The Allahabad High Court recently directed the Congress Party to pay over ₹2.66 crore to the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) within three months for using its buses and taxis between 1981 and 1989 [UP Congress Committee vs State Of UP And Others]
A division bench of Justice Vivek Chaudhary and Justice Manish Kumar rejected the allegation of political vendetta raised by Congress and said that the amount should be paid along with an interest of 5 percent from the date it is due.
“Merely by stating that after change of government due to political vendetta the amount is wrongly being recovered or taking a technical ground that amount cannot be recovered as arrears of land revenue, it can not be granted liberty to escape its liability to pay its bills," the Court directed.
The Court noted that the vehicles were provided by UPSRTC for political rallies and other activities of Congress.
It said though the Congress had initially shown inclination to settle the matter, but with passage of time it "totally changed its stand and now is raising submissions only on technicalities”.
One of the unpaid bills was also related to the vehicles hired for ferrying people to pay homage to late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.
The Court noted that the Congress, while being a ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, availed facilities for its political activities, and sometimes the vehicles were procured on direction of the then Chief minister or Minister concerned.
“It had also paid some advance money on two occasions. However, remaining bills were left pending, though repeated reminders were sent to the petitioner,” it added.
The party took the stand the bills were concocted and false but the Court said that the argument was “vague” and was no denial of the receipts of the transactions. It said there was nothing on record to show any decision was taken by the State government to pay the dues.
“In the present case, the political party in power had exercised its dominant position and utilized public property for its political purposes. The bills were raised to the petitioner political party but it ignored to pay the same,” the bench said.
The State had initiated recovery proceedings against Congress in 1998 under UP Public Moneys (Recovery of Dues) Act, 1972. The Court stayed the recovery proceedings in November 1998 and the case remained pending for the past 25 years.
Observing that the question of recovery of public money is involved in the case, the Court said the Congress party was bound to pay the same. It, accordingly, directed the UP Congress to pay the amount along with interest within three months.
Senior Advocate JN Mathur with Advocates IH Farooqui, Karunesh Kumar Srivastava and Prabhat Kumar Tripathi represented the petitioner.
Advocates DK Srivastava, M Chandra,Prabhu Ranjan Tripathi,T Somwanshi and Vishal Singh represented the respondents