HC issues contempt notice to Delhi govt officer



New Delhi: An incensed Delhi High Court today came down heavily on a senior officer dealing with night shelters in the city and issued contempt notice against him saying he has attempted to "interfere in administration of justice."

A bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice V K Jain refused to accept the apology of A K Sharma, Director of night shelter in Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, who earned the court's ire for writing a letter to an NGO, which has raised the issue of conditions of night shelters before the court, asking it for information on how payment is being made to its advocate and other details.

"How many nights did you spend in the night shelters. Go and spend nights on roads in the winter then you will know the real situation. Sleeping in AC room, you cannot feel the plight of poor.... He has to face action now. He has to lose his job," the court said lashing out at the official.

Issuing show-cause notice to Sharma, who was present in the court to attend the PIL relating to city's night shelters, the bench sought his reply by April 10.

"When the court has taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and case is still pending with it, in what capacity he wrote the letter to the NGO," the bench also said.

"In our opinion it is a clear case of interference in the administration of justice. We know hat is happening in the night shelters. He has to explain why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him," the bench also said.

Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan appearing for the NGO told the court that Sharma had on February 14 written the letter to the NGO asking it to explain how payment is being made to its advocate, adding that if information is not provided it will be presumed that advocate is being paid "unsystematically".

To this submission, the bench asked Sharma why he wrote the letter to the NGO when the court is monitoring the case. "This court is monitoring very few cases because of the importance of the case... When we are monitoring the case why do you want the details ? We permitted the advocate to argue the matter, than how could you question his (lawyer's) presence in the case," the court asked Sharma.

Meanwhile, Delhi government standing counsel Najmi Waziri said that his conduct of the officer is "shocking".

Sharma in his letter to the NGO, which is fighting case in the High Court for proving night shelters to the poor homeless people, said, "An advocate is appearing in the court on every date on behalf of Shahari Adhikari Manch. The payment of fee might have also been made either through cash or cheque and from the account of this organisation.

"This information may also be provided. In absence of the information, it shall be presumed that payment of fee to the advocate is being paid unsystematically by this organisation."

Sharma's letter further stated that the organisation is also providing some books, documents and other information through printing material from source of black money, adding that the information will be forwarded to appropriate authority for action in case the NGO do not reply.

It also sought name of the chairman of the executive committee, registration number of organisation.

The court had earlier taken suo motu cognisance of a media report about the demolition of night shelters set up by the NGO in December 2010 and the civic bodies doing nothing to protect the homeless from the cold.

PTI