On Friday, the High Court of Delhi said it intends to stop all non-essential, discretionary expenses of the three municipal corporations in New Delhi, including the perks of Councillors & Senior Officers “living like lords”, so that salaries & pensions of COVID-19 front line workers — doctors, nurses & sanitation staff — can be paid.
The High Court directed the civic bodies to give details of expenses incurred on top officials saying that if anyone in these Corporations has to take a cut on their salaries, it has to be them, starting with the councillors.
A Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi & Justice Rekha Palli said that during the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic the payment of salaries of health workers, including doctors & nursing staff, & sanitation staff who are at the frontlines should be prioritised over other discretionary expenses, like perks of senior officers.
The Court said it intends to stop all the non-essential or discretionary expenses of the three Corporations & the perks of senior officers so that those funds can be used to pay salaries & pensions of front line workers during the prevailing pandemic.
“People at the top are living like lords. Once they feel the pinch, the things will work out,” the Bench said. “Why should the class 3 & 4 workers suffer”.
The Court further said that “paucity of funds cannot be an excuse for non-payment of salaries & pensions” as these are fundamental rights under the Constitution since they have a bearing on the life & quality of life of the persons entitled to them & the dependents of such individuals.
“Non-availability of funds shall not be accepted as an excuse,” the Bench said to the Corporations.
The Bench also expressed its disapproval over Delhi government’s decision to deduct from the amounts transferred to the Corporations the loans given to them, saying even the Reserve Bank of India had imposed a moratorium on recall of loans & declaration of accounts as NPA by banks & financial institutions.
It said that “Therefore, your deduction of loan amounts was certainly not called for”.
Delhi Govt additional standing counsel Satyakam urged the court to give him time to take instructions on why the deductions were justified.
Thereafter, the Bench gave Delhi Govt time till Jan 21 to explain why the deductions were not stopped during the prevailing pandemic when everyone has suffered some kind of financial loss.
The Court also asked the Delhi Govt to explain why funds payable to the Corporations under the heads of transfer duty & parking charges have not been released to them & when the same would be paid.
With the directions the Bench listed the matter for hearing on Jan 21.
The Court was hearing several PILs alleging non-payment of salaries & pensions of serving & retired employees, including teachers, doctors & sanitation workers, of the three corporations.
During the hearing, the court said it intends to direct the Delhi government to transfer the funds under the basic tax assignment (BTA) without any deduction of loan amounts.
The BTA comprises 6% of the revenue collected by the Delhi government, Mr. Satyakam told the court & added that during the pandemic, amounts paid under that head were reduced in proportion to the reduction in revenue collected by the government during the same period.
Satyakam further said that grant in aid of 6.5% was paid without any reduction to the Corporations under the heads of education, health & urban development.
However, the Corporations contended that if the loan amounts are not deducted from the BTA, then they can meet the salaries of all their employees.
They said that presently they were unable to pay salaries or pensions due to paucity of funds.