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Govt bucks court trend

Calcutta, Feb. 20: Calcutta High Court today rejected a petition by the sabhadhipati of the North 24-Parganas zilla parishad challenging the validity of a government order to hand over the Left-run body’s financial powers to the district magistrate.

Upholding the government notification last year, Justice Biswanath Somadder today said: “The decision of the government is in accordance with the law.”

The judgment came as a reprieve to the Mamata Banerjee government that had of late lost a series of key cases, including the one on the Singur land row. Today’s was also the first case for which advocate-general Bimal Chatterjee appeared after his appointment on February 8.

“I am happy that in my first appearance as advocate-general I gave a victory to the government,” Chatterjee said.

Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, who had issued the order snipping the financial powers of the zilla parishad, today said: “The court order proves what we did was right. If we had not taken the decision within the legal framework, the zilla parishad would have suffered.”

Later in the evening, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, the lawyer appearing for the North 24-Parganas zilla parishad, said: “My client will move an appeal before a higher bench.”

Mukherjee had on March 26 last year issued orders to three Left-run zilla parishads in North 24-Parganas, Nadia and Murshidabad to transfer their financial powers to the district magistrates.

The state panchayat secretary had said that the decision was taken as the three bodies had failed to utilise central funds.

The zilla parishads in Nadia and Murshidabad have not moved court challenging the government order. “But if they move court, the judgment passed by Justice Biswanath Somadder today will be treated as a precedent for their cases,” lawyer Billwadal Bhattacharya said.

Sources said the three zilla parishads could not disburse the funds under the central schemes as it needed the approval of the standing committees, which had turned into a minority after the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

After the March 26 order, it was said in political circles that the chief minister did not want the funds to be sent back to the Centre.

“At the same time she did not want the Left-run zilla parishads to take credit for whatever work was done,” an official said.