HC debars 4 Bihar DMs from drawing salaries

Drawing a single penny will be held as contempt of court

The Patna High Court has debarred four district magistrates (DMs) in Bihar from drawing their salary till further orders.

The punitive action came following the non-payment of a bus owner’s dues for nearly seven years after using the vehicle during the 2005 Assembly elections.

A bench of Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi issued the directive on the petition filed by the bus owner, Sheo Karan Singh, seeking direction to the Bihar government to clear his dues. While giving six-week time to the Patna DM Sanjay Singh, Rohtas DM Anupam Kumar, Khagaria DM Dharmendra Singh and Saharsa DM Miswah Bari to resolve the payment issue (pending since December 2005), the court said: “The four DMs will not draw a single penny as their salaries or emoluments till further orders.”

The bench made it clear that if any of these officers drew their salaries or emoluments, it would be treated as contempt of the court order.

Sheo Karan Singh, in his petition, had said that his vehicle was seized by the Buxar district administration on October 5, 2005 for election duty and released on December 17, 2005. In between, it plied in Patna, Buxar, Rohtas, Khagaria and Saharsa. The total dues of Singh amounted to Rs 88,000. The government made a part payment of just Rs 18,582 in two instalments. The rest of the amount of Rs 69,418 is pending for almost seven years.

Delayed by rules

The counsel of the petitioner said the bus owner received Rs 8000 as advance from the Buxar district administration when his vehicle was impounded. The Buxar district authorities in 2007 cleared the remaining dues of Rs10,582 against using the bus for 15 days in its jurisdiction, that too after the petitioner approached the High Court. But the other four district authorities have not yet paid a single penny to the bus owner.

Irked over the inordinate delay by other four districts, the judge asked: “How long the petitioner has to run and how many offices he must oblige before his rightful claim can be settled?” To this, the government counsel cited a rule which said that only those district administrations could make payment where the vehicle was used. “The petitioner will have to approach each district for getting his dues,” the government counsel added.

Taking serious note of it, the judge remarked that “a citizen could not be harassed at the hands of the state in a fashion like this,” and added that the matter could not be resolved in the past seven years and the apathetic attitude of the officers could stretch the litigation for another five years.
The court asked the DMs to clear the dues and file a counter-affidavit on the next date of hearing. The bench ordered listing of the matter as the first case after six weeks, and directed that the copy of the order shall be sent to the chief secretary of the state so that he would understand how the state is running the machinery.

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