Stating that the Punjab government was not furnishing complete details related to its finances, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday directed chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal to file an affidavit by Friday on pending dues of education, public works and local bodies departments among others. The details have been sought regardless of whether the cases were sent to the finance department or not.
The court was hearing a petition initiated suo motu by the high court bench of justice Rajesh Bindal questioning the funding of the state government’s Mukh Mantri Tirath DarshanYatra scheme.
In response to the court’s order on furnishing details of pending retiral dues, subsidy payments, the government told the bench that the estimated budget of subsidy of industries department was of Rs 72.45 crore, out of which only Rs 4.19 crore were disbursed.
However, court observed that the state was not furnishing complete information and this has been noticed during the previous hearings as well.. “The payments are sought to be explained by taking the plea that whatever bills were raised by the departments concerned, those have been cleared up to a particular date. ...the information furnished seems to be incorrect as during the pendency of the present petition, sum of ` 6.70 crore were disbursed as subsidy to the industries. Apparently, the information furnished with the affidavit is incorrect or incomplete,” the high court bench said to the payments made by industries department.
The court further observed that from the pleadings before court it appeared that state was in a very comfortable position where even towards the end of current financial year it would be surplus with about ` 1,300 crore but still the payments were not being made to the persons, who were entitled to. “The chief secretary shall file affidavit stating as to how much amount is due to be paid by different departments such as the education department, engineering department, local bodies department, PWD department, sales tax department and irrigation department, irrespective of the fact whether cases sent to finance department or not,” the high court said in its order while posting the matter for February 26.
The high court also asked the government to file an affidavit detailing about disputed VAT claims pending with the excise and taxation department as the court was told by state that an amount of Rs 69 crore which was undisputed would be paid by March 7.
Disputed claims are such in which litigation is pending in a higher forum, but award has been passed in a party’s favour by a lower adjudicating authority.
The state has earmarked Rs 46 crore for the pilgrimage scheme from the state exchequer and is justifying the scheme arguing that it was done in public interest to strengthen the secular social and cultural harmony. However, the high court has questioned the state’s scheme as subsidies offered in the past and various other dues have not been paid for years and state is spending on “freebies”.