Jammu and Kashmir is probably only region in the country where crores of taxpayers money is being spent for providing security and other facilities to the former Ministers and Legislators.
The Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justice Rajesh Bindal, Acting Chief Justice and Justice Sanjay Dhar while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) No. 17/2020 also highlighted illegal occupation of Government accommodation in both the capital cities.
The District Bench went through the status report filed by the Estates Department in the open court and asked Additional Advocate General Aseem Sawhney which law and rules permit incurring of security expenses on the properties which are under the illegal occupation of the political persons including former Ministers/legislators and for providing other privileges to them.
The Bench asked that how staff including gardeners and servants have also been deployed at these illegally held accommodations. The Additional Advocate General responded that this is being done for the security and proper maintenance of the Estates Department properties. The DB expressed dissatisfaction over the response and rejected his argument for being misconceived as under no law or rules such Government servants can be provided to the illegal occupants at the expense of the Government exchequer.
The Acting Chief Justice referred to the Supreme Court judgment of 2018 when it was said that Government accommodation should be co-terminus with the tenure of the persons holding the public office. He asked if Apex Court judgment is not applicable to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The District Bench referred to the status report which shows huge amount spent for electricity and water for the Government accommodations being held unauthorizedly by the political persons. The DB expressed serious concern over the matter and said he never heard of this in the nation of such an issue and J&K seems to be an exception. He asked that how would the Government justify huge expenditure from the tax-payers’ money for providing security and other facilities to the former Ministers and Legislators and other political persons at the unauthorizedly held Government accommodations.
Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed who appeared for the PIL said that all the political and other persons who are unauthorizedly occupying the Government accommodations have their own residential houses within the territorial jurisdiction of Jammu and Srinagar Municipal Corporations but the Government was allowing unnecessary burden on the exchequer.
Additional Advocate General Aseem Sawhney informed the Division Bench that the Security Review Committee will soon meet and review the security of the protected persons including 72 unauthorized occupants and appropriate action will be taken against those whose security will be downgraded. The DB heard Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed and Additional Advocate General and directed the Government to tell the court about the steps taken for the recovery of rent, electricity and water outstanding against 72 unauthorized occupants including ex Ministers and other political persons.
The DB also ordered the Government to inform before the next date any rules/ regulations by which Government staff has been provided to 72 unauthorized occupants including ex Ministers under Government expense when these occupants are not holding any public office.