GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has issued contempt notices to two top officials of the Assam social welfare department at Uzanbazar here for non-compliance with an earlier Court order directing the department to release funds for three transgender shelter homes in the state.

The Court has directed Partha Pratim Mazumdar (secretary of the social welfare department) and Bibhash Modi (director) to appear before the Court in person on February 1, 2022 “to explain as to why they should not be proceeded further under the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.”

The earlier order, dated September 22, 2021, was issued by the Court while adjudicating upon a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the All Assam Transgender Association which largely pertained to the issue relating to three shelter homes – at Kamrup (Metro), Dhubri and  Bongaigaon districts.

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The problem highlighted in the petition was that these shelter homes were starving of funds and it was submitted that each shelter home has a monthly expense of around Rs 15 lakh each.

The Court also took on record a letter dated January 20, 2022 issued by the director, social welfare, Assam wherein was stated that the authorities were examining the matter afresh for release of funds and that on being satisfied that the funds would be properly utilised, necessary action would be taken.

“But there is no explanation as to why the order passed by this Court on 22.09.2021 could not be implemented,” the Court observed, pursuant to the perusal of the letter.

“In our view, though the authorities will be always at liberty to examine if the funds had been properly utilised or not and also to take necessary actions if there be any misutilisation of funds but these could not be grounds for not releasing the funds as directed by this Court,” it observed.

The Bench further noted that utilisation certificate, dated February 22, 2021 for an amount of Rupees 1.60 crore had been issued by the authorities out of Rs 2 crore sanctioned during 2019-20.

“There was no unspent balance at the end of the financial year, which was signed by the director (social welfare), deputy director of the directorate of social welfare, Assam and finance and accounts officer,” the Court noted further.

“We are therefore not satisfied with the affidavit in opposition filed by the respondent authorities pertaining to the reasons behind the non-compliance of the Court’s order dated September 22, 2021,” it stated.

The Bench also clarified that in the instant contempt plea they would confine themselves to the issue of non release of funds for the shelter home in Kamrup (Metro) district only and not in respect of shelter homes in Dhubri and Bongaigaon districts.

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