SC dismisses plea of AP govt against HC order on removing party colour from state buildings

New Delhi, Jun 3 (PTI) In a jolt to the Jagan Mohan Reddy government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed its appeal against the Andhra Pradesh High Court order asking it to remove the blue, green and white colours from ‘Gram Panchayat’ buildings as their colours resemble with party flag of ruling YSRCP.

Observing that “Public confidence in the judiciary will be eroded if its orders are not obeyed,” the top court said that there was “no ambiguity” in the High Court’s judgment holding that that “any colour which is similar to the flag of any political party should not be used for painting the Gram Panchayat buildings.” In the proceeding held through video-conferencing, a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Krishan Murari and S Ravindra Bhat granted four weeks time to the state government to remove the colours and repaint the ‘Gram Panchayat’ buildings again.

The apex court closed the contempt proceedings against the Chief Secretary, the Principal Secretary of ‘Panchyati Raj’ and the Commissioner of ‘Panchayati Raj and Rural Development before the High Court.

“As the (HC) judgment … has attained finality, the directions given by the High Court have to be complied with... Therefore, we direct the respondents to remove the existing colours on the Gram Panchayat buildings in compliance of the directions issued by the High Court by its judgment dated 10.3.2020 within a period of four weeks from today. As we have extended time for compliance of the directions in the judgment …, the contempt proceedings initiated by the High Court are closed,” the top court said in the order.

It said that the state government issued Government Orders on April 23 only to avoid compliance of the High Court’s directions which were “clear and unambiguous”.

“Executive orders are subjected to judicial review and the judgments of the courts which have become final should be followed by compliance of the directions given therein. Any attempt to disobey the directions issued by courts would be subversive to the Rule of Law. Public confidence in the judiciary will be eroded if its orders are not obeyed,” the order said. The state government, through its lawyer G N Reddy, had challenged the High Court’s order quashing of the GO and the suo-motu (on its own) contempt proceedings against the Chief Secretary and others for allegedly not following the High Court order to remove certain colours from ‘Gram Panchayat’ buildings.

The High Court, in March, had ordered that the blue, green and white colours from the ‘Gram Panchayat’ buildings be removed, but the state government, instead of removing the colours, added terra cotta to them with which ruling YSRCP can be identified.

The state government, in its appeal, said that a committee was constituted on April 2, by it to look into various colour themes for painting panchayat buildings and other offices of local bodies and authorities.

Based on the recommendations of the Committee, the government on April 23 issued guidelines, through the GO, which included that the relevant provisions under the National Buildings Code will be strictly adhered to.

'It shall be specifically ensured (through the GO) that the colour combination for painting the buildings and other properties should not be similar to the colours of flags and colors of political parties,” the government said in its appeal.

“The petitioners are aggrieved by the final order of the Andhra Pradesh HC order dated May 22 whereby the High Court besides allowing the Writ Petition… had also issued contempt in suo motu contempt case,” the plea said.

There was not any violation of the HC orders and the painting of panchayat buildings have been done strictly as per the guidelines under the National Buildings Code, it said.

Earlier, on May 28, Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney and few other senior officials appeared before the High Court in response to the contempt proceedings initiated for not complying with the HC order on removal of certain colours from Gram Panchayat buildings.

Prior to this, the High Court had said that no serious effort was made to ensure that the proposed colour combination did not resemble to that of YSRCP flag and offices.

It had also said that the painting of Panchayat buildings with blue, green and white amounted misutilising government money for political gain.

The High Court, in its order passed on PILs, had ordered removal of the colours from panchayat buildings and had ordered repainting. PTI SJK ABA MNL MNL RKS RKS