Delhi High Court: In a contempt petition filed by petitioner, seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against District Election Officer (‘DEO’)for its willful and deliberate disobedience of order dated 24-03-2023, passed by this Court in Sharma Videos v. State (NCT of Delhi)1, (‘Sharma Videos Case’),Jasmeet Singh, J., held that DEOwas guilty of intentionally and malafidely not complying with the order and was raising objections which were untenable in law. Further, the Court directed Finance Secretary, Government of Delhi to remain present on the next date of hearing.
DEO issued a notification and published an e-tender, inviting reputed firms/companies/proprietors having minimum average annual turnover of Rs. 50 Lakhs for the last three years and proven experience/capabilities of election work or other similar nature of work done in the past for arrangement/hiring of videography /photography etc. Services were required for setting up First Level Checking Centers/Counting Centers/Poll Day, Election Training Centers, to be deployed in the field with SST/VST/FST/Accounting team/Expenditure observers/General Observers Micro observers etc, at different places of East Delhi for the conduct of General Elections to the ensuring Lok Sabha 2019 and Delhi Legislative Assembly2020 for Assembly Constituencies of District East.
The petitioner took part in the tender and eventually won the bid. Thereafter, on 26-03-2019, petitioner entered into an agreement with DEO for completion of the above-mentioned works in the Lok Sabha 2019 General Elections and Delhi Legislative Assembly 2020 elections. Petitioner completed the tasks without any grievance on the part of DEO or the Delhi Government . Further after completion of the tasks, petitioner raised invoices to be paid by for his services during Lok Sabha 2019 General Elections and Delhi Legislative Assembly 2020 elections, however, the bills raised by petitioner was neither cleared on time nor addressed by the appropriate authority. Further, petitioner upon continuous inquiry, found out that his file was running under submission for ex-post facto approval with the Finance Department. Petitioner further inquired about the time it would take to clear all the dues by sending a legal notice on 15-07-2022 and received its reply from DEO, stating that without the availability of budget it was not possible to send the proposal to Finance Department, and further the budget was yet to be allocated for the payment of videography, photography, webcasting, CCTV and LED’s.
Being aggrieved by DEO’s response, petitioner filed a writ petition before this Court.During the pendency of the writ petition, DEOdid not deny petitioner’s claims, on the contrary, itsubmitted that Rs. 1,29,75,815 was yet to be disbursed in favour of petitioner. Thus, this Court while disposing ofthe writ petition, passed an order on 24-03-2023, holding that the balance amount shall be released within a period of eight weeks to petitioner, failing which applicable interest would be liable to be paid.
Thereafter, neither DEO nor the Delhi Government made any efforts to release the balance amount. Thus,, on 26-07-2023, petitioner again sent notice of contempt to them. Petitioner submitted that even after the undertaking given before this Court that petitioner was entitled to Rs 1.29,75,815, Delhi Government had failed to release any amount in favour of petitioner. Further, petitioner submitted that Delhi Government and DEOwere in willful disobedience of the order dated 24-03-2023, passed by this Court in Sharma Videos Case (supra). Thus, being aggrieved by the inactions and willful disobedience on the part of Delhi Government, petitioner approached this Court.
The Court noted that it is stated in the affidavit that the administrative department had no authority to make the statement since it was not with the prior sanction of the Finance Department. As per the Court, the defence of the Delhi Government that the Administrative Department before giving undertaking to Court did not consult its finance department for releasing money to petitioner, is not a ground for not complying the order dated 24-03-2023.
The Court opined that, if the orders passed by this Court would not be implemented, it would lead to a situation where each department of the Government would be raising objections to the statement made by the other department.
The Court further observed that DEO, had neither complied with nor was even intending to comply with the undertaking given in the order dated 24-03-2023.
Thus, itheld that DEO was guilty of intentionally and malafidely not complying with the order and of raising objections which were untenable in law. The Court further directed Finance Secretary, Government of Delhi to remain present on the next date of hearing.
The matter would next be listed on 15-12-2023 for framing of contempt notice.
[Sharma Videos v. Anil Banka, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 7297, Order dated 08-11-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Advocate Pawan Reley, Advocate Akshay Lodhi, Advocate-On-Record Vinod Sharma
For the Respondents: ASC Satyakam,Advocate Pradyut Kashyap
1. Writ Petition Civil No. 14622 of 2022