The Maharashtra government should realise that if it cannot support its own judiciary by giving infrastructure and staff, then it will not be able to obtain early disposal of cases and pending matters, the Bombay High Court has observed. The observation came from a bench of justices S C Dharmadhikari and B P Colabawalla, who were hearing a petition filed by Sales Tax Tribunal Bar Association urging for infrastructure and staff for the judiciary. “Just as a police station and other government authorities require support and care from the state in this regard, equally, the judiciary must be on the map and we hope there will be a change in the mindset and our intervention will be minimal hereafter,” said the bench.
The judges also noted that they were glad to know that a proposal for redevelopment of the sprawling Bandra Government Colony at suburban Bandra east in Mumbai is under the active consideration of the state authorities.
The High Court also advised the state government to consider whether it should moot a proposal for construction of flats and tenements for housing government employees in service, particularly on such land which are declared as excess vacant land and are vesting in the state.
“This court has passed several judgements and orders resulting in these excess vacant lands being saved from the clutches of litigation. Now, vast tract of land is available,” the bench remarked recently.
“The state must consider the proposal now mooted during the course of arguments that government buildings can come up on these surplus vacant land which vest in the state and possession of which is already taken over,” said the bench.
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Such surplus vacant lands are situated from Bandra towards Borivali on Western suburban railway line in Mumbai, the judges said and hoped that this aspect would be considered by the state government.
The HC was of the opinion that if prompt service is the motto, then the government must look after its employees.
“We hope and trust that human resources development policies as prevalent in private sector are also present to the mind of the state and they would consider appropriate proposal so that the employees are encouraged to work and put in extra hours, as well,” said the judges.
Government counsel V A Sonpal assured the court that the vacancy of the post of judicial member of Maharashtra Sales Tax Tribunal will be filled in shortly.
The proposals from the registry of the Bombay High Court have been received and are being forwarded for processing to the Law Ministry and the final decision would be taken by the state Chief Minister, Sonpal submitted.
He assured the bench that before the HC reopens after Diwali vacation, the final decision of Chief Minister would be taken and appointment made and duly notified.
As regards vacancies in support staff of Maharashtra Sales Tax Tribunal, two affidavits were filed, one by General Administration Department Under Secretary Gajanan Gurav and the other by Maharashtra Public Service Commission Under Secretary Sukhada S Amrite.
Both stated that the steps are being taken to fill up all vacancies and to provide the requisite support staff, as per sanction to this Tribunal. They assured the court that the Tribunal would not suffer nor its working paralysed on account of lack of such support staff and care would be taken to promptly fill up all vacancies.
Sonpal further assured that existing vacancies of non-judicial staff had been filled in and also in future whenever such vacancies arise, they would be filled well in advance so that the Tribunal work does not suffer.
The bench said it was accepting these statements as undertakings given to the high court.
With regard to the problem of accommodation faced by the judiciary, the state government, through an affidavit filed by Joint Secretary, General Administration Department, said the judicial officers would be given priority in allotment of housing accommodation, particularly in Mumbai.
It is thereafter the other officers working with the state and duly entitled to such accommodation will be accommodated. The preference and priorities will always be given to the judicial officers, the state’s affidavit said.
However, the court felt that what applies to judicial officers and other officers working at higher level both in judicial and state services, ought to apply to all levels.
“We have found that often the higher level officers are granted housing accommodation but the staff which supports them for discharging their duties efficiently and promptly are not cared and looked after. Their problem, particularly of housing accommodation, is not attended to nor given priority,” the bench observed.
In this regard, the state government said that a new government colony comprising 1,221 flats in suburban Ghatkopar is under construction and some buildings have been completed.