CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has directed the Greater Chennai Police Commissioner to arrest Higher Education Secretary Mangat Ram Sharma and produce him before the court on January 9 in connection with a contempt of court case.
Justice N Kirubakaran gave the direction while passing interim orders on the contempt application from the Association of Self Financing Arts, Science and Management of Colleges, on Monday. Originally, the petitioner association had filed a writ petition for a direction to the Bharathiyar University not to grant affiliation or sign memorandums of understanding (MOU) to conduct distance education Centre of Participatory and Online Programmes, Centre for Participatory Programmes and Centre for Collaboration of Industry and Institution Programmes through partner/franchises institutes (new study centres) for 2016-2017.
When the matter came up before Justice Kirubakaran on December 8, 2017, the varsity's Registrar filed an affidavit stating that the University would not operate distance education study centres and would not grant affiliation and recognition relating to distance education to conduct programmes outside the State from 2018-19. Based on that, the judge had prohibited the authorities concerned from running study centres. However, by a resolution dated November 28, 2018, the University permitted spot admissions at the study centres and completion of admission process for 2018-2019 alone, as a special case. Hence, the present contempt application.
When the matter came up on December 4, 2018, the judge had issued a statutory notice to the respondents asking them to appear before him on January 7, 2019.
On Monday, January 7, all the respondents appeared except for Sharma and the Vice-chairman of the University, who absented themselves. Additional Advocate-General told the judge that Sharma was busy with a Syndicate meeting at Vellore.
The judge noted that the statutory notice had been ordered by a detailed order on December 4 and the same had been served to Sharma the very next day on December 5, 2018. On Monday when the matter was called, it was stated by Additional Advocate-General that Sharma was away in Vellore attending a Syndicate meeting of the University, the judge said, pointing out that it was not as if he was asked to appear before the court at short notice. "On December 5 itself, he was served with the notice. When that is so, he should have made arrangements to see to it that he appears before this court.
Contempt proceedings are serious matters and they cannot be taken lightly, especially, by a higher official like Sharma," the judge said. "This court has got every reason to believe that he had deliberately avoided appearance before this court," the judge added and directed the Registry to issue a bailable warrant against Sharma and the Police Commissioner to arrest and produce Sharma before the court on January 9.