After a six-year-long battle, a farmer in Andhra Pradesh finally got justice. In a plea filed by 62-year-old Savithramma from SPS Nellore district, the Andhra Pradesh High Court (HC) sentenced to jail term or penalty, five officers from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) for not following its orders on paying compensation to the farmer.
Those convicted by justice Battu Devanand include Revu Mutyala Raju, who was district collector of SPS Nellore and is additional secretary of the chief minister, MV Seshagiri Babu (former collector), KVN Chakradhara (present collector SPS Nellore district), Shamsher Singh Rawat (principal finance secretary) and Manmohan Singh, who is now retired but was principal secretary for revenue.
In its order, the bench says, "This Court by order, dated 17 March 2017, directed the respondents to pay compensation to the petitioner within three months from the date of receipt of a copy of the order. The compensation was paid to the petitioner only on 30 March 2021. This Court already noticed that the land was taken away by advance compensation from the petitioner in 2015. So, from 2015, the petitioner, who is a 62-year old widow, has been facing serious hardships for her survival at this old age. Taking into account the hardships being faced by the petitioner, due to wilful disobedience of the Court order by contemnors, in the considered opinion of the Court, it is appropriate to award costs in favour of the petitioner to meet the ends of justice."
The HC also asked the state government to pay additional Rs1 lakh to Savithramma towards the cost of the litigation and recover this amount from the erring officers. During the hearing, the authorities paid Rs1.30 crore as compensation for her land.
Mr Singh, who was principal secretary for revenue, is sentenced to four weeks in prison along with a fine of Rs1,000. If he fails to pay the fine, he should undergo simple imprisonment for seven days, the HC says.
Mr Raju, the additional secretary to the chief minister, is sentenced to two weeks’ simple imprisonment and will pay a fine of Rs1,000. Mr Rawat, the principal finance secretary, is sentenced to one month’s imprisonment and a fine of Rs2,000. Mr Seshagiri Babu, former collector and Mr Chakradhara, collector of SPS Nellore, are fined Rs2,000 each by the HC.
These IAS officers had tendered unconditional apologies but the Court did not accept it, saying "it is not bonafide."
"In the opinion of the Court, if any lenient view is taken against such type of officers, who are not implementing the orders of this Court, for years together, and implementing Court orders only after directing their appearance before the Court, in the opinion of this Court, it will send the wrong message to such type of government officers," the bench pointed out.
The 62-year-old Savithramma was a pattadar of land at Kanupur village in the Venkatachalam mandal. Following a proposal from the Union government to set up composite regional centre for persons with disabilities at Nellore, the district administration in 2015 allotted a 10-acre plot in the Kanupur village, including three acres of land of Savitharamma. However, the farmer woman was not paid compensation for the land.
She approached the Lokayukta and then the Andhra Pradesh HC. On 10 February 2017, the HC directed the state government to pay the compensation of Rs1.30 crore within three months. However, till 30 March 2021, Savithramma was not paid any compensation for her land.
The HC noted, "Though the respondents make several contentions in their counter-affidavits, one thing is clear that due to the inaction of the respondents in taking proper steps to comply with the order of the Court, the petitioner sustained irreparable loss and hardships for four years."
In the order, justice Devanand also passed strictures on Mr Rawat, the principal finance secretary. "...this officer worked as principal secretary to the finance department from 6 July 2020 to 15 February 2021 and from 19 March 2021 to till the payment of compensation to the petitioner on 30 March 2021. Upon perusal of the averments made in the counter affidavit filed by this respondent and the tone and tenor of the language used by this officer in his counter, in the opinion of the Court, this officer is under the impression that he need not implement the orders of the Court unless specific direction issued to him by the Court," the HC says.
Holding these IAS officers guilty of wilful disobedience, the HC then sentenced them to jail terms and levied penalties.
Here is the order passed by the Andhra Pradesh HC...