Arbitrary action

The people of Karnataka have been wrongly forced to pay the huge medical expenses of housing minister Ambareesh who underwent treatment in a Singapore hospital earlier this year.

The matter raises several questions and the answers are unsatisfactory and disquieting, showing both the conduct of the minister, who sought reimbursement of the expenses, and the government which obliged him, in a poor light.

It was unfortunate that the minister fell ill, and he certainly deserved commiseration and best wishes for speedy recovery. But sentiment should not be mixed up with matters of state, and should not make the government fail in its responsibility to the people. 

All norms and rules on reimbursement of medical expenditure of public servants were violated in the case of the minister. The amount involved is not small but Rs 1.16 crore. According to rules, ministers have to take medical treatment within the country, if the required facilities are available.

The maximum entitlement for reimbursement is Rs 5 lakh. As per available information, there was no exigency that demanded his treatment in Singapore. A personal decision to go in for treatment there should not have been underwritten by the government.

The expenses of the personal entourage and the doctors who accompanied him to Singapore were all met by the government. There is still no clarity about the ailment which the minister was suffering from.

Should public money be spent so casually, without the people even knowing what the spending was all about? In fact, the government does not make public the expenses it incurs for medical treatment of MLAs and ministers. Why should they be kept secret?

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah used his discretionary powers and relaxed the rules and norms to make the reimbursement.  Use of discretion without a sense of propriety and public interest is arbitrary conduct.

It is not known on what grounds the rules were waived, and in the absence of any tenable explanation, the chief minister’s action can only be considered illegal. It is improper and unfair also.  

When most people find it difficult to meet their medical expenses, a minister, who is not a person of limited means, transfers his entire cost of medical expenditure to the people and the government agrees with it. It is misuse of public money for private needs and sets a bad precedent. The chief minister should reverse the decision and the minister should return the money.

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