Delhi High Court has taken exception to the absence of the DUSIB CEO, who was directed to appear before it on July 20, over the non-payment of dues to Akshaya Patra Foundation, which has been providing food at all night shelters in the national capital.
The high court, which was informed by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) counsel that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) could not be present before the court on account of some government programme, asked if the programme was starting at 3.00 pm, what prevented the officer from being present in the first half or at least till 2.30 pm.
“In the considered opinion of the court, since the entirety of the dues were not paid, Chief Executive Director, DUSIB, should have remained present. Counsel for DUSIB has stated before this court that on account of some government programme, she is not present in court. It has also been informed that the Programme is scheduled to start at 3.00 pm today (July 20). It is 2.30 pm now.
“This court fails to understand if the said programme was starting at 3.00 pm, what prevented Chief Executive Director, DUSIB, to remain present in the first half and at least till 2.30 pm,” a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula said.
The bench directed the CEO to remain present before it on July 26 and explain, by way of an affidavit, why she has not appeared before the court.
The high court, which was hearing a PIL it initiated on its own, expressed displeasure over the non-payment of dues to Akshaya Patra Foundation under the free meals project in Delhi’s ‘rain baseras (night shelter homes)’.
The high court had taken cognisance of news reports about people at these homes being deprived of cooked meals and directed the foundation to continue providing food to all rain baseras on the same payment basis as existed earlier.
On July 4, the high court directed the DUSIB CEO to appear before it in case the board fails to clear Akshaya Patra Foundation’s entire outstanding dues by July 20. The foundation has been providing food at all night shelters in the national capital.
During Thursday’s hearing, the bench noticed that the officer was not personally present in the court and the outstanding dues, in respect of which the Delhi government had granted sanction, had not been paid.
Earlier, the court was informed that the outstanding dues stood at Rs 9.19 lakh.
According to DUSIB’s application, which came up for hearing on Thursday, Rs 3.84 lakh is yet to be paid.
“In the considered opinion of the court, since the entirety of the dues were not paid, Chief Executive Director, DUSIB, should have remained present,” the bench said.
The court was assured by DUSIB’s counsel that the entire outstanding amount, including the current bills, shall be cleared by July 26.
Santosh Kumar Tripathi, the Delhi government’s standing counsel, earlier submitted that the city government had made a decision to pay all dues to Akshaya Patra Foundation several weeks ago. So there is no hindrance in providing meals to the poor taking shelter at the rain baseras.
However, despite the ongoing proceedings and clear orders from the elected government’s ministers, some officials are still not making the payment and acting arbitrarily, he claimed.
He had said if well-known organisations such as Akshaya Patra Foundation are being harassed, one can imagine how the officials might be dealing with other institutions.
The bench also issued a notice and sought DUSIB’s response on an application by Akshaya Patra Foundation, seeking directions to address the issues faced by them in supplying meals at night shelters.