Delhi HC holds President, General Secretary of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee guilty of contempt for not paying salaries to staff, teachers

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: A batch of petitions were filed complaining of the wilful and deliberate non-compliance by respondents of the judgment dated 16-11-2021 passed by this Court in Shikha Sharma v. Guru Harkrishan Public School, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5011. Navin Chawla, J.*, found Harmeet Singh Kalka, President and Jagdeep Singh Khalon, General Secretary of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (‘DSGMC’) guilty of having willfully and intentionally failed to comply with the judgment dated 16-11-2021 of this Court and thereby having committed contempt of this Court.

By judgment dated 16-11-2021, a Single Judge of this Court allowed the batch of petitions filed by the teachers and the staff of the Guru Harkrishan Public School directing DSGMC, Guru Harkrishan Public School (New Delhi) Society (‘GHPS (ND) Society’) and were directed to, re-fix the salaries and other emoluments of the petitioners under 6th and 7th Pay Commission (‘CPC’) in accordance with the rules. It was made clear that DSGMC/GHPS (ND) Society shall ensure the compliance of the orders passed by this Court.

Analysis, Law, and Decision

The Court noted that it had been extending repeated opportunities to respondents to purge their contempt and to pay the legitimate and legal dues of its employees, including the teachers. The Court opined that while this Court would consider proceeding against the persons in the previous Management and seek their response on the steps that they had taken to ensure compliance with their undertakings given at that relevant time, it would not absolve the present Management of their failure to comply with the undertakings on behalf of GHPS (ND) Society and GHPS and the repeated orders of this Court. The financial incapacity to clear the arrears and pay even the current dues, as pleaded by respondents, only strengthened the belief that there was gross mismanagement of the affairs of the schools, GHPS (ND) Society, and DSGMC.

The Court opined that the religion of Sikhism preaches the ideals of honesty, compassion, humanity, humility, and generosity in everyday life. While there was no doubt that various philanthropic and charitable causes were being discharged by the community and its leaders, at the same time, it should be kept in mind that ‘charity begins at home’. There was no point of such philanthropic activities and values when its own teachers and staff of the schools, who were helping to lay down the foundation of a good and progressive society by imparting education and instilling moral values to young students and helping in running the said institutions, were ill-treated and not given their rightful dues, on the other hand were rather made to suffer the agony of approaching this Court repeatedly for the same.

The Court opined that “non-compliance and disobedience of the orders of this Court would only dislodge the faith of a litigant in this Court thereby disturbing and undermining the majesty of the Court. It would strike at the very root of the rule of law on which the judicial system rests. Judicial orders were bound to be obeyed at all costs and could not be permitted to be circumvented”. The Court stated that respondents had been giving repeated undertakings to this Court that they would be clearing the dues of their employees and paying them as per the 7th CPC. These undertakings could not be mere sheets of papers and respondents could not have given them without any intent or means to comply with them.

The Court opined that in exercise of contempt jurisdiction, the Courts could enforce compliance with the judicial orders and punish contemnors for contempt. The Court relied on Subrata Roy Sahara v. Union of India, (2014) 8 SCC 470 and Amit Kumar Das v. Shrimati Hutheesingh Tagore Charitable Trust, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 83, wherein the Supreme Court held that the power of this Court while exercising jurisdiction under Article 215 of the Constitution was not confined to merely committing the contemnor to imprisonment, but was also extended to ensuring that the order was complied with and the benefit thereof passed to the person in whose favour the order was made.

The Court observed that Section 24 of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1971 casted a duty on DSGMC to do all such things as might be incidental and conducive to the efficient management of the affairs of educational and other institutions under DSGMC to spread education, to establish educational institutions, and to render financial assistance to such educational institutions and societies. DSGMC, therefore, could not claim any immunity or claim that they were not bound to comply with the judgment dated 16-11-2021 of this Court or be bound by their undertaking.

The Court thus found Harmeet Singh Kalka, President and Jagdeep Singh Khalon, General Secretary of DSGMC guilty of having willfully and intentionally failed to comply with the judgment dated 16-11-2021 of this Court and thereby having committed contempt of this Court. Thus, a notice to Show Cause on the quantum of punishment to be awarded to them was issued. The Court further stated that Harmeet Singh Kalka, President; Jagdeep Singh Khalon, General Secretary of DSGMC; and Mandeep Kaur, Honorary Secretary of GHPS (ND) Society had expressed their helplessness to comply with the judgment dated 16-11-2021 on account of lack of funds. They, therefore, do not deserve to be in the Management of either GHPS (ND) Society or DSGMC. However, the Court opined that before it directed their removal from GHPS (ND) Society and/or DSGMC, it was deemed appropriate to appoint an Auditor to conduct Forensic Audit of the accounts of GHPS (ND) Society and the 12 schools managed by it for the period commencing 01-04-2020 till 31-12-2023.

The Court held that DSGMC was equally responsible for the payment of such dues, including the arrears and interest. DSGMC shall, therefore, provide the necessary funds to GHPS(ND) Society and to the schools managed by it to ensure that henceforth the employees were paid in accordance with 7th CPC and the arrears as per the 6th CPC, including interest, were cleared at the earliest. The salary and other financial perquisites of the Members of GHPS (ND) Society and DSGMC shall also be withheld till further orders or till the entire dues of the employees, teaching, and non-teaching staff, of the schools were fully paid.

The matter would next be listed on 12-8-2024 before the Roster Bench for further orders and directions.

[Tejinder Pal Gujral v. S Manjinder Singh Sirsa, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 1290, decided on 26-02-2024]

*Judgment authored by: Justice Navin Chawla

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioner: Mohit Mathur, Senior Advocate; J.S Bedi, Kuljeet Singh, Amanpreet Singh Bhalla, Ankit Singh Sinsinwar, Nikhilesh Kumar, Chetan Anand, Akash Srivastava, Tejaswini Singh, Sumeet Kaur, Atul Kumar, Abhimanyu Sharma, Mangesh Naik, Ajay Kapur, Charanpreet Singh, Sonali Arora, Kartik Malhotra, Darsh Bansal, Parminder Singh Goindi, Advocates

For the Respondents: Yeeshu Jain, Anupam Srivastava, ASC; Avnish Ahlawat, Standing Counsel; I.S. Alag, Kirti Uppal, Senior Advocates; Avneet Kaur, Abhinash K. Mishra, Gaurav Kr. Pandey, Naushad Ahmed Khan, Pragya Dubey, Tjania Ahlawat, Nitesh Kumar Singh, Laavanya Kaushil, Aliza Alam, Mohnish Sehrawat, Latika Chaudhary, Jyoti Tyagi, Hitanshu Mishra, Sujeet Kumar Mishra, Utkarsh, Pankaj Balwan, Gaurav Dhingra, V. Balaji, Nizamuddin, Pankaj Balwan, Gaurav Prakash, Utkarsh, Advocates

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