8 July 2021 12:01 PM GMT
The Delhi High Court on Thursday came down heavily on the North Delhi Municipal Corporation for non-payment of salaries and pensions to its employees after observing that the cries of the employees have "fallen on deaf ears" of the corporators. Observing that the corporation should become independent and a self-sustaining economic model, a division bench comprising of Justices Vipin Sanghi...
The Delhi High Court on Thursday came down heavily on the North Delhi Municipal Corporation for non-payment of salaries and pensions to its employees after observing that the cries of the employees have "fallen on deaf ears" of the corporators.
Observing that the corporation should become independent and a self-sustaining economic model, a division bench comprising of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh issued a slew of directions to the NDMC as well as the Delhi Government for taking steps to augment the payment of salaries and pensions.
During the course of hearing, Advocate Divya Prakash Pande, standing counsel for NDMC apprised the Court that the salaries for the month of May for health workers working in NDMC hospitals upto group B and below have been released.
Taking on record the affidavit of the Commissioner, NDMC stating the steps taken by the corporation in compliance of its earlier order, the Court took note of the fact that despite the said efforts, there are salaries which are unpaid and outstanding.
The Court was also apprised that the corporation has generated a revenue in the tune of Rs. 744.18 crores. Moreover, Mr. Pande submitted that several properties owned by the Corporation are put out for lease or sale in order to generate revenue by the NDMC.
Noting the said submission, the Court ordered thus:
"In our view, corporation should look to become independent and self sustaining economic model to fulfill its obligations under Delhi Municipal Corporation Act. It cannot be seen as a body which is short of funds all the time and failing to make payments of salaries and pensions."
"Apart from paying salaries and pensions, It should also have sufficient funds to discharge it's obligations enumerated in the Act. If the NCT of Delhi is to be preserved and promoted as a civilized city," the Court said.
The Court also took strong objection to the reluctance of the NDMC to not give away the 6 hospitals owned by the corporation to either Central Government or to State Government despite not having enough funds or financial resources to incur it's expenses.
"As to whether or not the said hospitals of NDMC should be given to Central Government or to GNCTD is a decision which necessarily is to be taken by NDMC. However, the said decision has to be based on financial prudence," the Court said.
Furthermore, it said:
"It cannot have a situation where on one hand the NDMC isn't able to meet even its most fundamental obligation of paying salaries to employees and pensioners and on the other hand, it insists on retaining and running Hospitals which do not generate any revenue."
In view of this, the Court directed the NDMC to revisit the said aspect and take a financially prudent policy decision. The Court however clarified that in case the corporation is still of the view that the hospitals should be run by it, then the corporation must not only maintain but also upgrade the hospitals with latest technology in the medical field.
"..as would not be fair to the citizens of the city if municipal hospitals do not render medical services which are comparable to other institutions in the GNCTD," the Court said.
Directing the NDMC to examine this aspect, the Court asked the corporation to also file an affidavit disclosing the expenditure incurred with respect to each municipal corporators towards their salaries or perks and other official expenditures.
"It appears that the cries of the employees and pensioners of the corporation have fallen on deaf ears when it comes to addressing the concerns by the corporators. If the corporation wishes to continue the luxury of running and maintaining the municipal hospitals, it cannot be at the expense of salaries and pensions of the employees."
"It may be necessary that the financial burden on account of lack of revenue generation is borne by the elected representatives of the corporation," the Court said.
In view of this, the Court directed the commissioner of corporation to file an affidavit making full disclosure of the aforesaid aspect within two weeks.
However, the Court was of the view that till the time efforts are being made by the NDMC to augment it's resources and endeavor to pay the salaries and pensions, the employees and the pensioners cannot be made to wait till NDMC is able to generate it's funds.
"Payment of their salaries and pensions cannot be delayed as their day to day survival and existence is at stake," the Court said.
Consequently, the Court directed the Delhi Government to release an amount of Rs. 293 crores within 10 days to the NDMC so that the corporation is able to bridge the gap and make up to date payment of salaries and pensions by pooling in resources as well to said amount.
The Court also directed both NDMC and EDMC to look into the aspect of the steps it will take and on augmentation of resources and asked them to file their affidavits within four weeks.
During the previous course of hearing in May end, the Court had warned the North Delhi Municipal Corporation of attachment of its properties for its failure to pay salaries and pensions to employees in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
The Court had directed the Chairman of NDMC to disclose details, under his own affidavit, of all immovable and movable properties along with their estimated value in particular of the bank accounts held by NDMC with banks and financial institutions and the amount held therein till July 1, 2021.
Earlier in April this year, NDMC had informed the Court that despite the court's earlier order of Mar 24 wherein the Delhi government was directed to make remaining payments of all the Municipal Corporations on the revised estimates of the Basic Tax Assignment (BTA) by Apr 5, these payments had not been made to them.
Lashing out at the Delhi government, the bench said to the counsel for the Delhi Government, "We don't live in ivory towers. There are full page ads everyday in newspapers with pictures of politicians. We have seen those and you would've as well - spending money in these times on propaganda (while salaries are pending) is this not criminal?"