Observing that district courts were being starved of finances, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday pulled up the Delhi government and directed it to take out an amount of Rs 2.52 crore from its own budget for recruitment of staff in lower courts.
“Any obstruction in the discharge of constitutional function of the courts must be viewed seriously,” observed the division bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad in a case pertaining to the grant of funds for lower courts in Delhi.
The court noted that several directions have been issued in the recent past to the government to clear files relating to sanctions or revalidations, including for providing adequate support staff and official vehicles for judges to commute to court. “All said issues have been hanging fire for a fairly long time,” it said.
After it was informed that 150 judicial officers are due to be posted in the next couple of months and their courts cannot be made functional without adequate support staff, the division bench in an order Wednesday directed the High Court to release a sum of Rs 2.52 crore “from its budget to the District Court without any delay with a condition that the said amount shall be returned to Delhi High Court immediately on being made available by the Delhi Government to the District Court, which exercise shall be completed on or before 31.12.2020”.
The court was earlier told that the recruitment process initiated for various posts has come to a “grinding halt” due to the lack of financial sanctions from the Delhi government. It was also told the budget for recruitment has been slashed from Rs 26.32 crore to Rs 5.32 crore. Out of that amount, a sum of Rs 2.79 crore has already been incurred and paid towards the recruitment process. An estimated amount of Rs 2.52 crore remains for clearing past bills and for further expenditure towards the ongoing recruitment process, it was told.
“It is noteworthy that candidates, who had applied for the aforesaid posts, had deposited a fixed fee in the district court totalling to a sum of Rs. 3.4 crore, which amount already stands transferred into the account of the Delhi government and yet, the Delhi government has been sitting over the pending sanctions/revalidation of the budget for all this while,” said the court.
The court also noted that in 2018-19, district courts had collected fines to the tune of Rs 80 crore, which was remitted to the Delhi government and court fee worth Rs.96 crore was sold in the said year. It was also told that in 2019-20, fines worth Rs 89 crore were collected by the district courts and court fee worth Rs 102 crore was sold. Between July 2019 to October 12, 2020, traffic fines to the tune of Rs 115 crore have been collected by the virtual traffic courts and deposited with the Delhi Government.
“Despite the aforesaid revenue generated by the district courts over the past three years, they are being starved of finances for basic facilities required to run the courts efficiently, which cannot be countenance,” the division bench said in the order, while ordering the Delhi government to start releasing funds for purchase of the 20 % of the required pool cars, which are 23 in number, within three months.
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