The Madras High Court has directed the Union government to support the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai by providing adequate funds, so as to pay off the salary of employees, as well as to maintain the heritage building.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice S. Ananthi passed the order after dismissing a petition, which claimed that in absence of adequate funds, it has become difficult to even pay salary to employees of the Museum.
Besides, it was becoming difficult to maintain the building, which was the Palace of Rani Mangammal, turned into a Museum. It is one of the heritage buildings in the city of Madurai, which needs to be well-maintained, the plea contended.
The cause prayed by the petitioner was not opposed by the Counsel appearing for the respondents, rather it submitted that the Central government has given a corpus fund of Rs five crore in three break-ups and if the total amount is kept in fixed deposit with low rate of interest, it will yield Rs 30 lakh per annum.
The respondents were yet to consider the issue raised by the petitioner to adequately support the maintenance andn payment of salary of the staff deployed at the Museum.
For the Gandhi Memorial Museum , the counsel submitted that presently, there are 18 employees and if average salary of Rs 25,000 per month is taken into consideration, it comes to Rs four lakh per month.
Looking at the aforesaid, even if the interest of Rs 30 lakh per year is taken into consideration, it would not be sufficient even to distribute the salary, leave alone the maintenance expenses of the building.
The Court noted that though the Union of India has supported the Gandhi Memorial Museum by providing a corpus fund of Rs five crore, the amount would not be sufficient even to distribute the salary out of the accrued interest. The maintenance part is separate.
The Bench directed the Union government to support the Gandhi Memorial Museum by providing adequate funds, so as to pay the salary of the employees and to maintain the heritage building. In the absence of funds, the heritage building cannot be maintained properly.
“As one-time arrangement, we direct the Union of India to extend support for the maintenance of the heritage building and whatever is required be undertaken under the supervision of the experts to protect the heritage building and also to provide adequate funds for its onward maintenance.
“The consideration of all these issues in reference to the representation would be made at the earliest and in any case, not later than four months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.
“For the purpose of making appropriate decisions, the respondents may visit the building and at the same time, take the accounts and other required documents to find out the justification of expenses and even to know the volume of expenses required for the payment of salary to the employees and also the maintenance part.
“The required funds would then be provided without delay and in any case not later than four months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order,” it added.