New Delhi, November 21
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Delhi government to transfer Rs 415 crore from its advertisement budget for the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) project after it failed to honour its promise made to the court in July this year.
A Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul -- which kept the order in abeyance for a week at the request of the Delhi government counsel – said, “If the funds are not transferred within a week this order will come into effect.”
“You can't take this court for granted,” said the Bench, which also included Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia.
It posted the matter for November 28.
The Bench noted that on July 24, senior counsel AM Singhvi had assured it on behalf of the Delhi government that funds would be made available for the RRTS project. “We are thus constrained to order that funds allocated for advertisements shall be transferred to this project,” it said.
The top court took note of the fact that the Delhi government’s spending on advertisements in the last three years was Rs 1,100 crore and in the current financial year also Rs 550 crore was earmarked for advertisements which was more than enough to cover its share of expenditure.
The RRTS project -- India's first semi-high-speed regional rail service project -- consists of semi-high speed rail corridors connecting Delhi to Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Alwar in Rajasthan, and Panipat in Haryana. Being executed by the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC), it’s a joint venture between the Centre and the states concerned.
While the Delhi-Meerut project was already under construction and the Delhi government agreed to pay its share of the costs, it refused to share the financial burden for the remaining two stretches, citing a paucity of funds.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 17-km priority section of Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Trains of the RRTS Corridor on October 20.
Rapping the Delhi government over its huge advertisement budget, the Supreme Court had on July 24 directed it to provide an overdue amount of Rs 415 crore for the RRTS project in two months.
“Either you pay or we will attach your advertising budget… If Rs 1,100 crore can be spent for advertisements in the last three financial years, certainly contributions can be made to infrastructure projects,” the Bench had told the Delhi government. "Your one-year advertising budget is more than what you are giving for the project,” it had noted.
“We were constrained to pass the last order only on account of the fact that the Delhi government had thrown its hand up for contributing their proportionate amounts,” it had said.
The top court had on July 3 directed the Arvind Kejriwal government to furnish details of funds spent on advertisements after it expressed inability to contribute funds for construction of the RRTS project and it was surprised to know that it spent Rs 1,073 crore on advertisements in the last three years.
The top court had questioned the Delhi government over its spending on advertisements after it expressed its inability to contribute funds for construction of RRTS project and directed it to furnish details of funds spent on advertisements in the last three financial years.
While hearing environmental issues arising out of PILs filed by activist-lawyer MC Mehta, the top court was informed on the last date of hearing that the Delhi government was unwilling to contribute funds towards the project, particularly for the Delhi-Alwar and Delhi-Panipat corridors, and that it had earlier taken a similar stand on releasing funds for the Delhi-Meerut corridor.
The top court had directed the Delhi government to shell out Rs 500 crore from the Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) to the 82.15-km RRTS corridor being constructed between Delhi and Meerut at an estimated cost of Rs Rs 31,632 crore.
The corridor, with 24 stations, will cover the distance from Sarai Kale Khan in Delhi to Modipuram, Meerut, in 60 minutes. Of the 82.15 km-long corridor, Delhi will have around 13 km with stations at Sarai Kale Khan, New Ashok Nagar and Anand Vihar.
Earlier, it had directed the AAP government to file an affidavit giving details of funds spent on advertisement in two weeks after the Delhi government counsel talked of budgetary constraints. "If you have money for advertisements, why don’t you have money for a project that will ensure smooth transport?” it had asked.
“You want us to get into what funds you are spending where… All funds for advertisement shall be diverted for this project. Do you want this kind of order? You are asking for it,” the Bench had said.
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