The Bombay High Court on Tuesday issued a showcause notice against Joy Thakur, under secretary of state environment department, and asked him to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him for misleading the court on wetlands data on Nandurbar, Parbhani and Nagpur districts.
The HC also asked him to explain why he should not be fined Rs 1 lakh from his personal account. This came after Thakur tendered an unconditional apology, through an affidavit, and said his previous reply was not worded properly and that it was not his intention to mislead the court and make incorrect statements.
A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and Milind N Jadhav was hearing two pleas, including one by NGO Vanashakti, seeking preservation and identification of wetlands in Maharashtra. “Out of 15,865 sites, 15,189 sites are verified by district authorities and remaining 676 sites are pending for verification,” Thakur stated in the affidavit. However, after “ground truthing” the actual number of wetlands was given out, the affidavit said.
During the previous hearing, the HC had observed that Thakur had filed an affidavit making incorrect statements, which led it to summon collectors of the three districts. Justice Kathawalla expressed displeasure and said collectors have important duties and because of the incorrect statements, he asked them to remain present in court.
Government pleader P P Kakde had earlier submitted three affidavits by the collectors from Parbhani and Nandurbar, who said there was no wetland in these districts, except for one in a forest area in Nagpur.
Senior counsel Gayatri Singh for Vanashakti on Tuesday said wetlands are being destroyed due to such actions by officers and mapping is not done. To this, G W Mattos, government lawyer, said the petitioners have the option of moving the appropriate grievance redress committee.
Issuing showcause notice to Thakur, Justice Kathawalla observed, “Collectors have given reports and said that there are no wetlands. It is not a question of properly worded affidavit… it is an important issue. Please ask the concerned official why we cannot fine him from his personal account for misleading the court.”
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