The Gujarat high court has held an executive engineer of the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB), M R Pandya, guilty of committing contempt of the court and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on him for not following court orders by deducting TDS of Rs 17.62 lakh from compensation for land acquisition to be given to a land owner. The case involved one Champabhai Hasurbhai from Kambhada village of Botad, whose land was acquired and compensation was awarded to him. Out of the compensation amount of more than Rs 1.9 crore, the department deducted TDS, which according to various judgments cannot be deducted from compensation awarded to land loser. This happened in 2008. Following a direction by the high court last year, the department was to refund the TDS to the farmer within three days, but it did not happen. The high court also noticed that the amount was also not deposited with the income tax department.
When the bench headed by Justice Sonia Gokani inquired about non-payment to the landowner, the executive engineer came up with an excuse that he had delegated the work to a head clerk, who failed in his duty. The court refused to buy this argument and said, “One wonders as to how the head clerk could be said to be responsible in matters like this, as he would have no powers virtually to decide the aspect of disbursement, that too of such a huge amount of Rs 17,62,504 and the issue had been pending with the office of the executive engineer from the year 2016.”
The court held Pandya liable for default and observed, “The contemnor by his conduct interfered substantially with the due course of justice and, therefore, he has been held guilty for contempt of court. The contemnor for wilful and deliberate disobedience of the order of the court is liable to be punished for contempt.”
It was the unconditional apology tendered by Pandya and accepted by the court that spared him the prison. But the court ordered him to deposit with the court Rs 2,000 towards penalty and Rs 50,000 towards cost. Of this amount, the court ordered to pay Rs 40,000 to the litigant.