The Delhi High Court Friday stayed the AAP government’s decision to waive 50 per cent of the arrears of those who had not paid their electricity bills even as it emerged that three key departments of the state government had opposed the waiver proposal of then chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet.
The court directed the Lt. Governor to clarify the “present stand” on the waiver, saying the affidavit filed by the government only mentioned the “facts” of the notes circulated between various departments.
“This is the past, what’s your current stand?” asked the court of acting Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmad and Justice Siddharth Mridul.
The Delhi government affidavit filed Friday said the cabinet had approved the proposal for waiver as a subsidy for a “new service” after a cabinet meeting on February 12, and had sought the opinion of the finance, planning and legal departments.
These departments gave their opinion between February 12 and 14.
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In its affidavit, the government said the three departments had opposed the waiver proposal, with the planning department commenting that it did not consider the proposal “appropriate” because the exemption would be “tantamount to rewarding the defaulters”.
“Planning department may not agree to this proposal as there is no rationale behind it and it may result in discrimination of the consumers and also set a wrong example (sic),” the affidavit said.
“No such provision is made available in the budget for such kind of relief,” the finance department said in its response, adding that the rules said “no expenditure shall be incurred during a financial year on a new service not contemplated in the annual budget”.
The affidavit also said the finance department had said if the subsidy was to be granted, “supplementary grant is required to be laid down before the Delhi Legislative Assembly after obtaining the prior approval of the Government of India”.
The legal department had objected on the ground that a subsidy could not be retrospective, and could be applicable “only from the date of issue of orders”.
The petitioner, advocate Vivek Narayan Sharma, also argued in court that according to the affidavit, the government’s own departments had said the decision was totally wrong. Sharma wants the waiver quashed as he says the move “encouraged unlawful behaviour” and was “discriminatory towards rule abiding citizens”.
The court, however, observed that the government affidavit did not clarify whether any “final decision” had been taken on the issue.
“Notice to respondent 1 (Delhi government). Respondent 1 to file counter affidavit indicating its current stand within 10 days. Meanwhile, there will be stay on decision of February 12, 2014 of cabinet of National Capital Territory of Delhi,” the court said.