Thursday, December 7, 2023

Supreme Court berates Delhi government for breach of undertaking given to it on providing funds for RRTS project

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi for ‘breach’ of undertaking given to it to provide funds for the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) Project in the Alwar and Panipat corridors.

The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia directed the Aam Aadmi Party-led government in Delhi to transfer the funds meant for advertising to the RRTS projects.

It pointed out that the funds allocated for advertising for the last three years amounted to Rs 1,100 crore and Rs 550 crore for this year. 

The Apex Court said it was inclined to transfer those funds, however, it was keeping the order in abeyance for a week, granting time to the AAP government to make good on its earlier promise.

The Bench warned the Delhi government that if it failed to transfer the funds, then the order would come into effect. The Apex Court further warned that it would stay and attach the GNCTD’s advertising budget, in case it failed to comply with the Court orders. 

The top court of the country passed the orders on a petition highlighting the deteriorating air quality of Delhi and stubble burning in nearby States, calling it one of the biggest contributors to air pollution.

The Apex Court today took up the issue of delay in implementing the RRTS projects, touted as a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Noting that it cannot be taken for granted, the Apex Court said if this was the only way that the States would co-operate, then the Court would have to do this. The bench further pulled up the Delhi government for not seeking extension. 

Earlier on July 24, the Apex Court had come down heavily on the Government of NCT of Delhi for spending Rs 1100 crore on advertisements and delaying its contribution in the share of funds in the implementation of the Delhi-Meerut RRTS, which has since been inaugurated. This was one of the three rapid rail corridors planned under Phase I of the RapidX project.

The Government of NCT of Delhi had assured the Apex Court that it would allocate budgetary provisions for the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) Project.

The Bench of Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia noted that if Rs 1100 crore could be spent for advertisement in the past three financial years, contributions could certainly be made for infrastructure projects.

The Apex Court recorded in its order that it was ‘constrained’ to direct the Delhi government in its previous order to file an affidavit regarding funds used for advertisements in the last three financial years.

The order was issued on account of the fact that the Delhi Government had thrown its hand up for contributing their proportionate amount, noted the Apex Court.

Appearing for Delhi government, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi apprised the Court today about the affidavit filed by the Delhi government.

As per the affidavit, the AAP-led government in Delhi had spent around Rs 1073 crore on advertisement in the past three years.

The top court of the country then told the counsel that the Delhi government should either allocate budgetary provisions for the RRTS project or it would attach the advertisement budget of GNCTD.

The Senior Advocate assured the top court of the country that the payment would be made.

However, it sought permission for making the payment in installments spread over a reasonable period of time.

The Apex Court then observed that the payment schedule itself was spread over a period of time.

Singhvi said the government would make budgetary provision for the concerned projects according to the schedule laid down.

The Apex Court accepted the government’s statement and passed a direction regarding payment of the overdue amount.

(Case title: MC Mehta vs UoI and Ors)

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