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HC pulls up Delhi govt for slashing budget of hybrid court project without consulting IT dept

The bench was hearing petitions seeking hybrid hearings in courts and other quasi-judicial bodies like consumer forums during the pandemic.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
October 21, 2021 8:56:45 pm
Delhi High Court, talaq ruleDelhi HC. (File photo)

THE Delhi High Court Thursday rapped the Delhi government for revising the budget estimate for implementation of the ‘Hybrid Hearing Project’ in district courts without consulting the state IT department. The Delhi government earlier this month had reduced the proposed budget from Rs 227 crore to Rs 79.48 crore.

“The manner in which you are going about it, I just don’t understand. You have put a ceiling of 79 (crore), by what logic we don’t know. You say you have reduced specifications, has anybody applied mind to say that these reduced specifications are good enough to conduct virtual proceedings?” said the division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh.

The court observed that it is not “rocket science” to understand that IT people should have been involved at the first stage: “Should you not involve the IT people at this stage to tell you whether this speed is good enough or not? You as laypersons will decide what all to go with? Civil engineers or mechanical engineers cannot do this job.”

It further said it finds it “rather curious” that without the involvement of experts, how the revised estimate was prepared by the PWD and, thereafter, even approved by the finance minister.

“Though the government should scrutinise proposals which involve the expenditure of public money and should endeavour to save costs wherever possible, the same should be done with due application of mind to all relevant aspects,” said the court, adding that, however, the revised estimate appears to have been approved without the approval of the IT department.

Directing the Registrar General of the High Court to respond to the revised estimate proposal prepared by the PWD, the court said it should be specifically stated whether the proposal is good enough to be able to conduct hybrid proceedings. The court also directed the government to file a status report after obtaining the opinion of its IT department.

The court on October 5 had asked the government to submit all information on what was asked for and what has been approved for the courts and directed it to file a chart showing items that were proposed in the preliminary estimate and items that have been approved.

The bench was hearing petitions seeking hybrid hearings in courts and other quasi-judicial bodies like consumer forums during the pandemic. It had in March asked the government to inform it about the time the state would need to provide adequate infrastructure in district courts so that hybrid hearings can be held in those courts as well.

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