HYDERABAD: The Telangana High Court on Tuesday sentenced Gajwel revenue divisional officer (RDO) D Vijayender Reddy and Kondapaka Mandal tahsildar B Prabhulu to two months simple imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on each of them in a contempt case relating to providing rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements before dispossessing the petitioners from land used for the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project.
“It is not for the respondent authorities to decide for themselves whether the order passed by the high court is correct or not... Such attitude amounts to willful and deliberate conduct warranting punishment,” Justice MS Ramachandra Rao said. The court, however, suspended the order for six weeks to let the officials file an appeal.
‘Officials can’t decide the correctness of order’
On August 1, the judge, while dealing with a petition filed by Ch Narayana Reddy and other farmers from Pragnyapur village in Kondapaka Mandal of the erstwhile Medak district, directed the authorities concerned not to dispossess the petitioners from the subject lands at Thipparam village in Kondapaka Mandal, acquired under the Mallanna Sagar reservoir, till rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements were paid to them as per Section 38 of Act 30 of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. When this order was violated, the present contempt case was filed, seeking action against the authorities concerned.
The petitioners’ counsel, B Rachna Reddy, contended that no gram sabha was conducted under the Act, the petitioners’ objections were not heard, and objections raised during the process of award enquiry were also not considered. The authorities concerned failed to provide rehabilitation and resettlement as required under the Act. Despite the court order, the authorities dispossessed the petitioners from their lands forcibly, destroyed mango trees, and levelled the land without disbursing compensation, she said.
After hearing both sides, the judge said that if the authorities were of the opinion that the petitioners were not entitled to rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements for whatever reasons, they should have filed an application for modification or vacating the order passed by the court earlier. The authorities cannot unilaterally decide the correctness of the court order and proceed to dispossess the petitioners from their land, the judge noted.
The judge cited the Supreme Court order in the Tayabbhai M Bagasarwalla vs Hind Rubber Industries Private Limited case, wherein it held that a party, who knows of an order, whether null or valid, regular or irregular, cannot be permitted to disobey it and they cannot themselves judge whether an order was null or valid.