Authority of India Ltd. Vs. Deby Lal Mahato & Ors.  INSC 382 (5 March 2008)
A.K.MATHUR & ALTAMAS KABIR O R D E R (Arising out of SLP(C) No. 1415 of 2007) 1. Leave granted.
2. This appeal by special leave is directed against the judgment and order
dated 3rd/10th January, 2007 passed by the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi in
Contempt Case (C) Nos. 20, 34, 39 and 178 of 2006 in respect of displaced
persons belonging to category No. 2. By the impugned judgment and order, the
Division Bench of the High Court has issued Contempt Notice for non-compliance
of the orders dated 7th April, 1998 and 1st August, 2000 passed by the Patna
High Court, Ranchi Bench (as it then was).
3. The brief facts which are necessary for disposal of this appeal are that
Bokaro Steel Plant, a national project of the Government of India, was
commissioned on land acquired from the various land holders. For acquisition of
their lands, the land holders were not only paid compensation but in addition
to that, an understanding was reached between the Union Government, the State
Government and the Company that apart from compensation, one person from each
displaced family would be given employment in the steel plant. This evoked a
spate of petitions and various orders were passed from time to time in view of
the assurance which was given in the minutes of the Understanding dated 25th
January, 1964. In view of the Understanding, a list was prepared of all persons
whose lands were acquired along with buildings and structures and those whose
lands had been acquired which did not have any building and structure thereon.
The original list prepared in the year 1972 consisted of 6019 displaced
families and against that more than 16,000 (approx.) persons have already been
4. Thereafter, on 5.9.1991, 150 vacancies arose in Khalasi post for
displaced persons and a scheme was framed which was approved by the Jharkhand
High Court in LPA Nos.
161-162 of 1996 for filling up the vacancies advertised on 5.9.1991. A
direction was given by the Division Bench in its order dated 7th April, 1998,
which reads as under:
"Both these appeals are accordingly disposed of in terms of the
aforementioned scheme proposed by the Steel Authority with the following
direction/observations:- (i) The Steel Authority shall prepare a list
containing names of displaced persons in accordance with clause (1) of the
proposed scheme within two months of the receipt of the certified copy of this
The list so prepared shall be sent to the Director, Project Land and
Rehabilitation, for verification, who shall get the bonafide of the status and
claim of such persons verified and submit the report in connection therewith to
the Steel Authority within three months from the date of receipt of the request
for verification. The Steel Authority will thereafter hold interview for
selection of suitable candidates and prepare a panel containing the names of
selected displaced persons within two months.
(ii) The persons whose names are included in the panel will be placed in two
categories according to the criteria already laid down and referred to
hereinbefore. The persons in category no. (i) will be given employment first.
Thereafter, those who are included in category no. (ii) will be considered for
5. Thus in terms of the direction given by the High Court, two lists of
displaced persons were prepared. Category (i) list consisted of persons whose
lands alongwith buildings were acquired and category (ii) list consisted of
persons whose lands alone were acquired. As per the direction of the High
Court, employment was to be given first to persons of category (i) and those
whose names were included in category (ii) were to be considered for
employment. Then some directions were also given by the High Court on 1.8.2000.
Pursuant to the direction of the High Court, Director, Project Land &
Rehabilitation (for short 'DPLR') prepared a list and sent the names of 286
persons and on verification it was found that 79 persons were not eligible for
consideration in category(i) and on 8.4.2002, the DPLR confirmed the list of
207 persons in category (i) who were eligible for appointment. Out of the said
207 persons, 195 persons were given appointment against notified 150 vacancies.
12 persons were found medically unfit/unsuitable/ineligible for appointment.
This exhausted the category (i) list of 207 persons provided by DPLR.
6. Thereafter, some persons who claimed to be displaced persons under
category (ii) filed a contempt petition before the High Court. On 25.8.2006 the
said contempt proceedings were dropped. However, in other similar contempt
petitions notices were issued to the Managing Director of the Steel Authority
of India Ltd-appellant.
7. So far as the list of category (ii) is concerned, the DPLR gave a list of
970 persons because the list of category (i) had already been exhausted and all
the persons whose names were forwarded by the DPLR were given employment except
those who were were found to be medically unfit/unsuitable/ineligible. Then on
1.6.2007 the appellant advertised for 300 general vacancies in the company and
the same were filled up after due selection process and the 26 persons who
moved for contempt were also selected in the said process, other things being
8. Again, the appellant came to see that despite having already exhausted
the list of category (i) and also having appointed 26 persons from category
(ii), they are again under the threat of contempt, although they are under no
obligation to give employment to persons placed in category (ii) as under the
orders of the High Court dated 7.4.1998, they were only required to be
considered for employment.
9. We have heard learned counsel for the parties. Learned counsel for the
appellant has invited our attention to subsequent Memorandum of the Government
dated 3.2.1986 in which it was clearly mentioned in sub-para (v) of para 4 as
under:- "In the context of the urgent necessity of public sector
enterprises operating at commercially viable levels and generating adequate
internal resources, over manning has to be guarded against, any understanding
formal or informal in regard to offer of employment to one member of every
dispossessed family in the project will stand withdrawn."
10. It is unfortunate that despite the scheme having been withdrawn way back
in 1986, the same finds no mention in any of the litigation which has arisen
with regard to the project. If the decision to withdraw the scheme was already
taken by the Government of India in 1986 then that should have been brought to
the notice of the Courts at appropriate time that whatever scheme that had to
be implemented had in fact been already implemented and henceforth no further
employment would be given in terms of the scheme to such landless people whose
lands had been acquired. Had this fact been brought to the notice of the Courts
by the parties perhaps things would have been different. But unfortunately,
this basic fact has been lost sight of and this has resulted in a large number
of litigation and the present contempt petitions before the High Court are an
outcome of this.
11. Be that as it may, it is now high time to put an end to the litigation.
It is an admitted fact that the project was completed way back in 1966 and even
after more than 40 years of the completion of the project, people whose land
was acquired for the purposes of the project are still litigating for getting
employment. This is not at all warranted. At the relevant time, the intention
of the government was to rehabilitate the landless people whose lands had been
acquired and to provide employment to one member of the displaced family so
that they could maintain the family so displaced. It was not at all the
intention of the government to distribute this kind of largesse on an
indefinite basis. This is nothing but an abuse of the process of Court.
12. However, in order to put an end to the controversy at hand, we direct
that the 970 persons whose names have been included in category (ii) as per
order dated 7.4.1998 of the High Court will be considered for appointment,
other things being equal. It is submitted by counsel for the appellant that in
the advertisement dated on 1.6.2007 for 300 general vacancies it has been
mentioned that preference will be given to those displaced persons whose lands
have been acquired. The relevant portion of the advertisement reads as under :-
"Preference will be given to local displaced persons of Bokaro as per
It may be made clear that consideration of the names of persons for
employment does not give them a right to appointment. Other things being equal,
they will be given preference in the matter of employment as and when vacancies
13. We also record our displeasure that every now and then under the
contempt notice the officials are required to attend courts which hampers the
working of the Turabali Gulamhussain Hirani & Anr. reported in (2007) 10
SCR, 531 (to which one of us, Mathur, J. was a party). Hence the practice of
calling the officials in contempt proceedings should be minimised and only in
exceptional cases the concerned officials may be called.
14. In the result, we set aside the judgment and order dated 3/10.01.2007
passed by the Division Bench of the High Court and dismiss the contempt
proceedings pending before it. We allow this appeal with the direction that the
970 persons whose names appear in category (ii) as per the direction of the
High Court 7.4.1998 shall be considered and given preference for employment,
other things being equal.
Appeal allowed. No order as to costs.
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