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Jai Bharath Charitable Trust v. A.Jayamohan - CONT.P. No.110 of 2005  RD-TN 592 (18 August 2005)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS
THE HON'BLE MR.JUSTICE M.CHOCKALINGAM CONT.P. No.110 of 2005
Jai Bharath Charitable Trust
represented by the Administrator
Mr.Justice V.Rengasamy .. Petitioner -Vs-
Jai Bharath Charitable Trust
31/37, Astha Lakshmi Gardens
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090. .. Respondent Contempt proceedings initiated against the contemner herein as per the order dated 4.2.2005 and made in Application No.1786/2003 in C.S. No.294/2003 (on memo dated 19.1.2005 filed by the Administrator - Mr. Justice Rengasamy). For Petitioner : Mr.N.Suresh
For Respondent : Mr.S.Sampathkumar
This contempt proceeding has been initiated against the contemnor on the memo filed by Mr.Justice V.Rengasamy, who was appointed as Administrator of Jai Bharath Charitable Trust, the first defendant in the suit in C.S.294/2003.
2. In the memo filed by the Administrator, it has been stated as follows:
(a) This Court by its order dated 24.6.2003 appointed Mr.Justice V. Rengasamy as Administrator to administer Jai Bharath Charitable Trust namely the first defendant in C.S.No.294 of 2003, and directed the defendants 2 and 3 to hand over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the said Trust, to the Administrator within a week from the date of receipt of a copy of that order. Aggrieved by the order of this Court, the defendants filed appeals before the Division Bench in O.S.A.Nos.235 and 247 of 2003, wherein the order of the learned Single Judge was modified on 8.12.2003. The plaintiffs took up the said order of the Division Bench to the Supreme Court in Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) Nos.6555 and 6556 of 2004, and the Apex Court by its order dated 13.12.2004 set aside the order of the Division Bench and restored the order of the learned Single Judge by allowing the appeals. (b) Pursuant to the order of the Apex Court, the order of the learned Single Judge prevails, and the defendants are bound by the said order. The Administrator sent letters dated 28.12.2004 to the Managing Trustee and his Counsel M/s.Sampath Kumar and Associates for complying with the direction of the learned Single Judge. The Counsel for the Managing Trustee sent a reply dated 31.12.2004 stating that the Administrator has not been empowered with the management of the trust and has no power to appoint or dismiss any employee or give any direction to any of the employees of the trust or to operate the Bank Account, but only to supervise all the moveables and immoveables. Another letter dated 6.1.2005, was sent by the Administrator to the Counsel for the Managing Trustee. The Counsel sent a reply dated 11.1.2005. Then, another notice was also sent by the same Counsel on 12.1.2005. Apart from that, Thiru Jayamohan, the third defendant, himself sent a letter dated 8.1.2005 stating that he is the only person empowered to take disciplinary actions against any administrative faculties of Priyadarshini College and other institutions, and he is exercising his power conferred by the Trust.
(c) The said Jayamohan, disobeying the order of the Division Bench when it was in force, withdrew Rs.8,95,055/- between 1.1.2004 and 7.1.2004. During surprise check of the laboratory, certain articles were found missing, and when asked the Principal to explain, the said Jayamohan prevented the Principal not to answer for the explanation called for. Though the Administrator directed for remittance of the tuition fee by the students directly to the Bank Account, Jayamohan had collected the same from the first year Engineering students and did not remit the amount into the Bank Account. On 17.11.2004, the said Jayamohan prevented the Administrator from conducting the meeting of the trustees in the college premises. As regards the misconducts of the Managing Trustee and certain other instances, two contempt proceedings have been initiated before the Division Bench, and they are pending enquiry. If the Managing Trustee had the power to act as per the Trust Deed, after the order of this Court, the Division Bench would not have intervened and had given the powers to the executive trustees to discharge their duties as per the Trust Deed. The Supreme Court has observed that the Administrator is finding it difficult to function because of the directions made by the Division Bench which are being interpreted in their own way. In spite of the orders of this Court, the Managing Trustee claims that he has got all the powers to act as per the Trust Deed, and he is the only person empowered to employ or dismiss the employees of the trust, and the Administrator has no such power over the employees of the trust. (d) As the plaintiff Trustees are not satisfied with the style of functioning of the Managing Trustee under the Trust Deed, they approached the court for removal of the executive trustees. So by an interim order, this Court intervened and stripping the powers of the Executive Trustees, the management has been shifted to the Administrator making it implicit that the Managing Trustee cannot function as per the Trust Deed, and they have no right of management of any sort over the trust properties. The Managing Trustee cannot claim that the Court's order is ineffective and the Trust Deed prevails over the Court's order. The same is nothing but contempt. The said Jayamohan bent upon to create problems in the administration by challenging and disobeying this Court's order. In spite of two notices, he has not handed over the moveables and records, but is claiming that his powers are not curtailed and he would continue as such as per the clauses of the Trust Deed. Even under the trust deed, the Managing Trustee has not been given the power of such matters, and under Clause 18, his powers are only to sign the cheques and receipts and to carry out the directions of the Trust Board and nothing else. For better functioning of the institutions, the Administrator constituted four committees. As this Court by its order has given absolute power of management over the properties of the trust, the Administrator has all right to form committees for easy administration. The Trust Board itself has accepted the constitution of these committees by its resolution dated 7.10.2004.
(e) The Committee has suspended three employees namely Palani, Kaviyarasi and Ramachandra Rao for their misconducts. The said Jayamohan has threatened the Principal of the Engineering College over phone and directed him to permit the suspended persons to work in the college. Those suspended persons have shouted at the Principal, and this was informed to the Administrator by the Principal vide letter dated 11 .1.2005. Since the funds of the trust are the properties which are under the management and control of the Administrator, he issued a circular permitting the Chairman and the Life Trustee Thiru Kesavan to sign the cheques. The said Jayamohan sent a notice dated 11.1.2005 through his advocates stating that he along with another Trustee alone are entitled to operate the Bank Account. Another notice dated 12.1.2005 was also sent for the same purpose. Copies of the letter dated 11.1.2005 have been sent to the Superintenden t of Police, Vellore, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Vaniambadi and other Police Officers to keep them also in obscure, as they may not be aware of the legal intricacies. The said Jayamohan is claiming by his letter dated 8.1.2005 that he alone has got the power to take disciplinary action and to employ or dismiss any employee. From the beginning, Jayamohan is not obeying the orders of this Court, and he has not handed over the charge of moveables and records of the Trust. (f) Further, he is also indulging in violence. On 17.1.2005, the Administrator was informed that Thiru Ekambaram, the husband of the life trustee Mrs.Padmavathi, who is a member of the purchase committee, was attacked by the men of Jayamohan within the Engineering College premises. There are also other complaints against Thiru Jayamohan for attacking one Rathinam the husband of the life trustee Mrs.Saroja, and Sundaramoorthy who has been appointed as overseer in the College. Hence, the said Jayamohan, the Managing Trustee of Jai Bharat Charitable Trust, may be dealt with for contempt and be punished for disobeying the order of this Court.
3. The Administrator in his additional memo has stated as follows: (a) On 29.1.2005, Thiru Jayamohan had phoned up to the accountant of Priyadarshini Engineering College by name M.Selvam, directing him to hand over the accounts in respect of computer maintenance and the cheque books to him within two hours; otherwise, Selvam would be his next target of attack. Thiru Selvam phoned up to the Administrator and also sent a telegram on the same day to protect him. He also lodged a police complaint against Thiru A.Jayamohan before Vaniambadi Taluk Police Station, for which a case was registered against Jayamohan. On 7.2.2005, Thiru Jayamohan issued a notice to the accountant Selvam calling for explanation as to why he did not produce the accounts to him as per his direction on 29.1.2005. Thiru Jayamohan issued another notice on 8.2.2005 alleging that Thiru Selvam refused to receive the memo dated 7.2.2005 and as Selvam did not respect him, why he should not be dismissed from service. Thiru Jayamohan issued the order on 8.2.2005 stating that Thiru M.Selvam is placed under suspension and that R.Palani (Jayamohan's brother's son) is posted as accountant in the place of Selvam. He issued instructions to the security men in the college not to allow Selvam, and three security men and R.Palani, who is now under suspension, prevented Selvem from entering into the college. Under the circumstances, Selvam lodged a complaint before Vaniyambadi Police Station, and the accused persons were arrested and later released on bail.
(b) Thiru Jayamohan issued a notice on 7.2.2005 to the Principal in charge Thiru P.Natarajan, questioning him that on what authority he is acting as Principal; that when Natarajan was on leave, Jayamohan appointed one Gokula Kannan as Principal in charge; but, when Thiru Natarajan joined duty, how he took charge as Principal. Jayamohan further questioned him for allowing one Nandakumar to work in the college and questioned his powers to have control over the teaching and nonteaching staff and the status of the Administrator and his power to forward the Cheques for signature to another trustee. In such circumstances, the interference from Thiru Jayamohan is unwarranted and uncalled for and will amount to contempt of Court. (c) It is represented by the other trustees that the demand of Thiru A.Jayamohan to hand over the computer is only to tamper with the accounts and to escape from the liabilities. He is uncared for the two earlier contempt petitions and continues to make interference.
4. The contemnor filed a counter with the following allegations: (a) The learned Administrator has just ignored him as Managing Trustee purely lending ears to the most biased views of the plaintiffs and relying on the same in toto. The learned Administrator is holding an impartial enquiry. In fact, the learned Administrator has given findings against him in respect of the allegations against him in the plaint and has pronounced judgment in the suit, which should have been done by this Court. The learned Administrator is administering the trust as Sole Executive, brushing aside him and the defendants trustees obviously at the behest of the plaintiffs. He had never said that this Hon'ble Court's order is ineffective. He had always submitted to the learned Administrator that the learned Administrator has to administer, as per the provisions of the Trust Deed, and supervise and control, if need be, the activities of the trustees, including him. The learned Administrator's statement "He feels that Courts are too small for him and he can easily trample its orders" is absolutely untrue and actually defamatory. The learned Administrator is totally biased against him, without any cause arising from him.
(b) All the properties of the Trust are in tact and the learned Administrator is having possession and control over them. Books of Account are in the office. The learned Administrator has access to them at any time. The statement of M.Selvam, Accountant, before the learned Magistrate under Sec.164 Cr.P.C. would show that the learned Administrator is in charge of everything, including absolute administration of the trust and its properties. He had neither done anything against the learned Administrator nor deprived him of any material, so that his administration of the trust's properties is in anyway hampered. He had not done anything to smack of contempt of Court. If his action or inaction in any aspect may be construed as contempt, he offers his unconditional apology for the same.
(c) He never challenged the orders of this Court. Whenever the learned Administrator deviates from the orders of this Court, the Managing Trustee used to write letters to him. O.A.No.353 of 2003 for restraining the respondents 2 and 3 namely Chairman and Managing Trustee respectively, from interfering with the day-to-day administration of the Educational Institutions functioning under the first respondent has been dismissed by this Court. Therefore, the Managing Trustee gave direction to the staff members to take action or to initiate disciplinary action against the erring staff. Any such direction was to streamline the administration and not to paralyse or interfere in the smooth functioning of the administration. (d) It is false to state that Selvam was threatened by him, and there is no complaint in this regard registered against him by Vaniyambadi Taluk Police Station. The accounts and cheque books were under his control as per the order of the First Bench of this Court. When D. C.B. registered a case in Crime No.9/2004, without his permission, knowledge and consent, Selvam removed all the documents, cheque books and computers from the guest house. This has been confessed by Selvam before the Magistrate at Tiruppatur, when the DCB Police, Vellore, took him to Tirupattur for giving statements under Sec.164 of Cr.P.C. This is how the learned Administrator has become the custodian of all the documents. After his release from Central Jail, he went to the guest house and found that all the relevant documents relating to the administration of the trust were missing. Therefore, he issued a notice to Selvam calling for explanation from him as to why he has shifted those documents without his knowledge and consent.
(e) The First Bench has given him the administrative powers, and it continues to be so till it was rescinded by the Apex Court on 13.12.2 004. One Nithyanandam, who is one of the trustees, had taken this to the notice of Selvam, who flatly refused to receive the notice. Hence, he had no option but to suspend Selvam and intimate to the security men in the main gate not to allow him inside the campus. At the instance of the learned Administrator, the Police not only arrested the security person, but also one Palani, who has been posted as temporary accountant in the place of Selvam. The said Palani is in no way related to him. Mr.P.Natarajan is not a qualified Principal. The convention is when the post of Principal is vacant, the post of Principal in-charge will go to any senior staff of the College and when Principal in-charge goes on leave, it will go to other staff members. The Principal in-charge post will be filled up as per the decision of the Executives of the management. When he suspended Nandakumar for his misbehaviour with a student, Mr.Natarajan has got no power to revoke the order. Principal in-charge is not having any controlling power over non-teaching and administrative staff, unless and until he has been authorised by the Managing Trustee. (f) Regarding the power of the Administrator to forward cheques for signature to another trustee, he has to get necessary directions from this Court, and also to remove the Managing Trustee Mr.A.Jayamohan as per the bye law of Jai Bharath Charitable Trust. The Administrator removed the co-signatory V.Dhandayuthapani, who is the Chairman, and in his place, he himself is signing the cheque without direction from this Court. The Administrator is changing and allowing the persons to sign the cheques according to his discretion. The prayer in O.A. No.354 of 2003 is for an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents 2 and 3 from functioning as Managing Trustee and Chairman of the 1st respondent respectively and also from operating and handling of accounts pertaining to the 1st respondent. It was dismissed by this Court on 30.4.2003. If so, the action of the Administrator conceding the prayer of the plaintiff by allowing them to sign the cheques, is not proper. Since Justice Bakthavachalam turned down the order of this Court, this Court issued a fresh order appointing Justice Ve.Rengasamy as Administrator. The functioning of the Administrator as per the order of the Division Bench, is only with regard to supervision. Clause XX(iii) of the order says that the Chairman and Managing Trustee and other Trustees shall discharge their duties in terms of the trust deed. Clause XX(iii) says that the Trustees are not permitted to withdraw at a time more than Rs.50,000/- without the permission of the administrator. The trustees are also directed to intimate the receipts and withdrawals made by them, to the Administrator once in three months. So this Clause clearly indicates that the Administrator has got a limited role to play pursuant to the order of the Division Bench. Whenever he pointed out the mistake of the staff members, the Administrator thought that he was paralysing the administration. Hence, the contempt petition may be dismissed.
5. Advancing his arguments for the Administrator, the learned Counsel Mr.N.Suresh, took this Court to the various documents filed, and pointed out the violations of the direction given by this Court, and the disobedience to the proceedings of the Administrator issued pursuant to the order of this Court.
6. In reply to the said contentions, the learned Senior Counsel Mr. S.Sampathkumar, appearing for the respondent/contemnor, would submit that there were no violations of the order of this Court, nor was there any disobedience on the part of the contemnor, and even assuming that there were violations, the contemnor might be pardoned, since he has not done them either with intention or knowledge to commit the same.
7. This Court paid its anxious consideration to the rival submissions made, and made a thorough scrutiny of the entire records available.
8. The question that would arise for consideration, is whether the contemnor has disobeyed the orders of this Court, and thereby, he has committed contempt of this Court.
9. Admittedly, in a pending suit between the trustees of Jai Bharath Charitable Trust in C.S.No.294 of 2003, Justice V.Rengasamy, a retired Judge of this Court, was appointed as Administrator of the first defendant namely Jai Bharath Charitable Trust, by an order of this Court dated 24.6.2003. While appointing the said Administrator to administer the said trust until further orders of this Court, there was a direction issued to the second and third respondents therein to hand over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the said trust. The said direction issued by this Court reads as follows:
"that the 2nd and 3rd defendants/2nd and 3rd respondents herein be and are hereby directed to hand over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the aforesaid trust, to the Administrator within a week from the date of receipt of copy of this order."
It was also pointed out in the said order that the trustees were entitled to put forth their suggestions to the Administrator, and the Administrator was permitted to approach this Court for appropriate orders when circumstances warrant. The said order of this Court was challenged by the defendants including the contemnor, before the Division Bench of this Court in O.S.A.Nos.235 and 247 of 2003, wherein the Division Bench made certain modifications by an order dated 8.12.2003. On the special leave applications, the plaintiffs approached the Apex Court in Appeal (Civil) Nos.6555 and 6556 of 2004. While allowing the appeals by an order dated 13.12.2004, the Apex Court set aside the judgment of the Division Bench of this Court and restored the order of the Single Judge dated 24.6.2003. The parties were also given liberty to move the Single Judge seeking such further directions as may be required, and the Single Judge would be at liberty to issue appropriate directions exercising jurisdiction under Sec.92 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Thus, the order of this Court dated 24.6.2003 appointing the Administrator as referred to above, was restored by the Apex Court by an order dated 13.12.2004, and the same continues to be in force till this day.
10. The contemnor who was the Managing Trustee of the said Trust, is the third defendant in the suit and the third respondent in the application for appointment of an Administrator. He along with others has challenged the orders of this Court before the Division Bench in O.S.A.Nos.235 and 247 of 2003. It is pertinent to point out that he was also a party in Appeal (Civil) Nos.6555 and 6556 of 2004 wherein the Apex Court set aside the judgment of the Division Bench of this Court and restored the order of the Single Judge. Having been a party to all the proceedings, the contemnor cannot say that he had no knowledge of the proceedings or the orders passed thereon. The original orders of this Court appointing the Administrator, and subsequent restoration of the same by the Apex Court by an order dated 13.12.2004, would be binding on him. The parties to the proceedings were given liberty to move the Single Judge of this Court seeking such further directions as may be required. As on today, the original order of the Single Judge dated 24.6.2003 appointing the Administrator, is neither varied, nor any further directions were issued.
11. As stated above, this Court by its order dated 24.6.2003, wherein the contemnor was also a party, issued a direction to the second and third respondents therein to hand over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the trust in question, to the Administrator within a week from the date of receipt of the copy of the order. The Managing Trustee namely the contemnor, who was bound by the order of this Court, in the sense that he has to hand over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the trust, to the Administrator, has not done so, which necessitated the Administrator to send communications dated 28.12.2004 filed as documents 4 and 5, to the contemnor and his counsel, intimating that the contemnor should comply with the directions of this Court as confirmed by the Apex Court. The Contemnor instead of complying with the orders of this Court, sent a reply dated 31.12.2004 and filed as document No.6, stating that the Administrator was not empowered with the management of the trust; that there was only a direction in the judgment to hand over the management of the properties and records of the trust; that it did not mean the management of the trust; that the Administrator was already supervising the management of all the properties and records, and that the minute book was not with the c ontemnor, but with the Chairman. The said reply would show that the contemnor has further stated that the Administrator had no powers to appoint or dismiss any employee or give any direction to any of the employees of the trust or to operate the bank account, but only to supervise all the moveables and immoveables. Despite the orders of this Court with the specific direction for handing over of the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the trust, the contemnor has not only failed to hand over the same, but also decided not to hand over the management of all the properties and records of the trust. While this Court has appointed the Administrator to administer the said trust until further orders and directed the contemnor to hand over the management of all the properties and records of the trust, the contemnor has given a reply stating that the Administrator had no power to appoint or dismiss any employee or give any direction to any of the employees of the trust or to operate the bank account; but, he had only the power of supervision of the movables and immoveables. The averments in the said reply would not only indicate that he had no inclination to obey the orders of this Court, but also show his disobedience by making unwarranted and wrong interpretations to the orders of this Court.
12. Again, the Administrator had issued a communication on 6.1.2005 asking the handing over of the management of all the properties and records of the trust and explaining the necessity for the same. The contemnor through his Counsel sent a reply dated 11.1.2005, stating that the orders of this Court directing the handing over of the management of all the properties and records, did not mean the abdication of the functions of the contemnor as Managing Trustee, and he along with one more life trustee was to operate the bank account and to employ or dismiss any one, and the Administrator was to supervise whether there was any mismanagement. The very reading of the said reply would reveal that though an Administrator was appointed by this Court to manage the trust, which would certainly mean the management of all the properties and records of the trust also, the contemnor has made out his intention clear for parallel administration of the trust. While this Court by way of an interim order has shifted the management from the hands of the trustees to the Administrator appointed by this Court pending litigation, the contemnor cannot say that he was the Managing Trustee and hence, he can function as per the Trust Deed. Despite the orders of this Court dated 24.6.2003, and subsequent restoration of the same by the Apex Court by an order dated 13.12.2004, the contemnor has not handed over the properties and records pertaining to the trust till today. On the contrary, he would say that there was no need to hand over the properties and records, since what was all given to the Administrator by the Court was only the supervisory powers. No material is available or placed by the contemnor to show that any one of the properties of the trust was handed over to the Administrator in obedience to the orders of this Court.
13. It remains to be stated that when there was a specific direction of this Court to hand over the management of the trust which would include the administration of the Colleges run by the trust, the contemnor had collected the tuition fee from the first year engineering students and had not remitted the same into the bank account. Admittedly, there was three educational institutions which are the properties of the trust, and the income therefrom by way of tuition fee and the movables are also properties of the trust. Needless to say that by virtue of the order of appointment, the Administrator has got the absolute powers of management of those properties. While the Administrator in management, is the sole authority to employ or dismiss any employee or take disciplinary action against the employees, the contemnor by his communication had spelt out that the Administrator had no power to appoint or dismiss any employee or give any direction to any of the employees of the trust; but, he alone could do so.
14. It is brought to the notice of the Court by the Administrator that the Committee constituted by the Administrator, suspended three employees for their misconduct; but, the contemnor has threatened the Principal of the Engineering College over phone and directed the suspended persons to work in the College, and the said suspended employees had forcibly signed the attendance register, despite the Principal' s warning. In order to strengthen the said contention, the Administrator has filed a letter signed by the Principal dated 11.1.2005. Despite the orders of this Court, the contemnor has not only sent a communication to the Administrator informing him that he had no powers to operate the bank account, but has also been operating the bank account and withdrawing amounts therefrom. Thus, the contemnor, despite specific directions of this Court, (i) has not handed over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the trust till date, but has sent a communication stating that there was no need for him to hand over the same; (2) has collected the tuition fee from the students of the engineering college which is being run by the trust; (3) has been operating the bank account of the trust and withdrawing amounts therefrom; and (4) has been making interference in the day-to-day administration of the trust and in particular, educational institutions as narrated above.
15. This Court is mindful of the settled legal proposition that in order to invoke and exercise the contempt jurisdiction, which is a quasi criminal in nature, (i) there should be a specific order of this Court directing to do an act or restraining the same; (ii) the said order should be certain and unambiguous; (iii) the contemnor had the knowledge of such order; and (iv) there was wilful disobedience of the said order by the contemnor. After careful consideration of the available materials and applying the above test, the Court has to necessarily find that the contemnor has disobeyed the orders of this Court. In the instant case, the contemnor was a party to the proceedings all along, and thus, he has got the knowledge of the instant order. There has been a specific direction by this Court in certain terms that the contemnor as the Managing Trustee, should hand over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the trust, to the Administrator within a week from the date of receipt of the copy of the order. The Court has passed the order on 24.6.2003. Subsequent to the modification of the order by the Division Bench of this Court, on appeals, those modifications were set aside and the order of the Single Judge was restored by the Apex Court on 13.12.2004. It is clear that the contemnor, despite the orders of this Court, has not handed over the management of all the properties and records pertaining to the trust yet, but by a written communication as detailed above, had made it explicit that he had no inclination to obey the orders of this Court. In such circumstances, the disobedience of the order of this Court by the contemnor cannot, but be construed as wilful.
16. In the instant case, the allegations made by the Administrator against the contemnor, and the materials available in that regard would clearly indicate utter disregard and thorough disobedience on the part of the contemnor, and that he has acted in a manner that he has got a right to violate the orders of this Court and authority to question the directions given by the Administrator. In a case where a wilful and deliberate disobedience of the orders of this Court is noticed, the request of the contemnor that he might be excused has got to be rejected.
17. For the reasons stated above, this Court is of the considered opinion that the contemnor has committed contempt of Court and is liable to be punished for the same.
18. In the result, the contemnor/respondent is found guilty of contempt, and he is convicted and sentenced under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of two months and to pay a fine of Rs.2,000/-, in default of which, he has to suffer simple imprisonment for one month. This contempt petition is, accordingly, ordered. Index: Yes
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