The Kerala High Court directed the Chief Secretary V.P. Joy to appear before the Court on November 8 despite his pre-engagements. The Court expressed dismay over the government’s attitude towards the plight of the aggrieved individuals i.e. persons who were entitled to get pension as per the order of the court, and persons who were living in dangerous conditions on account of pollution.

The Court had issued notice to the Chief Secretary for appearance in two Writ Petitions but he submitted an affidavit outlining his other engagements for the week.

The Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran observed, “Any person would have empathy for the condition of the petitioner and similarly situated persons; but the respondents appear to have prioritized their “other engagements”, more than the plight of these hapless people”.

Advocate M. Hemalatha appeared for the petitioners while the Government Pleader and Deputy Solicitor General S. Manu appeared for the State and Central Pollution Control Board respectively.

Two Contempt Petitioners were filed before the Court against the Chief Secretary. The contempt petitions arose out of a set of writ petitions.

The First Writ Petition was regarding the government delaying pension payments to Kerala State Road Transport Corporation Employees for July and August 2022 due to a small issue with the interest payable to the consortium. The Court, by an order dated August 5 2022, had ordered the government to pay the pensions by August 25, 2022, but the government did not comply.

The Second Writ Petition concerned the acquisition of land sandwiched between BPCL-KRL and Hindustan Organic Chemicals Ltd. The Petitioner contended that the companies refused to acquire their land, forcing them to live in extremely unsafe environments. The Court, by an order dated April 8 2022, directed the Chief Secretary to hear the case and pass specific orders providing relief. However, the Chief Secretary only placed an order stating that the Companies will be directed to bear the amount in case there is any pollution, in view of the “polluter pays principle.”

The Chief Secretary filed an affidavit before the Court stating that he had pre-scheduled engagements and would not be able to appear before the Court. He added that he was the General Convener of the ongoing prestigious Keraleeyam program and would not be able to spare the time.

The Court noted, “To make it worse, the Chief Secretary says that ‘he has got pre-scheduled engagements throughout next week’ and therefore, cannot appear before this Court. He adds that he is the General Convener of the ongoing prestigious “Keraleeyam” programme and he has been entrusted with multifarious tasks in that regard. One really fails to understand how he would obtain time to see the stated prejudice of the petitioners in these circumstances”.

The Court directed the Chief Secretary to appear before the Court via online mode on the next date of the hearing despite his pre-engagements.

Accordingly, the Court listed the matter for November 8.

Cause Title: Sajeev Kumar V.N v V.P. Joy And K Asokakumar v Biju Prabhakar

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