Delhi HC expresses displeasure over acrimony between gov't depts about dues for new school buildings

Advocate Ashok Agarwal, appearing for the petitioner NGO, argued that a cabinet meeting has to be convened for the release of top-up funds required for payment to the PWD
Photo of Delhi HC | (Picture: Express)
Photo of Delhi HC | (Picture: Express)

Expressing its displeasure over the "acrimony" between the city government departments stalling payment of dues to make six newly constructed school buildings functional, the Delhi High Court on Thursday, February 1, directed that the matter be placed before Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. "Let the file be placed before the chief minister. This is very sorry state of affairs. You can't pay PWD?" said a bench, headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan. 

He said this while hearing a PIL seeking directions to the Delhi government to pay Rs 1,667.20953 lakh to the public works department. "It seems a cabinet decision is required. It is not proper. The building is lying ready and the students can't use it. Shocking state of affairs," the bench, also comprising Justice Manmeet PS Arora, said. Additionally, the court said the relevant file would be placed before the chief minister by the chief secretary.

Advocate Ashok Agarwal, appearing for the petitioner NGO, argued that a cabinet meeting has to be convened for the release of top-up funds required for payment to the PWD and despite the court orders, hundreds of children were suffering due to "inter-fighting" between the departments. "There is a lot of acrimony within the government, which is not good. How will a government function like this? Why can't you resolve this? They can't be at war. You are actually at war among yourselves. How will you deal with major problems?" the court said after perusing the office noting during the proceedings.

Agarwal contended that the government's conduct was contrary to its "talk" of education being a priority and it was not spending any money on the cause. "Allocation is only for publicity. Spending is what they care for. The problem is decision is taken by someone else and the responsibility is of someone else," responded the court, PTI reported.

Words of court
The court asked if there was "sheer incompetence" and demanded that initiative be taken in the matter. "Civic administration has come to a standstill whether it is unauthorised construction, medical or schools," it said. Asserting that payment has to be made to the PWD, the court further said, "Leadership has to take the initiative."

Last year, following the public interest litigation by NGO Social Jurist, the high court had asked the authorities to act "quickly" for the benefit of the students and process payment of due to utilise the new government school buildings. The petitioner claimed in its PIL that for the last two years, possession of six newly constructed school buildings having 358 classrooms at Mukundpur, Bakhtawarpur, Lancer Road, Rani Bagh, Rohini and MS Punjab Khore could not be taken over due to the inaction of the city dispensation in approving the payment of Rs 1,667.20953 lakhs to the PWD.

The petitioner submitted that the Delhi government must convene a meeting of the Council of Ministers to consider and approve the payment of dues to the PWD to facilitate further payment to the contractor. Further, the petitioner had argued that the conduct of the city authorities violated the fundamental right to education under the Indian Constitution and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.

"A total of 358 additional classrooms have been constructed in six school buildings to hand it over to Delhi Government schools namely, GGSS Mukund Pur, GBSS Bakhtawarpur, S V Lancer Road, GGSSS Rani Bagh, S V CoEd, Sec 7, Rohini, Govt Co-Ed, MS Punjab Khore. However, to date the newly constructed school buildings having 358 classrooms have not been handed over to the respective schools because respondent Delhi government has failed to pay Rs 1667.20953 Lakhs to respondent PWD," the petition, filed through lawyer Kumar Utkarsh, alleged. The matter would be heard next in March.

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