Srinagar: Dismissing the compliance report filed by the government as “eyewash”, the J&K High Court on Tuesday directed the commissioner secretaries of finance and health departments to explain why requisite steps have not been taken to ensure functioning of food safety appellate tribunals at Srinagar and Jammu.
Hearing a suo motu Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Ali Mohammad Magrey and BS Walia directed both the commissioner secretaries to appear in person if presiding officers of the two tribunals were not ‘empowered’ by March 20.
The directions by the court followed submissions by senior advocate and amicus curie BA Bashir that the purpose of establishing the tribunals was being defeated by the government’s inaction. He submitted that the tribunals cannot be expected to function in absence of basic facilities.
On March 7, the high court had directed the Commissioner Secretary Health and Medical Education Department to file an affidavit indicating steps taken to ensure functioning of both the tribunals.
Additional Advocate General (AAG) MI Dar submitted to the court that the affidavit has been filed. “We are not satisfied with the compliance report filed by the Commissioner Secretary (H&ME) department,” the court said after perusal of the affidavit.
On December 21 last year, the government stated that necessary steps had already been taken for creation of two posts of Assistant Registrars, two posts of Sr Stenographers, two posts of Judgment Writers, two posts of Computer Operators, two posts of Drivers, two posts of Junior Assistants, four posts of Orderlies and two posts of Dispatch Riders for the two tribunals. The government report had also stated that the finance for the creation of the posts had been worked out at Rs 50.44 lakh.
“The compliance filed today as also the earlier appear to be an eyewash, confined to the paper work only, as the Presiding Officers of both the Tribunals have felt compelled to report to this court the ground situation, submitting that the space provided to them for running the office does not even have the semblance of an institution as only a room is allotted for the purpose which, too, is in shambles,” the court said. The budgetary allocation to the tribunals has not been made for the development of infrastructure, the court observed.
The compliance report filed by the AAG, the court said, reflects that the office accommodation provided by Estates Department to the Controller Drug and Food Control at Old Secretariat Srinagar has been handed over to the Presiding Officer of the tribunal for Kashmir on February 28 this year. Regarding the Jammu Office of the Tribunal, the office of the Drug Analyst, Combined Food and Drug Laboratory has been kept at the disposal of the Presiding Officer of the tribunal till such time as suitable accommodation commensurate with the requirement of the Tribunal is provided by the Director Estates, the court observed.
The compliance report said that the Finance Department had returned the file for the creation of posts to the two tribunals but nothing had been stated about the release of Rs 50 lakh as requisitioned by the Health Department for staff, furniture, and other allied matters. No mention regarding the availability of funds for ensuring disbursement of salary in favour of both the presiding officers and their staff had been stated in the report, the court said.
“There is no option for the court but to seek personal appearance of both the Secretaries viz Finance and Health department to explain as to why requisite steps are not being taken to ensure that the tribunal at both places functions smoothly,” the court said and directed them to ensure release of funds to the tribunals to enable its presiding officers to draw their own salary and of their staff within a week’s time.