Taxpayers in Vadodara city,who have been wondering where a major chunk of the taxes paid to the municipal corporation is going,will now get an answer.
By its own admission,the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has spent a whopping Rs 3 crore on civil lawsuits and court proceedings since 2008.
Though VMC refuses to share the break-up of the legal expenditure with the media,official sources say that a major portion it has been spent on damages to litigants or out-of-court settlements.
In a reply to an RTI query filed by a city-based activist,VMC has admitted to having spent Rs 3,10,90,867 in the past five years on civil cases in the district court,High Court and the Supreme Court. VMC has,however,refused to disclose the nature of the cases that have been fought in the past decade.
According to the corporations own admission in the RTI reply,between 2000 and 2012,it contested 1,392 cases in the civil court and 722 civil cases in the district court between 1995 and 2012.
Between 1995 and 2012,VMC was dragged to the High Court in 1,041 civil cases and to the Supreme Court in 17 cases. With a list of 32 advocates on its list,VMC has provided a year-wise break-up of the expenditures incurred in court cases in the past five years.
In 2008-09,VMC has spent Rs 58,41,419. The figure touched Rs 70,28,443 and Rs 85,14,571 in 2009 and 2010 respectively and in 2010-11 and 2011-12,the amounts spent on court cases stood at Rs 59,80,927 and Rs 37,28,507.
VMC has so far refused to reveal how it incurred so much expenditure in its legal cases.
Atul Sabhai Gamechi,who filed the RTI application,says,The expenditure is simply huge and there is no description or even the willingness to show how they arrived at a figure that big on legal cases. The citizens have the right to know.
VMC sources say that an explanation may be hard to come by,as a lot of the money has been spent on out-of-court settlements with people who have dragged the corporation to court.
A senior official of the corporation says,The corporation ends up making a big mess of contracts,tenders and even notices issued to people on several occasions. Blame it on the total unorganized system that we have in place. This often results in litigation and counter-allegations that the corporation has to defend itself in.
In many cases,it also completely fails to discharge its own duties that leads to court litigation against it. Often a compromise is reached with the parties so that the cases are not dragged. A major portion of this amount may also include penalty or damages paid to claimants in civil cases, the official said on condition of anonymity.
R M Patel,First Appeal Officer and Assistant Municipal Commissioner,refused to entertain questions about why the information on the nature of legal expenditure was denied to the applicant.