Court
Preetha and Shaji had only recently won their property back through a court order, for which they had been fighting a 25-year battle.

Preetha Shaji had only last month rejoiced at a court order that allowed her to recover the property she thought she'd lost. But now the Kerala High Court has ordered a small punishment to Preetha and her husband Shaji, for an earlier case of contempt of court. She would need to do community service, for obstructing the execution of a previous court order.

The Ernakulam based woman and her husband Shaji have been fighting a 25-year battle to save their house and land in Pathadipalam ever since the latter pledged it as guarantee for another man’s bank loan. The couple had nearly lost it when after years of mounting loans, the debtor failed to repay the amount, and the guarantor’s house got attached. The controversial Sarfaesi Act came into the picture.

Read: Forced eviction of a Kerala couple by bank rekindles fight against Sarfaesi Act

The bank had auctioned it off to another man for a much lesser price than it was worth, and it is this sale that the High Court later declared void and allowed Preetha and Shaji to reclaim their property, after paying an amount of Rs 43.5 lakh to the bank and Rs 1.89 lakh to the party that purchased it.

Read: Relief after many years: HC orders recovery of Preetha Shaji’s land

After an unexpectedly quick crowdsourcing of the amount, Preetha had been able to pay her dues at the bank.

But the new court order that came on Monday reprimands Preetha and Shaji for preventing the officials who came to carry out court orders of handing over the property to the man who won the auction. The nature of the community service the couple would have to do would be announced on Tuesday.

“It is in fact a social service that Preetha has been doing all these months she went on strike to save her home. Through her perseverance she has given strength and hope to the society,” says Manuel, activist and office bearer of the Anti-Sarfaesi People’s Movement. It is with the help of activists like Manuel that Preetha had been able to strike for more than 600 days, fasting on occasions, to save her home.

“Respecting the court order Preetha had slept on the streets for four months, and not inside her house,” Manuel says.