"If government doesn't respect Court order, how will citizens:" Kerala High Court to Central government on failure to appoint KAT Chairperson

The Court said it would frame charges of contempt of court against the Union Cabinet Secretary and the Secretary of DoPT for not complying with its orders to expedite appointment.
Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday took strong exception to the Central government's failure to comply with the Court's repeated orders in the case concerning appointment of chairperson of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT) [Kerala Administrative Tribunal Ernakulam Advocates' Association v. Rajiv Gauba IAS and Anr.]

A Division Bench of Justices A Muhamed Mustaque and Kauser Edappagath had, on August 10, issued contempt of court notices to the Union Cabinet Secretary, Rajiv Gauba IAS and the Secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Deepak Khandekar IAS.

However, as the Centre failed to respond to the order of the Court, the Bench said that it would issue further notice enforcing personal appearance of Gauba and Khandekar.

The Bench also orally remarked that some respect has to be given to the Court's orders.

"If the Government has no respect for the Court, how will an ordinary citizen have respect," the Court said.

The contempt of court case arose from a petition filed by the Kerala Administrative Tribunal Ernakulam Advocates' Association (KATEAA) highlighting the fact that the post of chairperson of KAT has been lying vacant since September 2020.

The Court had, in June 2021, issued directions to the Central government to expeditiously make a recommendation for appointment of chairperson within a period of three weeks

On August 10, the Court had ordered that if the respondents do not comply with the orders passed by the Court in the matter by next date of hearing, it would enforce personal appearance.

Today, Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) Vijayakumar, appearing for the Central government, informed the Court that despite repeated communications from his end, he has not received any instructions from the Central government on the matter.

The Court said that "the orders passed by it are not mere institutional orders and must be respected and complied with in accordance with the law".

Since the Centre failed to comply with the order, the Court said that it would frame charges and enforce personal appearance. However, Gauba and Khandekar would be allowed to appear via video conference at the next hearing of the case, the Court said.

The ASG, admitted that he is "defending the indefensible in front of the Court", and asked for two weeks time in the hope that the matter may be resolved by then.

The Court said it would issue orders enforcing personal appearance after two weeks.

An order to that effect will be passed tomorrow.

The Supreme Court has also been very critical of the Central government on its failure to fill up vacancies in various tribunals across the country.

The top court had on August 6, cautioned the Central government that it will summon top officers of the government if urgent action is not taken to fill up vacancies.

"We don't know what is your stand - you want to continue to tribunals or close it down," Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had asked Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta who was representing the Centre.

Later on August 16, the Court had given the Centre 10 days time to fill up vacancies.

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