The division bench of Meghalaya High Court today ordered contempt proceedings against a land owner Patricia Nongsiej for flagrantly violating an order of the Supreme Court dated August 2, 2017.
Nongsiej whose land was acquired for expansion of the Umroi airport has admitted that she had spent the money from her bank account in making an investment despite the freezing order pertaining to her bank account passed by the Supreme Court.
The court also ordered the presence of Nongsiej at the next hearing on November 22 to explain how she could have touched any part of the money that was frozen by the Supreme Court order.
P Biswakarma, a lawyer appearing for another land owner Stied Dkhar, informed the High Court that in compliance to the freezing order of the Supreme Court, the money in the bank account of Dkhar has not been touched.
Subhasish Chakrawarty, a lawyer appearing for another land owner Mac Lyngdoh Shira, told the court that he has been paid about Rs 5 crore by Patricia Nongsiej and that he retains almost the entirety of the money.
Moreover, the High Court also directed IAS officer Pooja Pandey and MCS officer B Hajong to file individual affidavits detailing their assets, including the assets of their spouses and affirming that beyond what is declared in such affidavit they do not hold or control any other asset or money, whether directly or indirectly.
The two officials were responsible for the perceived additional compensation being paid to the land owners at the time of acquisition of 32 acres of land for the expansion of the Umroi airport.
“It is necessary that the money first be preserved so that there is a chance of recovery by the State of the additional money that may have been paid at the behest of the erring officials to the land-losers,” the High Court said.
It may be noted that the Supreme Court order of August 2, 2017 has directed the Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court to nominate a District Judge to determine as to whether public money had been squandered by offering high rate of compensation which was against the rate offered by the land owner and the rate at which the land owner purchased just before acquisition and who is entitled to the compensation.
“As in any land acquisition matter, it is for the District Judge to ascertain such aspects of the matter. Even though an inquiry was directed to be conducted by the then District Judge, Ri-Bhoi, the report dated November 24, 2017 is singularly lacking in the answers to the two issues raised,” the High Court said.
“The concerned District Judge merely confirmed that there was excess payment without applying his mind to ascertain the quantum of excess compensation paid. There was also no attempt in the report to determine or identify the rightful persons who were entitled to the compensation,” the court added.