Supreme Court jails Maharashtra minister and bureaucrat
New Delhi, May 10 The Supreme Court Wednesday jailed Maharashtra minister Swarup Singh Nayak and bureaucrat Ashok Khot for one month for flouting its orders and permitting six sawmills to operate in the state.
A bench of Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and judges Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia held the duo guilty of contempt of court and said exemplary sentences were called for.
"Custodial sentence of one month's simple imprisonment in each case would meet the ends of justice," the bench contended.
Writing the judgment, Pasayat noted: "Everyone whether individually or collectively is unquestionably under the supremacy of law. Whoever he may be, however high he is, he is under the law. No matter how powerful he is and how rich he may be."
In March 1997, the apex court had ordered closure of all unlicensed saw mills. In October 2002, it directed that no state government would permit the operation of a sawmill without the permission of a committee of experts.
The Maharashtra government sought permission in July 2003 for opening sawmills but this was refused. Despite this, the minister and the bureaucrat permitted the opening of six sawmills and thereby committed contempt of court, the bench held.
Nayak, now the transport minister was then the forest minister. Khot, currently the additional chief secretary, was then principal secretary in the forest ministry.
Though both said there was no wilful contempt on their part, the bench rejected their explanation.
It said: "There is one factor which shows the brazen manner in which facts have been distorted and without any manner of doubt wilfully... The inevitable conclusion is that both the contemnors deliberately flouted the orders of this court in a brazen manner. It cannot be said by any stretch of imagination that there was no 'mens rea' (criminal intention) involved."