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MADURAI: The contempt of court proceedings cannot be used to punish individuals accused of not complying with the court orders which are actually impossible to comply with due to the reasons beyond the contemner's control, the Madras High Court has said.
Justice K. Chandru made the observation while dismissing two contempt applications filed against N. Mathivanan, former Collector of Salem district and V. Rajendran, former Director of Tamil Development Department for non-compliance of an order passed by a single judge on October 30, 2006.
The single judge had directed the officials to pay monthly pension to two persons, who had participated in the Anti-Hindi agitation in 1986, under the category of Tamil scholars.
He had also criticised the officials for not honouring the plea of the petitioners who had fought for their mother tongue.
However, the Collector expressed his difficulties in implementing the single judge's order in view of a judgment passed by the Supreme Court in R.R. Dalavai's case (1976) wherein the apex court had disapproved of the practice of honouring those who opposed Hindi.
Then, the judges had said: “In our opinion, the pension scheme formulated by the Tamil Nadu Government contains the vice of disintegration and fomenting fissiparous tendencies. If any State will be engaged in exciting emotion against Hindi or any other language such provocation has to be nipped in the bud because these are anti-national and anti-democratic tendencies.”
Accepting the explanation offered by the Collector, Mr. Justice Chandru recalled that the Madras Provincial Consumers Association and Freedom and Fighters' Association had filed a writ petition in the High Court in 1997 to prohibit the government from granting pension to Anti-Hindi agitators out of tax payers' money.
The writ petition was allowed in favour of the petitioners on October 8, 2003 by following the Supreme Court judgement in Dalavai's case.
The government preferred an appeal with an enormous delay of 1,094 days but a Division Bench of the High Court refused to condone the delay on March 26, 2007.
“The present contempt applicants have not questioned all those proceedings and also by clearly suppressing those developments, they have secured an order from the learned single judge on October 30, 2006 which also gave rise to the contempt proceedings.
“This court is satisfied with the explanation offered by the respondents (Collector and Director) in the case. In the given case, the respondents are unable to implement the order passed by this court due to reasons beyond their control and certainly, contempt proceedings cannot be used to punish such officials,” the judge also added.
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