New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC Ltd) plea in which the company had challenged the Telangana high court’s order convicting and awarding two-month jail term to the NTPC chairperson and managing director (CMD) and the human resources manager in a contempt case.
A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala took note of the submissions made by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the NTPC Ltd‘s chief, that the matter needed urgent listing. Citing the liberty granted by the Telanga high court, the NPTC had approached the apex court for relief.
NTPC CMD Gurdeep Singh and HR general manager Manikanth have been awarded two months’ jail term in a contempt case relating to appointments of some non-executive employees. Both the officers were also fined ₹2,000 each in the case.
Responding to the urgency shown in the case by the solicitor general, the apex court bench said, “We will hear it.” It asked the law officer to provide three copies of the petitions for the judges.
Why the NTPC top brasses penalised?
On December 31, Telangana HC sentenced the NTPC CMD and the HR manager two months in jail in a contempt case. The high court, however, had suspended the judgment for six weeks to allow the contemnor to move a superior court to avail of legal remedy to mitigate the sentence.
The two administrators were accused of not adhering to the court’s order to deliver justice to those who lost their land to the NTPC unit in Ramagundam 42 years ago.
The HC did not find the officials’ apology sincere and observed that it was just an attempt to escape from the contempt case. Pronouncing the verdict, the bench of justices Shameem Akther and N Tukaramji instructed the two top officials of the NTPC to pay a fine of ₹2,000 each within four weeks.
As many as seven persons had filed the contempt petition against the two officers, alleging that they wilfully and deliberately disobeyed orders passed by a division bench of the sane court in 2021 cancelling an employment notification issued by NTPC in 2015.
All the seven petitioners had lands of various extents in the villages of Ramagundam mandal of Karimnagar district. Their lands were acquired by NTPC prior to 1980. The petitioners were also issued ‘land oustee’ identity cards. NTPC had a policy of providing employment to the land oustees in addition to awarding monetary compensation.
In 2015, NTPC issued a notification to recruit 25 candidates for the posts of junior mazdoor in NTPC at Ramagundam. With some persons moving the court, the notification landed in litigation. After the spree of litigation, a division bench of the high court on December 17, 2021 directed the NTPC to complete the process of recruitment based on a notification issued in 2017 within two months.
However, NTPC issued another notification in 2022. Despite the high court’s division bench issuing an order against their appeal petitions, the two officials went ahead with the fresh notification “which clearly demonstrates that the two officials have scant respect to the law and order of the court”, the bench said in the verdict.