The Madras High Court on Tuesday recalled the arrest of the Secretary of the Higher Education Department Mangat Ram Sharma for ‘deliberately avoiding appearance’ at court after he tendered an unconditional apology. The court was incensed after the senior IAS officer skipped summons in a contempt of court proceedings and issued a warrant for his arrest.
In a scathing observation, Justice N Kirubakaran had said on Monday, “It is not as if he was asked to appear before this Court at short notice. On [December 15, 2018] itself, he was served. When that is so, he should have made arrangements to see to it that he appears before this Court. Contempt Proceedings are serious proceedings and they cannot be taken lightly, especially, by a higher official like the [Tamil Nadu Higher Education Secretary]. This Court has got every reason to believe that he had deliberately avoided appearance before this Court.”
The Court had directed the registry to issue a bailable warrant, ordering the Commissioner of Police to arrest and produce the Higher Education Secretary before the court by January 9. The court was informed that the top bureaucrat was away in Vellore, attending a Syndicate Meeting of Thiruvalluvar University.
According to one report in the Times of India, the court refused to reconsider its decision on Monday even as Mangat Ram Sharma ‘rushed to the court once he heard of the order and waited till evening.’
The Higher Education Secretary ought to have appeared in court in connection with a contempt of court petition filed by the Association of Self-Financing Arts Colleges against Bharathiar University. The Association had sought that the University not grant affiliations to conduct distance education through franchise institutions for the academic year 2016-17, according to ToI. The syndicate of the University had been summoned and all but Mangat Ram Sharma reportedly made an appearance before the court.