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HC quashes Lokayukta order on holding back beach cleaners’ dues

21st March 2017, 06:46 Hrs

The Bombay High Court at Goa has quashed and set aside the order of the Lokayukta to hold back 50% of the dues owed to the beach cleaning agencies as part of investigations into the beach cleaning scam.



the goan I network
PANAJI

The orders issued disposing a bunch of petitions filed by Bhumika Cleantech Services and Ram Cleansers and developers, contracted beach cleaners whose services have since been terminated by the Tourism Department, finds that the Lokayukta’s order was “unacceptable.”
“This direction of stopping or withholding of payment though the amount is already crystallized and as the State is under obligation to make payment for the works done, it is unacceptable part of the interim order,” the court ruled.
“This would unnecessarily cause injustice and hardships to the third party/petitioners/contractors and the State would even face the consequences for non-payment of amount though due and payable and which will be followed by commercial interest, if claimed before the appropriate authority/Court/Tribunal,” the High Court observed.
The Court ruled that while the Lokayukta was well within its rights to pass an interim order in aid of the main investigation, “the direction to deduct the amount would amount to deciding the civil rights and/or passing the final judicial order in breach of the State Government’s terms and conditions with the contractors.”
On August 12, 2016 the Lokayukta had ordered that “the balance amount shall be kept in a fixed deposit for the time being so that appropriate direction can be issued after the completion of the detailed investigation.”
“The entitlement of the petitioners has been crystallized through the approved final bills and even otherwise, they are entitled for the works they have done already as noted, even by the Lokayukta and the State Government,” the Court observed in its order.
Even, as per the Lokayukta Act, there are various steps and procedure required to be complied with by the Lokayukta, after completion of investigation, as even contemplated under the provisions of the Lokayukta Act and the Rules… including taking steps against the concerned functionaries, is required to be kept in mind. The provisions nowhere take away the crystallized right of the private parties for the work done, and as expected from the State Government, the contractors need to be compensated in accordance with law,” the court ruled.
“Withholding of such amount at the interim stage, by the interim recommendation, in our view, therefore is unacceptable. The impugned Order, therefore, to that extent as emphasized requires to be quashed and set aside. However, it is made clear that we are, not in any way, stopping the investigation which is stated to be in progress,” the court ruled.
The Tourism Department had terminated the contract and a final determination is pending before an arbitration court.



COURT OBSERVATIONS 
 Stopping or withholding of payment is unacceptable part of the (Lokayukta’s) interim order
 This (Lokayukta’s order) would unnecessarily cause injustice and hardships to the third party 
 Order would amount to breach of State Government’s terms and conditions with the contractors
ON SAME SIDE OF FENCE
 The court order came one day before the State election results were declared
 The complainants and the govt they complained against are now on the same side of the fence
 Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte was one among many complainants in the case
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