Maintaining that ‘the majesty of law be upheld even by high-ranking officers,’ the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently came down heavily on five officers of Jalna Municipal Council, including its chief officer, and imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakh — Rs 1 lakh each — on them for having made “incorrect, misleading statements, amounting to false information” that a slaughter house was legally operating under its watch and had due clearances from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
A division bench of Justice Ravindra V Ghuge and Justice Bhalchandra U Debadwar passed the order on February 17 after hearing a PIL, filed by a resident Ashpak Mohammad Razzak Ansari through advocate Milind M Patil against an ‘illegal’ slaughterhouse operating since 2015-16 at Mangal Bazar, Kadrabad of Jalna. Advocate P P More for MPCB submitted that uncontrolled slaughtering was done by a group of persons in the slaughterhouse and the blood was dumped in an open nullah on the premises and disposed of into the municipal nullah outside the premises, which are open gutters in residents’ colonies.
The court expressed that “misleading statements, amounting to false information” were made by Ashok Shamrao Deshmukh (then municipal engineer of city sanitary department), Devanand Trimbakrao Patil (then HOD of sanitary department), Ratnakar Shankarrao Adshire (municipal engineer connected with slaughterhouse), Rahul Vishnu Mapari (junior engineer of sanitary department) and Nitin J Narvekar (Chief Officer of Municipal Council). Advocate S R Barlinge submitted that the officers, who were present in the court, be pardoned as it appears to be the first time that they may have passed incorrect information to the court. He pointed out that the officers have tendered an unconditional apology and therefore contempt proceedings for perjury may not be initiated, while an appropriate order penalizing them can be passed.
The court observed, “We are of the view that the majesty of law has to be upheld and any person, however high office he may hold, should not be permitted to mislead the court. We also find that various affidavits filed by these officers practically made us believe that the slaughterhouse, which commenced from 2015/16, was after following a due procedure laid down in law and was legally permissible.” The court observed, “It is a coincidence that this matter was not circulated in between December 2015 till January 20, 2021, and the petition was not disposed of keeping in view that the petitioners had filed it in public interest to ensure a legal slaughterhouse being operated in Jalna district…. It is only on account of the intervention of the court, that these officers were exposed and the truth about their affidavits putting forth false statements surfaced.” Directing the officers to deposit Rs 1 lakh each in the court registry, the bench said, “We intend to donate the amount to the account of the DC to be utilised for the Covid-19 vaccination in Jalna district, in those areas where poverty-stricken persons are held eligible for vaccination.”
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