VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh High Court has made it clear that it cannot extend the deadline for the State government to clear the bills pending for development works executed under MGNREGS.
On August 23, the High Court gave two weeks time for clearing the pending bills to contractors. Though the government was supposed to clear the NREGS dues by September 6, the panchayat raj department filed a petition two days ago seeking extension of the deadline by another eight weeks. While dealing with hundreds of petitions filed before it seeking directions to the government to clear the NREGS dues, the HC ordered clearance of the bills without extending the deadline.
Procedural delays not a valid reason: Court
In its petition seeking extension of the deadline, the panchayat raj department said the rural water supply and sanitation wing engineer-in-chief had on August 31 communicated the court orders to the principal secretary (finance). Further, the chief planning officer of Chittoor district was also asked to clear the pending bills to the petitioners. The panchayat raj department cited procedural delays in implementing the court orders and informed the court that the officials have started the process of making the payments and sought extension of the deadline by six weeks. The counsel of the petitioners, however, opposed the plea of the government. The High Court said it could not find a valid reason to extend the deadline and struck down the plea of the panchayat raj department.
Sarpanch imposed cost
In a related case, the High Court expressed ire over a sarpanch who filed a petition against the showcause notices issued to her for not taking steps to release the bills to the MNREGS contractors.
Following the directions issued by the High Court to the government to clear pending dues, the government deposited funds into the accounts of various panchayats. However, some sarpanches did not take the initiative to make payments following which the higher officials have asked the panchayat secretaries to issue show cause notices to sarpanches.The sarpanch of V Appapuram in Nuzendla mandal of Guntur, K Roja Rani, was served a similar show cause notice. The sarpanch filed a petition in the High Court and the petition came for hearing two days ago.
The court took serious view of the sarpanch not taking steps to make payments to the contractors in accordance with the High Court orders and warned of initiating contempt proceedings against her. With this, the petitioner sought the permission of the court to withdraw the petition. Justice Battu Devanand allowed the sarpanch to withdraw the petition and imposed costs of `5,000 for wasting the time of the court. The petitioner was asked to deposit the amount in the account of AP Legal Services Authority within two weeks.