The Dehradun Municipal Corporation (DMC) always cries of shortage of funds in conducting developmental works but it has lakhs of rupees to spend on litigation every year.
Sources in the DMC said the legal fee for tackling various court cases rose drastically from `2.39 lakh in the financial year 2012-13 to ` 14.28 lakh in 2013-14.
Even more shocking is the fact that the local body has already spent around `26.17 lakh in April-May alone, the first two months of 2014-15.
The legal fee in the first two months of the current fiscal year has thus already crossed the expenses borne by the DMC in the entire last year.
According to the law division of the DMC, every year several disputed matters get converted into litigation, further mounting on the legal burden of the local body.
Legal advisor of DMC K N Chaubey underlined how the local body spent `35 lakh in a single case decided by the Supreme Court this May.
He added that presenting its stand on a host of public interest litigations (PILs) annually also cost the civic body dearly.
It is worth recalling that some locals residing near Sahastradhara trenching ground had moved to Uttarakhand high court against the open dumping of tons of garbage in their vicinity. Subsequently, the high court stayed the use of the trenching ground. Since the civic body does not have any other garbage dumping site at present, it had to approach the Supreme Court for immediate relief in the matter. The DMC then went on to hire senior lawyers to put its case strongly in front of the apex court. Eventually, the verdict came in the DMC’s favor, but by then it had already spent a huge sum on the case.
Prominent cases involving major expenses include disputes on DMC’s important projects like Shishambara waste processing plant and the Brahmanwala transfer station. Besides, DMC also gets dragged into legal cases in a large number of objections on house tax and tax on commercial properties, cases of property mutation and other land related disputes by individuals/groups. The legal fee for all such cases is paid from the DMC’s own board fund.
When contacted, Dehradun city mayor Vinod Chamoli said that it is the civic body’s obligation to fight the legal cases, especially those involving immediate public interest.
"Fighting legal cases strongly is a necessity as we cannot compromise public interest at any cost. We are often required to rope in private lawyers besides our own panel of DMC advocates for presenting the cases strongly, which shoots up our legal expenses. Providing relief to the city matters more than the expenditure borne on lawsuits," Chamoli told HT.
Meanwhile, senior Congress corporator from Karanpur Vinay Kohli said that the absence of a poor grievance redressal system at the DMC level contributes towards fuelling up litigation costs. "I am sure that many of the disputes (that end up as legal cases) can be resolved at a preliminary stage if the DMC authorities set up a strong grievance redressal system. It save us a lot of money and time, which can then be utilized for developmental works," Kohli said.