Rs 400 cr of taxpayers’ money spent on new secretariat a ‘national waste’

Chennai: The Madras High Court Monday observed that once a government starts functioning, its policy decisions must be “beyond its political ideologies”. It observed that Rs 400 crore of taxpayers’ money spent on the new secretariat became a “national waste.”

The state government had earlier informed the court that it would not revive the Raghupathy Commission of Inquiry set up by the then AIADMK government in 2011 to probe alleged irregularities in construction of the new secretariat here during the DMK rule. All such expenditure must be only in accordance with the Constitutional principles and the interest of the public at large, the court said.

“The powers under the Constitution are provided to the administrators only to protect the taxpayers money and spend the same judiciously and for the welfare of the people at large, following the procedures contemplated under the statutes as the state is the custodian,” it added. The government is not only responsible, but also accountable, it said.

“Any unlawful loss caused in respect to the taxpayers’ money will not only be questioned and actions are to be initiated and the persons liable are to be certainly prosecuted under the penal laws,” Justice SM Subramaniam said.

The court dismissed as withdrawn the petitions filed by DMK president M K Stalin and party treasurer Durai Murugan challenging the appointment of the commission and its questionnaire sent to them.

“Even for conversion of the new secretariat building to a speciality hospital, another few crores of rupees were spent by the state,” the court said in its order. “This court is of the considered opinion that once the elected government starts functioning and governing the state, their action, policy decision and expenditure must be beyond its political ideologies …,” Justice Subramaniam said.

In view of the fact that the commission of inquiry, which was challenged in these petitions, was already wound up and the chairman appointed had also demitted his office, which was accepted by the state by passing necessary orders, no further consideration needs to be undertaken in respect to the grounds raised in these pleas, the judge said.

The fact that the cause aroused for filing of these writ petitions has vanished, no further deliberations were required, and accordingly, based on the endorsements made by counsel for the writ petitioners, the petitions stand dismissed as withdrawn, the judge said. While coming to the functioning of the commission, the judge in his order said the commission of inquiry was non-functional for about three years.

“The commission also spent an amount of about Rs 4.5 crore and the reports are not submitted even at the time when the writ petitions were heard by this court. Ultimately, about Rs 5 crore was spent for the Inquiry Commission. However, nothing became useful for the welfare of the state as well as in the interest of the public at large,” the judge said.

In respect of construction of the new secretariat building, the judge said, “The allegations of corruption, sub-standard building materials and related issues are not even concluded till today. One way or other, the issues are prolonged and protracted against the common interest.”

The court had earlier directed the state government to suspend the commission of inquiry and raised several questions with regard to other panels in the state while observing that a time limit has to be fixed for the commissions that are to be appointed.