Eighteen years after taking up a PIL seeking recovery of electricity, water, telephone bills and other dues from MPs, the Delhi High Court on Friday issued directions to the discoms, phone companies and other PSUs to recover their due payments.
The court also directed municipalities as well as government agencies to discontinue the facilities being provided to MPs, MLAs and political parties, if the services remain unpaid for over three months.
The high court also observed that these agencies hardly seemed to have shown any zeal towards recovering the amount owed to them by their “political masters”.
The PIL was filed by NGO Krishak Bharat in 1998 on the basis of media reports regarding non-payment of electricity, water and telephone charges, as well as reports of politicians and political parties owing money to five-star hotels run by the ITDC.
“NDMC, MTNL, BSNL and any other municipalities/governmental agencies providing any chargeable amenities/facilities to houses in occupation of the MPs, MLAs, and political parties, whether such houses belong to the government or otherwise, to not allow arrears of more than three months of charges to accumulate…if the said charges are in arrears of three months, the facility/amenity/utility be disconnected forthwith,” the bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw directed in a judgment issued on Friday.
The bench has also directed the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and legislative assembly secretariats to consider whether proceedings — to cancel allotments or prohibit allotments to political parties whose MPs/ MLAs are in default — could be initiated.
The Election Commission has also been directed to “consider the possibility, if any”, within six months, to put “any impediment to a defaulter of public dues contesting election, to ensure quick recovery of said dues.”
Further, the ECI has also been asked to “consider possibility of requiring political parties fielding candidates in any election to furnish an affidavit that they are not in arrears of electricity, water, telephone or other public dues as a pre condition to their fielding candidates in any election.”
Observing that it was more important to “ensure that at least the present MP, MLAs and political parties are not able to consume electricity, water and telephone amenities or the facilities at ITDC hotels or the facilities and amenities provided by other governmental agencies, without paying therefor,” the bench has issued a slew of directions to the PSUs to recover the pending bills.
“In the last nearly 18 years for which the petition is pending, this court has endeavored to make the public bodies to whom the monies were owed recover their dues… the zeal which the same public bodies show to recover similar dues from other citizens not yielding any power, was found to be totally missing and which in fact had resulted in the arrears accumulating,” noted the court.
“The inertia and reluctance of the governmental agencies to treat their political masters equally, as they treat other citizens, has proved to be insurmountable. At the same time, the defaulter politicians and political parties are found to have misused their position of power for their own benefit and gain,” the court has observed further.