The Delhi High Court on Monday expressed its displeasure over alleged non-utilisation of six newly constructed government school buildings here due to non-payment of dues as it nudged the authorities to act “quickly” for the benefit of the students.
“Why is this happening? Why are these matters coming to court? If there is a financial emergency, tell us. It can’t be that you ignore all this. You are the government, you have to release the funds,” a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan said during the hearing.
The petitioner NGO Social Jurist claimed in its PIL that for the last two years, possession of six newly constructed school buildings having 358 classrooms at Mukundpur, Bakhtawarpur, Lancer Road, Rani Bagh, Rohini and MS Punjab Khore could not be taken over due to the inaction of the city dispensation in approving the payment of Rs 16.67 crore to the Public Works Department (PWD).
The petitioner submitted that the Delhi government must convene a meeting of the Council of Ministers to consider and approve the payment of dues to PWD in order to facilitate further payment to the contractor.
The bench, also comprising Justice Mini Pushkarna, told the Delhi government counsel that the government cannot refuse to release the funds and the buildings, which were stated to be ready for use, cannot remain unutilised.
“How can you have a 100 per cent complete building and (it is ) not being used?… Education is your priority. Get this done quickly,” the court said.
Delhi government lawyer Santosh Kumar Tripathi told the court that there might have been “some discrepancy” with the contractor due to which the buildings were yet to be put to use.
The court, however, asked the government to “look at the bigger picture” in the interest of students and granted it time to state its stand on the petition after issuing notice on it.
“There can be reasons after reasons. You must look at the bigger picture…the school building has to be used. Otherwise we can say that the Delhi government must declare a financial emergency,” it stated.
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, appearing for the petitioner, argued that the conduct of the city authorities was in violation of the fundamental right to education under the Indian Constitution and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.
“Total of 358 additional classrooms have been constructed in six school buildings to hand it over to Delhi Government schools namely, GGSS Mukund Pur, GBSS Bakhtawarpur, S V Lancer Road, GGSSS Rani Bagh, S V CoEd, Sec 7, Rohini, Govt Co-Ed, MS Punjab Khore. However, till date newly constructed school buildings having 358 classrooms have not been handed over to the respective schools because respondent Delhi Government has failed to pay Rs 1667.20953 lakh to respondent PWD,” the petition, filed through lawyer Kumar Utkarsh, stated.
The matter would be heard next in December.