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Delhi finance secy told to release unpaid DJB dues | Latest News Delhi


New Delhi The Supreme Court on Friday told the Delhi finance department to ensure that dues payable to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) are settled by Wednesday, while making the board a party for enquiring the amount which is due and payable from the last year’s budgeted amount.

The Delhi government, represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and advocate Shadan Farasat, pointed out that the minister wrote six letters to the department in this regard seeking the release of funds prior to closing of financial year on March 31, 2024. (Representational Image)

The order came after the Delhi government claimed, in an affidavit filed in court, that an outstanding amount of 1,927 crore was denied by the finance department.

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A bench headed by chief justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud said, “We will issue notice to DJB and find out what is the amount due and payable.”

On April 1, the court issued notice to the Delhi finance department and the chief secretary on a petition filed by Delhi government and its water minister laying claim on a sum of 1,927 crore that was yet not paid over by the finance department to DJB. According to the petition, a total of 4,578.15 crore was released for the financial year (FY) 2023-24 out of the budget estimate of approximately 6,339 crore.

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appeared for the finance department on Friday and said, “The money for 2023-24 has lapsed. Anything to be paid can now be out of 2024-25 budget.”

But the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said, “It is a matter of sorting out. How can it be paid out of 2024-25? The matter was pending before us. Whatever is payable, you pay it out of what you have. Take instructions by Wednesday.”

The Delhi government, represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and advocate Shadan Farasat, pointed out that the minister wrote six letters to the department in this regard seeking the release of funds prior to closing of financial year on March 31, 2024. “We filed this petition much before March 31 and when it was mentioned to the court that the funds will lapse, we were told that it is only a financial entry.”

The bench told Jethmalani: “There were queries raised by the finance department which they say have been met. What is liable to be paid, ensure it is done by next date.”

Jethmalani, on his part, said, “There is a motive behind this petition. The petitioner is the water minister and she is filing against the secretary. She does not make DJB a party of which she is the chairperson.”

He pointed out that a similar proceeding is pending in the Delhi high court where DJB is a party in a matter initiated by contractors seeking release of their monies. “In the high court, DJB has filed an affidavit where they say we have given them whatever they wanted.” It was at this point, the court decided to make DJB a party to the proceedings at the request of Singhvi.

The elected government and the Delhi government officers have been engaged in confrontation on a range of issues such as water supply and sewer issues, availability of medicines in hospitals and health care facilities. The government has in past claimed the finance department disrupted regular release of due funds to Delhi Jal Board by raising unnecessary issues while the finance department officials rejected the government claims saying the queries they raised were valid and necessary.

The finance department denied stalling release of funds to DJB and said that there were financial irregularities in the body. In an affidavit filed in the court through advocate Gaurav Goel, the department said that the budget estimate for every year acts as a “ceiling” and is not a “mandate for exact 100% expenditure as per budget estimates” arguing that in 2022-23 the amount released to DJB was a little over 4,572 crore as against the budget estimate of 7,607 crore.

“It is therefore incorrect and misleading to say that the finance department has stalled the release of funds sanctioned by the legislative assembly for DJB…the contention of the petitioner that the finance department, in violation of repeated orders by the concerned minister in charge, stalled the release of funds sanctioned by Delhi assembly for DJB….is wrong,” the finance department affidavit said.

The department also referred to a report prepared by Delhi chief secretary on March 15, 2024 highlighting financial lapses in functioning of DJB.

The Delhi government, meanwhile, claimed in its petition that the release of money was crucial as Delhi would face a major water crisis with the summers approaching. The non-availability of funds also impacted sewerage and sanitation services in the Capital and there are no takers for the tenders issued by the board as unpaid bills of contractors began to pile up, it added.



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