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You Destroyed Efficacy of This Court: SC Orders Contempt Proceedings in Laxmi Vilas Palace, Kanak Bhawan Case

The bench also imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh each on two petitioners, Mridula Gupta and Gaurav Agarwal, after lamenting that they obtained an interim stay order in their favour by approaching a different bench of the apex court during the summer break.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:August 2, 2017, 1:34 PM IST
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You Destroyed Efficacy of This Court: SC Orders Contempt Proceedings in Laxmi Vilas Palace, Kanak Bhawan Case
File photo of the Supreme Court, New Delhi.
New Delhi: ‘Anguished’ over repeated attempts to bypass its orders on getting Jaipur’s popular heritage hotel Laxmi Vilas Palace and Kanak Bhawan cleared of encroachment, the Supreme Court has initiated contempt proceedings against two claimants of the properties and sought their personal presence in the court.

“Entire Rajasthan is looking at us… they will feel we can’t do anything and we are not consistent in our orders. Your attempts have destroyed the efficacy of this court to some extent,” remarked a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy while issuing notices under the Contempt of Court Act on Monday.

The bench also imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh each on two petitioners, Mridula Gupta and Gaurav Agarwal, after lamenting that they obtained an interim stay order in their favour by approaching a different bench of the apex court during the summer break.

“It appears that the petitioners have violated the orders of this Court with the greatest impunity...their actions tantamount to interfering with the course of administration of justice,” said the bench while issuing notices of contempt to the duo.

Both the petitioners had claimed their rights in the properties and sought the court's order to prevent the state government from taking over the hotel and the banquet hall as public land. Laxmi Vilas Palace hotel campus and Kanak Bhawan are spread over 20,000 square meters.

A chunk of land in the area, including where these primal structures stand, was acquired by the Jaipur Development Authority in 1973 but the possession of these properties stayed with the occupants, and later it ran into litigation.

In 1986, erstwhile ruler Bhawani Singh had sold both Laxmi Vilas as well as Kanak Bhawan. Three families, who came in control of the properties, started using parts of the properties for residential and commercial purpose. While JDA had challenged the sale, a PIL was filed in the Rajasthan High Court over JDA's failure in taking physical possession of the acquired properties.

In 2010, the High Court termed the occupation of the land as "encroachment" and directed the JDA to take the possession immediately. The HC had in its judgment also mentioned about two other rounds of litigation by the private parties while it reproached the authorities for showing favour to them.

This order was challenged in the Supreme Court. But on May 3, the bench comprising Justices Mishra and Roy dismissed the challenges, upholding the HC order.

“Let steps be taken to clear the entire area as expeditiously as possible within a period of two months from today and the compliance report be filed in this Court,” it had ordered.

The bench also restrained any other court in the country from interfering. “There shall not be any entertainment of any further litigation at the instance of any party or a third person by the High Court or by any other court with regard to acquired property,” directed the bench.

However, Gupta and Agarwal filed separate writ petitions against the acquisition, which came up for hearing before a different bench of the Supreme Court.

In a favourable order for the duo, on May 29, a vacation bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Deepak Gupta ordered "status quo" regarding possession and acquisition of the properties in question. When the case up for hearing again on July 4, this bench noted that the matter should go to another bench led by Justice Mishra, which had previously passed orders in the related matter.

On Monday, when the case came up for hearing, Justice Mishra reproached the petitioners for trying to overreach the orders of the court.
“You took the benefit of the summer vacation and got a stay order in your favour. You have breached our direction. How can you file a writ petition against the final order of this court? There was an injunction by us. You have violated every direction by us with impunity. A stay order obtained by you has destroyed the efficacy of this court to some extent,” the bench told the lawyers.

Senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, who were appearing for the petitioners, tried to mollify the bench but to no avail. Even though the lawyers said they would ask their clients to withdraw the petitions and file applications in the disposed of matter, the bench remained unmoved.

“You have committed contempt and so, you must be punished now,” said the bench, underlining the petitioners have tried to abuse the process of law despite losing in previous three rounds of litigation. “We are anguished…and this is our strength, not our weakness,” retorted the bench when Salve requested the judges to be more considerate.

The court asked for initiating contempt case separately against Gupta and Agarwal and listed the case for hearing after four weeks. The matter is likely to come up on September 15 now.

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| Edited by: Puja Menon
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