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Justices SC Dharmadhikari and GS Kulkarni launched into the state government’s allocation of a meagre sum of 29 crore for the court complex in Mazgaon. The complete cost of construction is estimated to be around 387 crore.
According to the government’s counsel, Hiten Venegavkar, the state allocation for judicial infrastructure in 2016-17 is 510 crore. Venegavkar provided these figures in the presence of the state’s Finance Secretary who had been summoned by the High Court.
The court was not too pleased. Responded Dharmadhikari J,
This is pittance, we are not satisfied with this.This is clearly abdication of duty on part of the state.If you are helpless tell us so boldly,
The court complex in question, situated in Mazgaon, was vacated in 2013 after an urgent evacuation was ordered. Subsequently, the entire building was declared unsafe and structural engineers had said it would collapse at any time. It is yet to be demolished.
Venegavkar informed the court that the allocations will be increased gradually as various clearances including environmental are obtained. This also did not go down too well with the court.
“You will not pull the building down, you will instead use the money that you have for other things. If this is how you you treat the highest court in the state then we are sorry. Apart from this State, judicial infrastructure has improved significantly everywhere. It is a matter of shame for the State.”
Taking aim at the state executive in particular Dharmadhikari J said,
Budget for renovating Mantralaya will overshoot and you will go on spending. No secretary today wants to occupy an office without it being a “hi-tech chamber”. We do not want these buildings for ourselves, we feel pity for you. [The] State is the litigant in 80% of the cases in these courts. You have to change your priorities and mindset. Such is your reputation that contractors (appointed by you) are now seeking the High Court Registry’s intervention in getting funds released.
Dharmadhikari J went on to dictate an order, directing the Finance Secretary to file an affidavit detailing the time frame for releasing the entire amount. The judge also recorded that he was “shocked” and “surprised” at the insistance of the Finance Secretary directing the Law Secretary to file the affidavit instead of him. He also said that the court does not take pleasure in issuing summons, and that the officer was summoned given the dismal state of affairs.
Later, the Finance Secretary declined to comment but seemed visibly upset as he was overheard telling Venegavkar,
“I have 35 years of service. You cannot bring me to court and humiliate me like this. “
Two separate affidavits will now be filed by the Law Secretary and the Finance Secretary within two weeks.