Village head issued certificates to residents in violation of HC order
SHILLONG: In an unprecedented development, the High Court of Meghalaya on Wednesday ordered the arrest of Skhembor Khongjirem, Sordar of Wahkhen village in East Khasi Hills, and remanded him in judicial custody for one day for violating the court order passed on December 10 last barring the headmen from issuing any kind of certificates to the residents.
The High Court had, on April 23, slapped a show cause notice on Khongjirem for continuing to issue certificates to residents of his village in contempt of the court order and had directed the Sordar to appear in person before the court on April 29 after taking cognizance of media reports that he was issuing certificates to residents for opening of bank account and availing bank loans thus violating the court’s order which prohibited headmen from issuing such certificates.
The quantum of punishment to the Sordar will be decided on Thursday.
While hearing the contempt of court proceeding on Wednesday, the Division bench consisting of Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice TNK Singh observed, “The contemnor who is present in Court does not deny the statement published in The Shillong Times dated 18.04.2015.”
The Court also refused to accept the unconditional apology tendered by the Sordar.
The court, referring to the contempt of court case pending against KHADC CEM Adelbert Nongrum, said, “The contempt of court proceedings pending with the Division Bench contains very serious allegations of open defiance and challenge to the impugned order passed by learned Single Judge and that the majesty of law as well as the dignity of the court, has suffered irreparable damage on that count.”
“We reject the apology of the Sordar of Wahkhen and take the contemnor in custody with directions to produce him for medical check-up, and then to lodge him in jail. He shall be produced in Court tomorrow at the time of pronouncement of order,” the Court said.
Earlier, S.P. Mahanta, legal counsel of the Sordar of Wahkhen, had pleaded that the contemnor comes from a remote area and did not anticipate the consequence to follow.
It may be reminded that the High Court, while questioning the powers of the traditional heads in the State, had observed that a village/ locality headman did not derive any right from law, and rule or from the Constitution of India to issue NOC for the purpose of birth/death or for registration of any document as well as for building permission and obtaining loan.
Further, the court order passed on December 10 last year had directed the Meghalaya government and its district administration not to ask people to obtain NOC from headmen.
Incidentally, Skhembor Khongjirem, in his statement to the media on April 17, had claimed that he has been issuing certificates to the residents of his village.
“I have been issuing the certificates since many villagers come to me for certificates either for opening of a bank account or for submission to the government departments to avail various schemes,” Khongjirem had stated. He claimed that the certificates have greatly helped residents, especially farmers who are applying for loan and various government schemes.