As many as 240 VVIPs, including Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, and other judges of the Supreme Court along with their spouses were served dinner in silver crockery and presented gifts worth several lakhs of rupees by the Madhya Pradesh government during a programme in Bhopal in April this year.
All the invitees were given the status of ‘state guest’ during the period of their stay to attend the programme, which was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee, according to the information received in response to an RTI query filed by a social activist, Ajay Dubey.
A payment of Rs 6.94 lakh was made by the state government for the dinner hosted on April 14 during the ‘judges’ retreat’ programme. About Rs 3.57 lakh was paid for silver crockery and Rs 3.37 lakh for food, according to the file notings provided by the government.
Traditionally, arrangements for dinners hosted by the government on occasions like these are made by Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Board.
However, as per instructions from principal secretary to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, quotations were invited and it was decided to engage a reputed caterer from Indore, the file notings said.
Silver crockery was arranged to suit stature of the programme’s attendees, it said.
A bill of Rs 3,17,270 was also approved for the retreat to meet expenditure incurred on high tea and gifts etc, the file notings said.
“All the judges and their spouses were given dinner in silver crockery and gifts at the cost of tax payers’ money. We are not against dinner but unnecessary expenses on silver crockery and gifts,” said Dubey.
In reply to another RTI query filed by Dubey, the National Judicial Academy has asked him to define ‘hospitality’ as a prerequisite for disclosure of details of expenses incurred on the programme.
The President had on April 16 formally inaugurated the four-day ‘Fourth Retreat of the Judges of the Supreme Court’ at the academy, which is a Union government-funded training institute for judicial officers.