HC equates J&K officials with Kumbkarana who had to be scolded to be woken up

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Jammu, December 10: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court expressed displeasure over the working of UT officials and equated them with “Kumbkarna’’, brother of demon king Ravana, saying that they woke from deep slumber only after getting repeatedly scolded.

Dismissing a writ petition filed by M/s National India Construction Company challenging rejection of its bid for construction of a road under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal on Wednesday observed that this court is once again constrained to comment on the working of offices in Jammu and Kashmir as to how lightly the litigation is taken, adding “the result of this casualness is causing huge loss to the public exchequer’’. Moreover, the casualness is not limited to the department in question but there is hardly any difference in working of all the departments, Justice Bindal observed adding “less said is better”.

Referring to Supreme Court once comparing a litigant who had approached court after a long delay with Kumbhkarna, Acting Chief Justice observed that “I think if considered in that light, for filing of replies/objections in the cases pending in this court, the Government officials are no better”, adding “as has been mentioned in Ramayana, Demon King Ravana had to use lot of noise and different means to wake up Kumbhkarna, when his kingdom was in trouble. Here also the Government officials are to be woken up from slumber by using different means”.

In the present case, he said “the project for creation of infrastructure in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir had been put on hold, on account of interim stay granted by this court on April 16, 2018. As usual, the department kept “sleeping” over the matter and “ did not take care even to file objections immediately after receipt of notice”. “Apparently sleeping over a matter may be more suitable for the reasons best known to them, but the result remains that the people of Jammu & Kashmir remain deprived of better infrastructure facilities,” acting Chief Justice observed.
Despite court expressing “serious concern” over delay in filing of objections in its order on May 15, 2019, “ the official respondents continued sleeping over the matter for more than one year”, he observed. 

“To wake them up, they had to be scolded”, he said, adding that “now it was a communication from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Government of India, saying that the works sanctioned before April 1, 2020 and which remain unwarned till December 31, 2020 will be dropped from the list of sanctioned works of PMGSY and funds shall be allowed to to these works out of PMGSY funds,” acting CJ said.

“In such a situation, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have to fund these projects out of its own resources. It also made observations regarding delay in release of the funds to the Nodal Agency of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir after release thereof by the Central Government and further commensurate State share in the projects”, Justice Bindal pointed out, adding “the request was to review all the pending projects”.
 “It was after this communication that the officers got up from slumber,” he said, adding “It may be for the reason that fresh funds were to flow, otherwise no one is taking care of the projects for which funds have already been released and those are hanging fire”.
“These facts establish that apparently there has to be some monitoring authority standing on the heads of all the departments with a stick to take even routine work from them”, he further said, adding “there can be some vested interest to keep silent and delay execution of projects”.

Pointing out that all the Government employees are trustees of the public money and time has come that people can ask them to be accountable for not using the same properly or wasting the same, Justice Bindal said, “the way of working and attitude of shirking responsibility will not change unless the people at the helm of affairs are held accountable for their actions and inactions”. “If the officers and staff are paid salaries from the amounts contributed by the public, why the public exchequer should suffer for their inefficiency and casualness”, he added.

He also asked the competent authority to consider the manner in which the estimated cost of project is evaluated, adding “in the case in hand e-NIT mentioned the estimated cost of the project as Rs 1,285.68 lakh but the petitioner claimed that his offer was for Rs 9,90,10,059”. “But the fact remains that the difference in cost estimated by the department as compared to the bids submitted by the bidders was about 15-20 per cent,,” Justice Bindal pointed out, adding The lowest bidder had offered the rate, which was 19.10 per cent less than the estimated cost.