Court comes down hard on Himachal government

August 15th, 2011 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Shimla, Aug 15 (IANS) Corruption, environmental degradation, vacancies in hospitals, lack of help for the physically challenged… the Himachal Pradesh government has been pulled up by the state high court over a slew of issues in the last two months.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which has been in power since December 2007, has been receiving a rap on the knuckles on public interest issues.

“A sorry state of affairs,” observed the Green Bench which looks into environmental issues. Consisting of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Rajeev Sharma, it was listening on Aug 10 to a petition on environmental degradation in Kullu district where mega hydropower projects of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) are coming up.

The ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) of the ministry of environment and forests releases finances for environmental purposes only after the state government submits proposals.

The funds are deposited with CAMPA by companies executing the projects.

On learning that the state has got only Rs.78.84 crore out of the Rs.896.76 crore deposited with CAMPA, the court turned furious, as the government had not submitted the required proposals.

“This reflects a shocking state of affairs where enormous sums of money deposited for afforestation purposes are lying with CAMPA… The funds have been stashed in banks,” the bench observed.

The bench directed the state government to inform the court about steps taken to get the money released from CAMPA and also its plans for its utilisation to arrest environment degradation.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Sanjay Karol Aug 10 took suo motu cognizance of a media report.

It directed the principal secretary (health) to inform the court about the posts of doctors and paramedical staff lying vacant in government hospitals and dispensaries.

“How the state proposes to fill vacancies is a question which has to be seriously addressed by the government. Reluctance could also be for the reason that service rules are being tailor-made to suit particular individuals,” the court said.

The high court acted on a letter written by Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation, an NGO working for disabled and thalassemic children. It directed the government Aug 3 not to charge any tuition and hostel fees from three visually impaired poor girls of Class 11 so long as the case is pending in the court.

It also directed the government to provide details of the facilities provided to these girls and other physically challenged children studying in government-run institutes.

The court on Aug 2 directed the government to make the new building of a degree college operational by Aug 15 and hold Independence Day celebrations in the new premises. It was being dilly-dallied by the government.

The court issued the directions after treating as public interest litigation a letter of students of Government Degree College at Badsar in Hamirpur district.

The court questioned the government over its preparedness to handle natural calamities like cloudbursts.

It pulled up the government July 29 for taking lenient action against a revenue official in a bribery case.

The court directed the divisional commissioner and the deputy commissioner of Mandi district to file replies for sending into compulsory retirement a patwari - a tehsil level official - accused of accepting a bribe of Rs.1,000.

“The deputy commissioner has to explain the reason for imposing a punishment of compulsory retirement when the charge of acceptance of bribe against the patwari was proved in a departmental inquiry,” the bench said.

A number of times the court has taken a tough stand against corruption.

The high court June 17 took a serious view of tardy pace of corruption cases involving top government officials.

A division bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice V.K. Sharma directed the chief secretary to forward within a week comments required by the union personnel ministry in a case pending for prosecution sanction from the ministry for over 14 months.

The bench also noticed that in 12 cases, all prior to 2005, the investigation was still in progress. It directed the state vigilance and anti-corruption bureau to file an affidavit regarding delay in completing investigation.

Earlier in the same case, the court asked the government to clarify its stand on the postings of tainted officials occupying crucial posts.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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