Hyderabad: The Telangana high court has convicted three senior officials and awarded simple imprisonment to two of them, including Siddipet District Collector P Venkatrami Reddy, in a contempt case related to land acquisition for construction of a reservoir.
Allowing the contempt pleas by a batch of 15 petitioners, Justice M S Ramachandra Rao, in a recent order, held the three officials guilty of willful disobedience of the court’s orders related to acquisition of land in Siddipet District.
He sentenced Siddipet DistrictCollector Venkatrami Reddy and Special Deputy Collector (LandAcquisition), Jayachandra Reddy, to three months and four months simple imprisonment respectively.
The Judge, however, suspended the sentence for a period of six weeks. The court imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on Rajanna- Sircilla district Collector D Krishna Bhaskar, who had earlier served as Siddipet Collector.
It also imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 on Venkatrami Reddy and Jayachandra Reddy respectively, besides imposing a fine of Rs 2,000 each. The court further ordered that an adverse entry shall be recorded in the service records of these two officials.
Incidentally, the judge had delivered a similar verdict in another contempt case related to land acquisition in Rajanna Sircilla district and had awarded three months simple imprisonment to Bhaskar, then joint collector Yasmin Basha and Revenue Divisional Officer for willfully disobeying the court’s order.
He however had suspended the sentence for six weeks. In the latest order, the Judge observed notwithstanding an interim order, not only were the petitioners dispossessed from the subject land but the nature of their land was also changed.
Noting that the petitioners were not supplied material documents as directed by it and that they were disabled from filing proper objections, the court held there was willful disobedience by the officials of its order.
The court directed the officials to initiate fresh proceedings, and pay the petitioners compensation, relief and rehabilitation benefits they were entitled to by strictly following the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The matter related to the state government’s preliminary notification in 2017 for the acquisition of land under the act for the construction of Komaravelli Mallannasagar reservoir as part of the Kaleswaram Lift Irrigation scheme with a storage capacity of 50 TMC.
Subsequently, a declaration and award enquiry notice was issued under the act.
The 15 petitioners from Vemulaghatand nearby villages had approached the court against the project, contending that if the reservoir was built, the whole Vemulaghat and all agricultural land therein would get submerged along with four other villages.
They had also submitted that objections filed by them were not considered and so the declaration issued be set aside. They also contended details of the project in Telugu were not furnished to them.
On July 5, 2018, the court directed that material documents were to be furnished to the counsel for petitioners. Later, in an interim order on December 13, 2019, it directed the authorities not to dispossess the petitioners from their lands and not to change the physical features of the lands until further orders.
Subsequently, the petitioners alleged the interim order was violated by the officials and filed petitions seeking to punish them for contempt of court.