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SDRF: State govt can’t divert funds meant for disaster relief, Supreme Court directs Andhra Pradesh to return money

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The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Andhra Pradesh Government to repay the amount it had diverted from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

The said amount was given as compensation to the kin of Covid-19 deceased persons in the state and had been diverted into a Personal Deposit (PD) account.

The said petition that had made the accusation against the Andhra Pradesh government was presented by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati before the bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna.

Bhati said though there had been no diversion as per the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, a penalty should be imposed on the state for violating the guidelines. Senior Advocate R. Basant, who appeared for the Andhra Pradesh government, contended that there has never been any diversion except for in 2018 towards drought relief. Even then, the money had not been spent on the head for which it was diverted, Basant said.

Although because the purpose couldn’t be resolved, the capital amount stayed in the Personal Deposit account of the Commissioner of Agriculture. Bhati argued that even though no diversion has been made, the state still becomes liable for paying the required penalty.

Justice Shah observed that it would be inappropriate to keep a certain amount from SDRF in a PD and not use it and hence disallowed the State to keep the said money and asked it to revert to the SDRF. The bench mentioned that allowing such actions would grant liberty to other States to freely transfer money from these funds as and when required for their personal use.

Justice Nagarathna noted that the state should ensure there is no lacunae in compensating the families who have lost their near and dear ones in the pandemic.

Basant requested for more time and the bench granted him time to file a response in this regard and the case will now be heard on July 13 (Wednesday).

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