The high court on Tuesday restrained four district magistrates (DMs) from drawing their salaries for keeping dues of a bus owner pending for almost seven years after using his vehicle during the 2005 Assembly elections.
The order directed to the post would prevent the DMs of Patna, Saharsa, Khagaria and Rohtas from drawing wages till further order. The government now owes Rs 69,418 to the bus owner, Sheo Karan Singh.
A bench of Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi issued the directive on a petition filed by Singh seeking direction to the state government to clear his dues.
The court gave six-week time to Patna DM Sanjay Kumar Singh, Saharsa DM Miswah Bari, Rohtas DM Anupam Kumar and Khagaria DM Dharmendra Singh to file counter-affidavits after resolving the payment issue pending since December 2005.
“The four DMs will not draw a single penny towards their salaries and emoluments till further order,” the bench said. The court made it clear that if any of these officers drew their salaries or emoluments, it would be treated as contempt of the court order.
Akashdeep, the counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the total dues of Singh was Rs 88,000. The government made a part payment of just Rs 18,582 in two installments. Singh is yet to get Rs 69,418.
The counsel said the Buxar district authorities requisitioned Singh’s bus on October 5, 2005 and released it on December 17, 2005. In between, it plied in Patna, Saharsa, Khagaria, Rohtas and Buxar.
Akashdeep said the bus owner received Rs 8,000 as advance from the Buxar district administration when his vehicle was requisitioned. The Buxar district authorities cleared its remaining dues of Rs 10,582 against using the bus for 15 days in its jurisdiction two years later in 2007 after the petitioner approached the high court. But the other four district authorities are yet to pay a penny to Singh.
When the court asked the status of payment in the other four districts, the state government’s counsel said the petitioner would have to approach each district for getting his dues. Citing a rule, he said only those district administrations could make payment where the vehicle was used.
The argument of the state government’s counsel irked the court and it observed that it would not be appropriate to harass a citizen. The matter could not be resolved in past seven years and the apathetic attitude of the officers could stretch the litigation for another five years, the bench observed.
During the last hearing on May 14, the court had asked the petitioner to implead the state’s home secretary and four DMs as parties to the case. It also asked the officers to file their replies.
The home secretary could not file a reply, as directed by the court, on whether or not there could be a mechanism under which a person, whose vehicle has been used in different districts, can take payment from one place.