Water, power to be cut for non-payment, Delhi HC warns politicians

New Delhi: Taking serious note of mounting civic amenities’ dues of MPs, politicians and political parties, the Delhi High Court on Friday said payments for current use cannot spill over beyond three months, after which non-payment can lead to snapping of their water, power and telephone connections.

The civic bodies were also directed to initiate proceedings for recovery of arrears within six months.

Those contesting elections will have to submit a no dues certificate from the civic agencies if they have availed of government accommodation and related facilities.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw observed there was “total lack of will” and “inertia” on the part of government agencies to recover dues from MPs, politicians and political parties over last 18 years.

Noting that public bodies do not show the same zeal with which they recover dues from ordinary citizens where people with power are concerned, the bench directed the agencies to ensure that arrears do not accumulate for more than three months.

After three months, the agencies, including New Delhi Municipal Council, MTNL, BSNL and the Estate Office, have been directed to disconnect the amenities/facilities and to initiate recovery proceedings within six months.

The bench decided to issue the directions as “neither the cajoling by this court of the governmental agencies, to whom dues are owed, could spur them into action for recovery nor the different avenues explored by the court to effect recovery of dues from the defaulter politicians and political parties have had any substantial success.”

The court while issuing directions also noted that the “defaulter politicians and political parties are found to have misused their position of power for their own benefit and gain”.

The court also said,”All have in the process forgotten the social philosophy and philosophy of law in this area which emphatically requires that offices of public power shall not be the workshops of personal gain.

“Those wielding power, have made it an instrument of self seeking, forgetting that power is like a trust and that abuse of authority by those in power inevitably causes mass disillusionment and results in public frustration.”

The 15-page judgement penned by Justice Endlaw came on a PIL by NGO Krishak Bharat alleging that some former MPs vacated their official residences after their tenures ended without paying electricity, water and telephone dues.As part of its directions, the court ordered Election

Commission (ECI) to make it mandatory for candidates contesting Parliament and Assembly elections who have been using government accommodation to furnish No Dues Certificate from the agency providing electricity, water and telephone to the said accommodation.

“The ECI to, within six months hereof, also consider the possibility of requiring political parties fielding candidates in any election to also furnish an affidavit that they are not in arrears of any electricity, water, telephone or other public dues, as a pre-condition to their fielding candidates in any election,” the court said.

“The ECI to also within six months consider the possibility if any of putting any impediment to a defaulter of public dues contesting election, to ensure quick recovery of the said dues,” it said.

The court decided not to “flog the issue of recovery of old dues” saying that with passage of time it “may not bear much fruit” and could lead to the dues “multiplying”.

It said the “need of the hour is to ensure that at least the present MPs, Members of Legislative Assembly (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.”

It said there was a need to issue directions to “ensure that the MPs, MLAs and the political parties, taking advantage of the clout enjoyed by them over the officials of the municipal, electricity, water, telephone and other facilities agencies, are not able to escape paying the dues.”The court ordered that the agency providing the facilities “to also intimate the said arrears to the Secretary of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha or of the Legislative Assembly of which the occupant is a member … To use his/her good offices to ensure payment and take such other steps as may be permissible in law.”

The court asked the secretariats as well as the House Allotment Committee to within six months explore whether any action for cancellation of allotment of the house of such occupant in arrears can be initiated.

ITDC and other public sector undertakings providing any chargeable services to political parties, MPs or MLAs have been directed to not allow credit to them beyond what they usually allow to other customers.

In its PIL, the NGO had moved court in 1998 seeking directions to the NDMC, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) to recover their dues running into crores from hundreds of sitting and former MPs, which they owe to the four public utilities for enjoying their services.

NDMC’s lawyer had earlier informed the court that unpaid bills of MPs added up to Rs five crore while MTNL recounted a figure of Rs six crore.