can also be influenced,'' it asked. The court stated that the contempter had unnecessarily dragged the name of Lok Ayukta while attacking his political rival. Though Mr. Gupta had represented before the court that he had high regard for the Lok Ayukta and not made any insinuation against it, he had not tendered an apology, the court said.

- UNI

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