The Supreme Court on Tuesday initiated contempt proceedings against Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Atul Kumar Gupta for “flagrant violation” of the undertaking given by him to the court and its order halting constructions of memorials of Dalit leaders in Lucknow.
“We have come to the conclusion that there is a flagrant violation of our orders. If you still violate our orders, the ball will be in the hands of the central government” to deploy forces, a bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice Aftab Alam said.
The bench directed the chief secretary to appear before it in person on November 4 to explain why he should not be held liable for contempt of the Supreme Court.
“After anxious consideration we are of the view that a strong prima facie case is made out against the chief secretary,” the bench said after hearing arguments from counsel for petitioner Mithilesh Kumar Singh and the Uttar Pradesh government, besides considering the affidavits of media organisations that reported violation of court’s order by the state administration.
Gupta is alleged of violating the September 8 undertaking given to the court that the state government would stop construction activities on various memorial sites and the September 11 order to the state to stop all construction work.
The contempt notice led to a flurry of activities in Lucknow giving rise to speculation that Gupta might be removed.
However, a senior officer at the Chief Minister’s secretariat denied it saying, “There is no question of removing chief secretary from the post the chief secretary will appear in the court to explain his position.”
The government’s stand to back Gupta came after the law department reportedly advised it to let him continue. “His removal would not solve the problem”, said a law officer of the state.
With the political leadership seemingly backing the chief secretary, he is unlikely to meet the fate of the then Chief Secretary D.S. Bagga, who was suspended in Taj Corridor case in 2003 during Mayawati’s last tenure.
The court made it clear that its September 11 order banning further construction at the 24 sites, where the Mayawati government was installing statues of Dalit icon Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Bahujan Samaj Party’s founder Kanshiram and herself, besides BSP symbol, the elephant, would continue.
The projects involved an expense of about Rs 2,600 crore.
The court told senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Uttar Pradesh, that the state should consider closing down the entire ongoing projects for the time being.