The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered the Punjab government to release over Rs 100 crore to 30 government aided private colleges within two weeks for disbursement of provident fund, gratuity and leave encashment amount to retired teaching employees.
The direction came from Justice Mahesh Grover while hearing contempt of court petitions filed by around 30 government aided private colleges in Punjab. Grover ordered the state government to file action taken report by February 23.
Appearing for most of the colleges, advocate Sameer Sachdeva submitted that the state government had failed to ensure compliance of repeated court orders for releasing grant-in-aid to the colleges that had made them inefficient to disburse provident fund, leave encashment and gratuity to their retired employees.
The government aided private colleges first release salaries, emoluments and pensionary benefits to their employees and then claim reimbursement from the state education department. However, the reimbursements have been pending for the past many years because of the state’s poor financial condition.
The court was informed that the Punjab government had earlier approached the Supreme Court against high court’s order, wherein the state had accepted that it was to release over Rs 500 crore to around 100 such colleges. The Supreme Court had last year dismissed the state’s petition and had directed the high court to decide the case.
While hearing the contempt of court petition filed by SPN College Mukerian, the high court had last year taken view of the lackadaisical approach of the Punjab government in not releasing the grants-in-aid in time. “It is a travesty of the situation that high ranking officers (principal secretary education Roshan Sunkaria and director of public instructions (Colleges) GS Ghuman) have been summoned to the court through coercive process.
Implicit in their conduct is a scant regard for law and its process. It is not expected from the officers of standing that they would demonstrate defiance of law by their conduct in not responding to the orders of this court.”
Both the officers had then tendered an unconditional apology with the assurance that they would not repeat this conduct in future.
The court had also noticed earlier that there had been a serious contest in this regard where the state government and the colleges have been litigating for the past five to six years.