Appoint IAS officer in Melghat or face contempt: HC

Bombay High Court (HC) warned the state government Wednesday of contempt action if its earlier order to appoint an IAS project officer in the two blocks of Melghat that have reported most malnutrition deaths was not complied with.

On February 6, HC had directed appointment of an IAS officer to head projects in the area as per a government circular of 1993. The circular says IAS officers should be appointed in the 11 sensitive tribal areas of the state.

Justices D Y Chandrachud and Amjad Sayed asked principal secretaries of the women and child and tribal welfare departments to file an affidavit by March 8 stating measures taken to comply with the HC order.

They asked both the secretaries to remain present in court if they do not file the affidavit stating steps taken by the state government to control malnutrition deaths, within three weeks.

According a "last opportunity" to the state government, the judges said, "The court will be left with no recourse but to issue contempt notices if serious note is not taken in the case."

Government counsel Neha Bhide said Indian Forest Service officer C M Dharankar was appointed last month. However, he is still to take charge.

Bhide said she had apprised government departments of the court order but had received no communication.

The judges said they were constrained to take a serious note of the "lackadaisical manner" in which the state government was dealing with the case.

"Should we issue a notice to the chief secretary? Why he should not face contempt? How can you keep the post vacant?" justice Chandrachud said.

HC further observed the objective of having an IAS officer was to ensure measures are taken to implement tribal welfare schemes in areas with high infant mortality and malnutrition.

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