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Ludhiana court stays conferring of Punjab govt’s literary awards

In a verbal order, the court granted a stay on conferring of awards and distribution of cash prize money to the winners (totalling around Rs 6 crore for 2015 to 2020), said advocate Harish Rai Dhanda.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
July 20, 2021 5:30:34 am
The awards for the years 2015 to 2020 were pending and it was only in December last year (2020) that Punjab’s languages department had announced winners for six years in one go in 18 different categories of literature and art.

A Ludhiana court of judge Hasandeep Singh Bajwa on Monday stayed conferring of Punjab government’s literary and art awards for years 2015 to 2020.

In a verbal order, the court granted a stay on conferring of awards and distribution of cash prize money to the winners (totalling around Rs 6 crore for 2015 to 2020), said advocate Harish Rai Dhanda. “The court has restrained the Department of Languages (Government of Punjab) from distributing cash prize to the winners selected for the years 2015 to 2020,” he added.

Alleging that the winners of literary and art awards which are given by the languages department of Punjab government are being selected on basis of “nepotism, favouritism” and “without following any policy or criteria” to judge the writings, Mitter Sain Goyal alias Mitter Sain Meet (68), eminent Punjabi writer and winner of 2008 national Sahit Akademi Award in Punjabi, had filed a civil suit before a local court in Ludhiana on July 14, challenging the selection procedure for Punjabi Sahit Rattan award and Shiromani awards, which are given by the Punjab government each year.

The awards for the years 2015 to 2020 were pending and it was only in December last year (2020) that Punjab’s languages department had announced winners for six years in one go in 18 different categories of literature and art.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mitter Sain Meet, who had won Sahit Akademi Award in 2008 in Punjabi language for his novel ‘Sudhar Ghar’, said that cash prize collectively costs Rs 6 crore to the state exchequer.

“A total of 18 awards – Punjabi Sahit Rattan Award worth Rs 10 lakh and 17 Shiromani Awards (worth Rs 5 lakh each) – are given each year by the government. For 2015 to 2020, awards are worth Rs 6 crore in total. Their winners have been announced but government is yet to confer awards and distribute prize money. We had demanded stay on it because winners have been chosen without following any policy or criteria, and there is blatant nepotism and favouritism within the members of State Advisory Board. The court has granted the stay today,” said Meet.

He added: “A board member’s wife has been announced a winner this time in one of the categories. Interestingly, in 2008, she was the board member and that time she had nominated her husband for the award. Then in another case, one of the board members himself has won the highest Punjabi Sahit Rattan award and in a mere eyewash, he stayed absent from the meeting but as per rules, a member is not eligible for the award till he/she doesn’t resign. He has won the award despite not resigning from the board. Then, the board constituted for 2008 awards was asked to select eligible nominees for 2007 and 2008. Seven board members selected themselves for the award and one member selected her spouse. This selection was also challenged in the High Court. The last State Advisory Board was constituted in June 2020 for a period of three years.”

Mitter Sain Meet along with two others, Harbaksh Singh Grewal (70) and Rajinder Pal Singh (68) — both run an organisation ‘Punjabi Bhasha Parsar Bhaichara’ for promotion of Punjabi language — had also submitted an additional application in the court demanding a stay on conferring the awards and cash prizes to the winners till their side was not heard.

The court has fixed August 2 as the next date of hearing.

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