New Delhi : The Supreme Court Monday issued notices to DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and union Surface Transport Minister T.R. Baalu, among others, for defying court orders against a state-wide shutdown Oct 1.
A bench of Justices B.N. Agarwal and P.P. Naolekar issued notices on a petition by the DMK’s arch political rival AIADMK after being convinced that the actions of Karunanidhi and his officials amounted to a contempt of court in disobeying the court’s Sep 30 order against the shutdown.
The bench, however, exempted Karunanidhi and others from personally appearing before it. The bench asked them to file their replies within four weeks.
The others issued notices on the plea filed Oct 4 included Tamil Nadu’s Transport Minister K.N. Nehru, Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathi, police chief P. Rajendran and Transport Secretary Debendranath Sarangi.
The shutdown was called by the ruling DMK in support of the Sethusamudram canal project, off the Tamil Nadu coast, which aims at building a shorter navigational route for ships.
Hindu groups and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have protested the cutting of the Rs.240 billion canal through a geographical formation known as Adam’s Bridge or Ram Sethu, which they believe was built during the Ramayana era.
As the plea came up for hearing, the bench asked AIADMK counsel Guru Krishna Kumar to convince the court on how Karunanidhi and others had defied the court’s order against the shutdown.
Kumar told the court that on the eve of the shutdown, after the court order banning it, Karunanidhi had announced he would go on fast on Oct 1.
This sent the message to his party workers to enforce the shutdown all the more vigorously, argued Kumar. Union minister Baalu had made speeches criticising the judiciary on the day of the shutdown, he added.
Baalu had gone to the extent of imputing motives to the bench for passing the order against the shutdown on a Sunday at a special sitting and he had threatened the judges with impeachment, said Kumar. He said the minister had not denied his reported speech.
“We also don’t deny things said against us. If they want, let them impeach us. Our concern is to find out if any contempt is made out against the court by their action,” the bench observed.
The apex court had heard the AIADMK petition against the shutdown after the Madras High Court had refused to grant requisite legal relief to the petitioners.
Despite the court orders, the state witnessed a substantial shutdown that day, prompting the bench to make angry observations and threaten a recommendation to impose President’s rule.
Quoting Baalu’s statements in the media, the AIADMK had earlier said in its petition that “the union minister made a deliberate and calculated attempt to denude the dignity of the apex court by imputing motives to the judicial process”.
The petitioner quoted Baalu as questioning Sunday’s special sitting by saying, “When was sitting ever held on a Sunday. Unprecedented things are happening (in the judiciary).”
“If we want to conduct a bandh (shutdown) in a democratic manner to ensure speedy implementation of the project, the Supreme Court is banning the same. Are judgements being delivered correctly in the courts? If that is so why are the higher courts granting stay to lower courts’ rulings?” Baalu was quoted as saying in the media.