Updated: January 16, 2021 4:33:05 am
The Delhi High Court Friday said the right to receive salary and pension is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, and warned that it will stop perks of councillors as well as senior officers of civic bodies to utilise funds for payment of salaries of MCD workers. It also sought details of the expenditure incurred on them.
The court made the observations during the hearing of a matter regarding non-payment of salaries and pensions of employees of North and East Delhi Municipal Corporations and the health institutions run by them.
“We all get a lot of perks. We as judges get a lot of perks. If some of those perks are taken away because of some problem, we are not going to suffer that much. We are all living like lords, people at the top. I have no difficulty in saying this, I am also a beneficiary of that. We can and we should take the haircut as a responsible citizen. Why should the poor man suffer, the class IV employee?” observed Justice Vipin Sanghi.
The division bench of Justices Sanghi and Rekha Palli said the stated reason of paucity of funds cannot be accepted as an excuse for such non-payment.
The court said payment of salaries to employees of corporations, including doctors, paramedic staff and healthcare workers, is an absolute necessity and the same has to be prioritised over other discretionary expenditure that the corporations are incurring.
“If anyone has to take a haircut during these times due to financial constraints of the corporations, it has to be the people at the top,” it said, ordering civic bodies to place before court the different heads of expenditure in relation to their councillors and Class I and II officers.
During the hearing, the court was told that the civic bodies had earlier taken loans from the Delhi government and the same was readjusted against their basic tax assignment (BTA), which already stood reduced on account of fall in revenues during the pandemic.
The bench observed that the RBI had last year imposed a moratorium on enforcement of claims by banks and financial institutions during the pandemic as the businesses were hit. The court told the Delhi government that the recovery could have waited and that the same was uncalled for as the tax collection in every sector was low. The court has now asked the government counsel to seek instructions on the aspect of release of loan amounts which were deducted earlier from the BTA.
The court also said the Delhi government should be conscious of the fact that the employees of these corporations are also voters in Delhi. “If you are in power, you are in power because of them also. Don’t treat them as if they are not your voters,” it said.
It also observed that the municipal corporations may be ruled by a different political party but the councillors were not the ones suffering. “They are sitting pretty; that is why we are saying that we have to give them a haircut. They will all be roaming around in their cars, using municipal facilities, perks and petrol and everything. They are not suffering. It is the poor man who is suffering and people who are actually working and risking their lives,” observed the court.
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