Defending the donation of Rs 1 crore to Lawrence School, Sanawar, Punjab advocate general Ashok Aggarwal told the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday that the state government had "unbridled powers" to release grants and the high court could not exercise judicial review to judge whether the grant had been given for a public purpose or not.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had donated the sum to his alma mater in Himachal Pradesh on October 4 during a valedictory function of its 165th foundation day, triggering a controversy.
Aggarwal said, "The matter can only be debated and tested on the floor of the legislative assembly." He said even the cabinet "cannot tinker" with the scheme once it has been approved by the assembly.
He submitted that as per powers conferred under Article 282 of the Constitution, the state government could spend money on any public purpose that can only be debated in the assembly. "Such expenditure can be made outside the state also, as the state government can spend money for such public purposes also, in respect to which it does not have power to legislate," the advocate general said.
Advocate HC Arora, appearing for petitioner and Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira, submitted that Rs 1 crore had been approved by the assembly under guidelines of the Punjab Nirman Programme that states that these funds shall be spent for development purposes in Punjab. Such funds could not be used for any other purpose and the high court could intervene in a case where the state government is found misusing funds and spending them for unrelated purposes, Arora argued.
"Doling out funds from the Punjab Nirman Programme to a school outside Punjab, which has plenty of funds, merely because the Punjab deputy CM had been a student of that school, is thus not only unjustified but also illegal, it being in violation of the constitutional scheme under which there is separation of powers between the executive and legislature," Arora added.
On conclusion of the arguments, the high court reserved its judgment.