Hyderabad: The Telangana High Court on Wednesday directed the state government not to release funds under the controversial government order (GO) Rt 208 issued by chief secretary Somesh Kumar, until further orders.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy issued notices to various officials including Somesh Kumar asking them to file counters by October 27 this year. The bench wondered how the signatory to the order himself would be the beneficiary and made it clear that there should be some logic behind spending public money.
The issue pertains to G O Rt 208 issued by the Chief Secretary on June 7 sanctioning about Rs 60 crore ‘towards pending contempt cases pending in the High Court’. Somesh issued the GO in his capacity as the chief secretary under the revenue department which is handled by him, directing the release of funds to the chief commissioner of land administration who again is none other than Somesh himself.
A lecturer based in Mahbubnagar, Prabhakar Chouti, approached the High Court seeking scrapping of the order. Arguing for the petitioner, senior counsel L. Ravichander said the GO allowed in an unprecedented manner to earmark a huge sum of money for handling contempt of court cases. The person who signed and the beneficiary were the same, he argued.
The division bench issued notices to the principal secretary, revenue, principal secretary, finance department, director of treasuries, chief commissioner of land administration and chief secretary, Somesh Kumar, directing them to respond to the notices. The court wanted to know under which head of account such an amount was sanctioned and what were the norms to be followed by the director of treasuries in releasing such an amount. “This is public money. The state has to explain the reason for spending such an amount. There shall be some basic logic in spending the public money,” observed Justice Kohli.
Meanwhile, in a late evening development, the chief secretary filed a counter affidavit stating that the “amount as mentioned in the GO pertains to revalidation of the amount sanctioned for satisfaction (sic) of the execution petitions” in land acquisition cases as directed by the High Court.
Further, the chief secretary admitted that though the government accorded administrative sanction for Rs 457.79 crore for disposal of pending execution petitions, some district collectors brought to his notice that the treasury department returned bills due to freezing of budget. As a result, the amount was not drawn and lapsed during the 2019-2020 necessitating issue of the GO in question to revalidate the amounts to 2020-2021. The CS clarified that the amount was not meant to defend contempt cases filed against him.