Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has directed Maharashtra Government to appoint an officer of the rank of Secretary to probe into alleged illegalities conducted by Bhiwandi Nizampur City Municipal Corporation in holding `Mayor`s Cup` cricket tournament in January this year.
Hearing a petition last week, a bench comprising justices A R Joshi and A S Oka asked Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department to appoint any Secretary of the state government to hold a fact-finding inquiry into alleged wrongdoings by the civic body in holding the tournament.
"In the fact-finding inquiry, responsibility, if any, shall be fixed for illegal expenditure incurred by the municipal corporation. The officer so nominated shall also ascertain whether the said club has collected any entry fee or any other amount from the participating teams", the judges noted.
The Bench further directed the inquiry officer to submit a report on the outcome of the inquiry to the court in a sealed cover by July.
The court also directed that this petition shall be listed on its board under the caption of "Directions" on August 5 for further hearing.
The bench noted that it was ordering the probe because it was of a prima facie view that irregularities had been committed and hence accountability should be fixed on the concerned officers including the aspect whether any one of the Authority should be made responsible to reimburse the amount.
On going through the affidavit filed by the Municipal Commissioner, the court observed that "right from inception, complete illegality has been committed by the corporation as far as holding of the event during 2013 is concerned.
"Without any authority, the tournament was allowed to be conducted by `The Challenge Sports club`. Also, without any legal authority, a sum of Rs 24.9 lakh was spent from the funds of the municipal corporation. The corporation has not bothered to verify whether the club unauthorisedly collected entry fees of Rs 25,000 from every team," the judges said.
"The decision to utilise about 50 per cent of the
amount earmarked for sports activity for the entire year on one tournament is certainly arbitrary", the bench noted.
"In paragraph 7 of the affidavit of the Commissioner, it is contended that the decision to spend on the said event is a policy decision. We fail to understand as to which policy the Commissioner has referred to?, the judges asked.
"The Commissioner has specifically contended that this Court should not interfere with the said policy decision. In paragraph 4 of the affidavit dated 26th April, 2013, he has admitted that in 2013, there is neither any resolution of the Standing Committee nor General Body of the Corporation approving the holding of the tournament", the Judges noted.
Thus, Mayor`s Trophy Cricket Tournament was conducted without any authorisation either by the Standing Committee or by the General Body of the municipal corporation. Contracts were granted in the sum of Rs 24.90 lakhs in breach of rules without inviting tenders, the bench observed.
In the process, out of budgeted amount of Rs 50 lakh allocated for the Sports activities for the entire year, nearly 50 per cent of the amount was spent on the tournament in the name of the Mayor of the City, the judges said.
It will be also interesting to note that in paragraph 4 of the affidavit dated 9th April, 2013 of the Commissioner, he has specifically admitted that Municipal Corporation is facing financial constraints, the bench pointed out.
"What is stated by the Commissioner as set out in his affidavit speaks volumes. The Commissioner himself set out the financial constraints due to which the Corporation is not in a position to provide sports facilities not only to school children but to several other segments of society.
"On January 24, 2013, this court, in its order, had noted that there are 87 municipal schools in the corporation area, the judges said.
"The Challenge Sports Club" submitted an application on January 14 directly to the Mayor of Thane for granting permission to organise "Mahapour Chashak" cricket tournament", the bench said.
The Mayor, in turn, addressed a letter to the Commissioner on January 15, requesting him to allow the Club to arrange the tournament between January 27 to February 2. On the said application, there was no objection endorsed by the sports officer of the Civic body, the high court said.