Mohd. Aslam Vs Union of India: Case Comment

MOHD. ASLAM VS UNION OF INDIA

Author: Ms. Jyoti Jha, JEMTEC, School of Law

In the case of MOHD ASLAM VS UNION OF INDIA the petitioner (MOHD ASLAM) filed a contempt petition against the respondent (Shri Kalyan Singh), then Chief Minister that he willfully disobeyed the court’s order. There was a prior case in which the constitutional validity of land acquisition of Ayodhya under Sec-4 of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 by the government was challenged. Here court ruled in accordance with the resolutions passed in the National Integration Council on basis of statements given by Shri Kalyan Singh. Now, the petitioner approached the court alleging that the respondent is acting against the order passed by the hon’ble court and not fulfilling his own commitments. The court convicted the respondent and sentenced imprisonment of 1 day and a fine of Rs 2000. 

ISSUES

  • Whether the undertaking is given by the Chief Minister before the National Integration Council which was in terms recapitulated and incorporated in the order dated 15-11-1991 of this Court could be said to be an undertaking given by the Chief Minister personally or was merely an undertaking on behalf of the U.P. Government?
  •  Whether there was any construction of a permanent nature carried on the land in willful disobedience of the orders of the Court?
  •  Whether these constructional activities were carried on by or at the instance of the State Government or its authorities or were done in connivance with and assistance and encouragement of the State Government; or where they carried out in spite of all reasonable steps taken in that regard by the State Government and the Chief Minister to prevent the same?  and
  • Whether the State Government and the Chief Minister were not liable for contempt for any alleged willful disobedience of the orders of this Court?

BRIEF FACTS

The contempt petition was filed against the then chief minister of Shri Kalyan Singh for acting against the orders of the court. The proceeding against disobedience to judicial pronouncement led to huge destruction as many people lost their lives and the property was also damaged.

The contempt proceeding was in regard to the construction which took place in the month of July 1992 in relation to an extent of 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya which was acquired by the State Government pursuant to a notification dated 7- 10-1991, under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The land was acquired for the purpose of developing it as an amenity for pilgrims at Ayodhya. The land acquisition challenged both before the High Court and Supreme Court. In those proceedings, three interlocutory orders came to be made – two by the High Court and one by the Supreme Court.  Following which the CM passed certain statements on whose basis the resolution of National Integration Council was passed which states:

  • “All efforts will be made to find an amicable resolution of the issue;
  • Pending a final solution, the Government of Uttar Pradesh will hold itself fully responsible for the protection of the Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid structures;
  • Orders of the Court in regard to the land acquisition proceedings will be fully implemented; and
  • The judgment of the Allahabad High Court in the cases pending before it will not be violated.”

Despite all this, petitions filed alleging demolitions of certain structures in violation of the interdiction contained in the order of the Court. Further, certain affidavits filed pointing out that large-scale construction of work of a permanent nature was carried out on the land in utter disregard of the orders of this Court.  

CONTENTION OF PARTIES

In regard to the petitioner’s contention that there is a large-scale violation of the order of the Supreme  Court and of the High Court by demolition and construction of a permanent structure on the acquired land. It was alleged that the respondent (Shri Kalyan Singh) was connected with the  Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and their commitment to the building of Sri Ram temple, deliberately encouraged and permitted the grossest violation of the Courts’ orders.

Whereas, addressing the contentions raised in the issues learned counsel of respondent Shri Venugopal stated that the constructions were done by the State Government for enabling the Parikrama facilities for the pilgrims. However, the construction was carried out by state government with a strong religious reason i.e. ‘Chaturmas’ in the month of July when a large number of Sadhus congregate to celebrate “Sarvadev Anusthan”. These Sadhus commenced the construction of the cement concrete platform and that their number was so large that any coercive preventive action would have triggered off an adverse reaction which might have endangered the safety of the disputed temple “Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid structure” which was situated in the immediate vicinity.

The council also added that even the constructions which were done by sadhus did not amount to a permanent structure such as were prohibited by the order of the Court.  

RULE OF LAW

The case is concerned with the contempt proceedings against the then Chief Minister, Shri Kalyan Singh. The petitioner approached the court by way of a petition under Article 32 the Constitution. 

 Article 32 provides for constitutional remedy i.e. Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part. This article can be invoked if any fundamental right is being violated.

This petition has its genesis from the prior judgment which was passed in regard to the constitutional validity of an extent of 2.77 acres of land in the Ayodhya acquired under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 by government. In this case, the court gave final ruling as per the statements made by CM in the resolution passed at National Integration Council.

Now section 4 of Land Acquisition Act,1894 is about the Publication of preliminary notification and powers of officers thereupon in case any land is acquired by the appropriate government for a public purpose.

JUDGEMENT

The judgment was passed by Venkatachalliah, M.N.(Cj).

An expert committee was formed to investigate the matter. The Expert Committee headed by Shri S. Rai, Registrar General, and consisting of members Professor K.K. Nayar, IIT Delhi, and Professor Arvind Krishan, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

In the committee report, the nature of construction was determined. The report stated that the construction work involved tonnes of cement and concrete deployed with the help of constructional machinery. Also, the photographs produced by the complainant justified an inference that the large workforce at the site does not consist of mere Sadhus but the inference that professional workmen had been deployed at the site.

The report further included that the government took no reasonable measures to prevent the inflow of constructional material and not attempted to prevent the work. The reasonable presumption taken that the Government itself was not too anxious to prevent construction and not merely positive acts of violation but also the indirect aids to violation of the orders are equally impermissible. If reasonable steps are not taken to prevent the violation of the orders of the Court, the Government cannot be heard to say that violation of the orders was at the instance of others.

In order to determine liability by referring the authorities court reached at a point that A Minister or Officer of Government is also either in his official capacity or if there is a personal element contributing to contempt, in his personal capacity, liable in contempt.

Therefore, the court held that the Government failed to take steps to prevent the grossest violation of the order of this Court and the respondent was held liable in both his personal capacity and on behalf of his Government for contempt of court. The court sentenced him for the imprisonment of one day and to pay a fine of Rs 2000. 

CASE LAW

The bench referred few judgments to reach the conclusion and dispose of the matter.

The respondent supported his story by referring the case of Members of the Board of Directors of the Little Rock v. John Aaron[1]

Counsel stressed upon the fact that the executive can be sued by referring to the case of   M. v. Home Office[2]

In the State of Bihar v. Rani Sonabati Kumari[3] his Court approved the following view of Chakravartti, C.J., in Tarafatullah Mandal v. S.N. Maitra[4] that writ for contempt may not be asked for against a corporation itself, or against a Government.

COMMENT

There are three pillars of our society. The legislature which enacts the laws, executive carries the law and the judiciary enforces the law. It is important for all three to work as required otherwise the law will become meaningless.  

In this case, the respondent belongs to the executive whose responsibility is to carry the law into effect and he himself was found accused in the case. As per the facts of the case, it’s crystal clear that the respondent did nothing to stop the illegal construction. He took the mere excuse of the chances of a rebel from the sadhus and pujaris. It should be noticed that the respondent indirectly assented to the construction by taking no action against the same. Rather he took the excuse for the chances of a rebel from the sadhus and pujaris if he tried to stop the construction.

The respondent was the person who himself gave a statement which formed resolution and according to which the judgment was passed in the earlier cases. He was also the CM of the place where the disputed temple was located. His position casts both the professional and moral duty upon him to comply with the judgment of the court by fulfilling his statements. It will be reasonably correct to believe that the respondent was in favour of construction because his party gave a commitment to the public for the construction of Ram Mandir at that place.

Being a person in power it was not difficult for him to stop the construction by taking any appropriate measures. The facts showed that there was permanent construction done and professionals were also involved. The respondent must have done at least something to make the construction of temporary in nature.

According to the facts provided, I believe that the respondent was actually guilty and the court’s decision was appropriate to hold him liable.  It is unhappy that the leader of the party is guilty of the contempt of court and not acting as per his commitments.

BY-JYOTI JHA


[1] 358 U.S. 1 (78 S.Ct. 1401, 3 L.Ed.2d 19)

[2] (1992) 4 All ER 97, 144: (1992) 1 QB 270, 311

[3] (1961) AIR 221, 1961 SCR (1) 728

[4] (1952) AIR Cal 919

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