The Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the Punjab government to pay Rs 305.76 crore to the state local bodies right away.
Fixing the next hearing for June 1, the high court bench of justice Rajesh Bindal stated that if the amount wasn’t released promptly, the head (state’s revenue account) of the account from which the sum can be recovered would be supplied to the court. The arrears to be paid to local bodies are of the excise duty recovered from the sale of liquor and the auction of liquor outlets in the years 2011-12, 2013-14, and 2014-15. Of the total revenue generated from liquor trade, 16% of the license fee charged and 10% of the auction money for the outlets in a particular area goes to the local civic body concerned, the lawyer associated with the matter, Gagneshwar Walia, said.
The government had apprised the court that for the years mentioned, Rs 320.36 crore was due to be paid to the municipal corporations, councils and committees on account of the share of the licence fee of English and country-made liquor. Of this, Rs 15 crore was released on May 16. The government affidavit had come in a contempt matter filed by the Class-3 and -4 employees of the Kotkapura Municipal Council after the state failed to comply with the high court directions.
In 2012, the high court had directed that in case the municipal council was unable to pay its employees on account of the shortage of funds, the withholding of salary would start from the top, starting from the executive officer. The wages of low-paid employees would not be withheld under any circumstances, the court had ordered.
However, the councils didn’t comply with the orders and the petitioners had to approach the high court again earlier this year, saying their wages had been stopped again illegally, while there was Rs 4 crore arrears on account excise duty. During a hearing of this petition, the high court had directed the state to submit details of how many of these payments to all local bodies were pending.