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Bombay HC stays Shinde govt’s orders suspending works initiated in rural areas during MVA tenure

The activities suspended included those for which tenders were issued from April 1, 2021, but work orders were not issued, and also those for which work orders were issued but the actual work had not begun.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde (File)

The Bombay High Court has till December 12 put an interim stay on orders issued by the Eknath Shinde government on July 19 and 25, suspending development activities initiated during the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in rural areas.

The activities suspended included those for which tenders were issued from April 1, 2021, but work orders were not issued, and also those for which work orders were issued but the actual work had not begun.

The works consisted of providing basic facilities within villages; special programmes on development of travel destinations; development of pilgrimage areas; works under the Konkan Tourism Development Programme and Sant Sevalal Maharaj Tirth Kshetra Development Scheme as well as subsidy to zilla parishads/district-level panchayats for erecting monuments of noble persons.

Justice Ramesh D Dhanuka and Justices S G Dige were on November 28 hearing a writ petition filed by the Belewadi village panchayat in Kolhapur, challenging the government orders on the ground that on March 31, construction of gutters in the village panchayat had been sanctioned by the state.

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The plea said that while the work order was issued on July 14, the government issued the impugned orders thereafter without giving any reason why the budget, which has been already incorporated in the Finance Act, had been suspended by an executive order. Referring to the work order issued in favour of contractor Mangesh Sarkappa Sutre, Advocate S S Patwardhan, appearing for the village panchayat, said the work should get completed before March 31, 2023, else, the budget earmarked would lapse.

In October this year, referring to the impugned orders of July 19 and 25, the Maharashtra government had cancelled development projects worth Rs 850 crore in rural areas. The government had claimed the projects were cancelled to correct a “wrong” of the MVA government, whose rule allegedly saw unequal fund distribution with areas represented by NCP MLAs being favoured.

The petitioner referred to the November 9 order of the Aurangabad bench of the HC, which was also hearing pleas against the government suspending works already awarded. The bench had passed an order of status quo with regard to the projects. Additional Government Pleader Kavita Solunke, appearing for the government, sought time to take instructions and make a statement.

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Justice Dhanuka said, “In our prima facie view, the state government, already having issued orders after having approved the budget for the said work awarded to the contractor to be carried out in the village of the petitioner panchayat, cannot suspend such work, which would result in lapse of the budget already earmarked for the said work and that also without any basis.”

The HC will hear the matter next on December 12.

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 12:47 IST
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