Court raps Delhi official for contempt
New Delhi, March 20 : The Delhi High Court Wednesday came down heavily on the director of night shelters in the city, issuing a contempt of court notice against him for writing and seeking details from an NGO that is party in the night shelter case.
The court said the conduct of the officer indicated a clear case of "interference in the administration of justice".
A division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice V.K. Jain pulled up A.K. Sharma, director of night shelters in Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, asking him to explain in what capacity he wrote the letter to the NGO "when the court has taken the suo moto notice of the matter and case is still pending with it".
"In our opinion, it's the clear case of interference in the administration of justice. Criminal proceedings of contempt of case to be initiated against him. He has to explain why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him," the bench said in the order and posted the matter for April 1.
The officer faced court's ire after senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, told the court that Sharma Feb 14 wrote a letter to the NGO asking it to explain how payment is being made to its advocate. He added that if information is not provided, it will be presumed that the advocate is being paid "unsystematically".
The bench asked Sharma, who was present in the court, why he wrote to the NGO when the court is monitoring the case. It also refused to accept his apology, saying he has to face action now. "Now he has to lose his job," the court remarked.
"This court is monitoring very few cases because of the importance of the case. When we are monitoring the case, why do you want the details? We permitted the advocate to argue the matter, then how could you (Sharma) question his (lawyer's) presence in the case?" asked the court.
The court said that the night shelter case is an important matter and that is why the court is monitoring it from 2010.
Unhappy with the conduct of the officer, the court asked him "how many nights did you spend in the night shelters? Go and spend nights on roads in the winters, then you will know the real situation. It's easy to sit in an AC room."
Meanwhile, the Delhi government's standing counsel Najmi Waziri said the officer's conduct was "not defendable".
Sharma, in his letter to the NGO which is fighting the case for providing night shelters to the poor homeless people, sought details including how the NGO made payment to its advocate.
"An advocate is appearing in the court on every date on behalf of Shahri Adhikari Manch. The payment of fee might have also been made either through cash or cheque and from the account of this organisation. This information may also be provided. In absence of the information, it shall be presumed that payment of fee to the advocate is being paid unsystematically by this organisation," he wrote.
Sharma's letter stated that the organisation is also providing some books, documents and other information through printing material from a source of black money, adding that the information will be forwarded to the appropriate authority for action in case the NGO does not reply.
He sought name of the chairman of its executive committee and registration number of organisation.
The court had earlier taken suo moto cognizance of a media report about the demolition of a night shelter set up by NGOs in December 2010 and the civic bodies doing nothing to protect the homeless from the cold.