Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh on Wednesday directed the Chief Secretary to get inputs from all the departments and government agencies which get their works executed through contractors but deny contractors their due payments citing paucity of funds.
Justice Sanjeev Kumar directed the Chief Secretary to ensure that these matters are settled by the government at its own level without constraining the aggrieved contractors to approach this court.
“This would avoid unnecessary litigation and piling up of cases in this court,” the court said.
The Chief Secretary, the judge directed, is well advised to constitute an empowered committee consisting of administrative secretary of the concerned department, Secretary Finance and a senior Chief Accounts Officer to examine claims of the contractors.
“Wherever claims are found genuine, the concerned department will make the payments without any further wastage of time, based on the recommendations of the aforesaid Committee,” Justice Kumar directed.
He further directed, “Should there be any delay in the settlement of admitted claims of the contractors, the amount shall be paid along with the interest at the lending rate of interest of the bank, so that the contractors are not made to face starvation and financial crisis.”
The court passed the directions in a petition filed by one Mohammad Afzal Reshi, who was denied the due payment of Rs. 20.97 lakh for more than six years since 2015 despite completing the work for the Wullar Mansbal Development Authority, on the grounds of paucity of funds.
The court directed the respondents to release the balance payment of the petitioner to the tune of Rs. 20.97 lakhs along with the interest at the rate of 6% from the date it has become due, within a period of two months.
The court noted that the reason for denying this payment to the petitioner for the last more than six years is nothing but the non-availability of funds.
Justice Kumar recorded, “It pains me to notice that this is not a solitary case of denial of due payments of a contractor who has successfully executed work for the government, but I am confronted with such cases every day.”
He said that the contractors file petitions to get their payments which are admittedly due to them on satisfactory completion of the works allotted to them by the various government departments and agencies.
He said respondents though admit their liability, but take shelter to the plea that there is paucity of funds.
“One fails to understand that if the government department or its agency does not have sufficient funds at its disposal, how could it tender the works and allot them to the contractors,” it underscored.
“The respondents need to realize the difficulty of such contractors instead of acting in a whimsical manner, and deny them the payments by putting forth the standard excuse of paucity of funds,” the judge recorded.