Taking cognisance of the alleged failure on part of the Amritsar municipal corporation (AMC) to not invite members of the public to witness the House proceedings, the Punjab and Haryana high court has issued notices to local bodies department principal secretary Ashok Kumar Gupta, mayor Bakshi Ram Arora and commissioner Bhupinder Singh to explain why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against them.
The court said the proceedings were for the failure to comply with Sections 55 to 70 (chapter-procedure) of the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act of 1976.
The notices were issued on a contempt petition filed on May 29 by local RTI activist Prabodh Kumar Bali. The court would hear the petition on September 2.
In his petition, Bali prayed for initiating contempt proceedings against the officials on the grounds that despite submitting affidavits in the high court last year, the mayor and the commissioner never invited members of the public to witness the proceedings of the AMC House till date.
The affidavits were submitted following a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by Bali last year. The court had disposed of the PIL on September 25, 2012 after the then local bodies secretary Suresh Kumar along with Arora and Bhupinder Singh submitted affidavits assuring the court that they would comply with the Punjab MC Act of 1976.
The procedural provisions (Section 55-70) of this Act specify inviting members of the public to witness MC House proceedings and also giving free access to the public to these proceedings.
Bali in his contempt petition pointed out that since the order of the court, three meetings of the AMC had been held this year - on January 29, March 20 and May 29. In all the three meetings, barring him (Bali) no other invitations (to the public) were sent out by the AMC, the petition stated.
"Time and again, I reminded the AMC of the commitment given in court but still they never invited anyone from the public for the meetings. I was the only one to whom invitations were sent on all the three occasions as if to show that I am the only one who exists in this city," Bali said while talking to HT here on Sunday.
Cancellation of AMC meeting illegal
Meanwhile, the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) district chief Manmohan Singh Gumtala and youth wing leader Sandy Randhawa have claimed that the mayor had no respect for the rules and procedures of the AMC. Citing rules they claimed that a House meeting once called cannot be cancelled. "Showing disrespect to the House, the mayor on May 30 cancelled the meeting due to the death of the brother of deputy mayor Avinash Jolly," the two leaders said.
Randhawa said that even if there are just a handful of members present, a House meeting once called has to be held. If the mayor or the two deputy mayors are absent, then those present elect a president to conduct the meetings, he added. "A MC house meeting can be adjourned but it can never be cancelled," he specified.