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Assembly passes Rs 95,666.97 Cr Budget

Monitor News Bureau

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Jammu, Feb 03:The Legislative Assembly Saturday passed Rs 95666.97 crore budget for J&K for the year 2018-19 with 20% step up over the last year’s budget size of Rs 79472 crore.
The Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill-2018 moved by the Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu in the House in this regard was passed with voice-vote.
Pertinently, for the first time in J&K’s legislative history, the Finance Minister has linked the Appropriation Bill with wide-ranging expenditure reforms to ensure checks and balances for efficient fiscal management and speed up spending to make productive use of resources for the larger public good.
Earlier, Dr Drabu had, on January 11 this year, presented the Budget proposals for 2018-19 in the House, comprising a revenue component of Rs 51244.72 crore and capital component of Rs 44422.24 crore.
Enumerating the fiscal reforms factored in the Appropriation Bill this year, Dr Drabu said the Finance and the Planning, Development and Monitoring Developments shall release both Revenue and Capital budget to all the administrative departments within two weeks of the passage of the Appropriation Bill.
He said the administrative departments shall, in turn, ensure release of funds to the subordinate offices within four weeks of their receipt, failing which these funds shall be deemed to have been transferred to the intended DDOs on the dates they ought to have been released by the administrative departments /Controlling Officers. “Planning Development and Monitoring Department shall ensure that all plan allocations to be made in the next fiscal bear proper classification, indicating, name of the work/scheme against detailed Head-115 Works,” he said and added that in the absence of the schematic classification, the relevant Capex release shall be deemed as invalid and not open to being operationalization.
The Finance Minister said there no payments shall be made by any Treasury/PAO from 1 April 2018, under any expenditure head, if the releases for the same have not been made and further received by the spending and bill passing Officers via BEAMS. “Treasury Officers/PAOs shall be personally liable for making payments on the funds released and received bypassing the BEAMS application,” he said.
Dr Drabu further said that the Planning, Development and Monitoring Department shall mandatorily upload on its website the department-wise “Name of the Schemes/Works/Projects”, forming part of the Capex budget for the fiscal 2018-19, along with the respective allocations.
He said the expenditure reforms across the departments shall further be strengthened by initiating measures including bringing complete transparency in the financial and administrative processes through increased IT interventions, ensuring authorisation of such works for execution only which have prior administrative approval, technical sanction and appropriate financial back up and ensure expenditure monitoring on real-time basis through BEAMS and PFMS.
He said the procurement plans of the departments for the next fiscal shall be limited by an outermost cap of 60 days, starting 1st April. “From conceiving the nature and quantity of public goods and services to be procured to preparing tenders/RFQs/EoIs to finally awarding the contract, the departments shall compulsorily finish the whole process by 30 May 2018,” he said and added that any spill-over in timelines shall be automatically visited with the appropriate disciplinary actions.
The Finance Minister made it clear that the funds shall be spent only on the approved items of the expenditure and strictly for the purpose they have been released. “There shall be no re-appropriation of funds except where the departments have spent 55% of funds received ending December 2017,” he said and added that however, where their spending levels are below 55%, the remaining 70% funds shall lapse to the Government.
He said the expenditure during the last quarter shall be restricted to not more than 30% of the Revised Estimates. “Treasury officers shall have an added responsibility to ensure that the departments are held responsible to the above expenditure ceiling,” he said.
Dr Drabu said the State Share of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes and the expenditure to be incurred on utility shifting, land compensation etc under PMDP projects shall be the first charge on the funds lapsing to the Government during the last quarter.
The Finance Minister made it clear that there shall be, henceforth, no engagement of casual workers, need-based workers etc by any department. “The Planning, Monitoring and Development Department shall, invariably, condition all developmental/plan releases to the departments to the unconditional vouchsafing by the latter that they shall refrain from making fresh engagements,” he said.
Dr Drabu said it is reassuring to note that a broader political consensus is emerging in Jammu and Kashmir to put in place a viable economic framework, a robust fiscal management structure and an achievable budgetary policy.
“I express gratitude to the members of this august house, from both the treasury and non-treasury benches for putting across valuable suggestions on how to further improve the expenditure policy and ensure productive use of the resources in the larger interest of the State and its people,” he said and added that the fiscal reforms introduced over the past three years are aimed at bringing stabilization in JK’s economy and reduce volatility for economic revival through enhanced investments, public expenditure and widening the net of socio-economic security.
The Legislators, cutting across the political divide, hailed the extraordinary expenditure reforms outlined by the Finance Minister in the Appropriation Bill to ensure fiscal discipline and speedy and productive use of resources for the larger public good.


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CJI’s office comes under RTI, rules SC

Agencies

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New Delhi, Nov 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that the office of the Chief Justice of India was a public authority and fell within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict and dismissed three appeals filed by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court.

Cautioning that RTI could be used as a tool of surveillance, the top court in its judgment, held that judicial independence had to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.

 

The bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said only the names of judges recommended by the Collegium for appointment could be disclosed, not the reasons.

While the CJI and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna penned one judgment, Justices Ramana and Chandrachud wrote separate verdicts.

It said that the Right to Privacy was an important aspect and it had to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the Chief Justice. Justice Chandrachud said the judiciary could not function in total insulation as judges enjoy constitutional posts and discharge public duty.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna said independence of the judiciary and transparency went hand in hand.

Justice Ramana, who concurred with Justice Khanna, said there should be a balancing formula for Right to Privacy and right to transparency and independence of judiciary should be protected from breach.

The High Court on January 10, 2010 had held that the CJI office came within the ambit of the RTI law, saying judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.

The 88-page judgment was seen as a personal setback to the then CJI, K G Balakrishnan, who had been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

The high court verdict was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah (since retired) and Justices Vikramjit Sen and S Muralidhar. The bench had dismissed a plea of the Supreme Court that contended bringing the CJI’s office within the RTI Act would ‘hamper’ judicial independence.

Justice Sen has retired from the apex court, while Justice Murlidhar is a sitting judge of the High Court.

The move to bring the office of the CJI under the transparency law was initiated by RTI activist S C Agrawal. His lawyer Prashant Bhushan had submitted in the top court that though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it was hearing the appeals due to the “doctrine of necessity”.

The lawyer had described the reluctance of the judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘disturbing’, asking: “Do judges inhabit a different universe?”

He had submitted the apex court had always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State, but it developed cold feet when its own issues required attention. Referring to the RTI provisions, Bhushan had said they also deal with exemptions and information that cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always ‘outweigh’ personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office. Dealing with ‘judicial independence’, he said the National Judicial Accountability Commission Act was struck down for protecting the judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from ‘public scrutiny’.

Transparency activists on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying the apex court had reiterated the established position in law in the matter.

“I welcome the decision of the constitution bench to reiterate the established position in law that the CJI is a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,” said Venkatesh Nayak, head of access to information programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO.

About the Supreme Court’s remark that RTI could not be used as a tool of surveillance, Nayak termed it as an “extremely unfortunate” observation. “Surveillance has unfortunately been equated with transparency that is required under a law duly passed by Parliament,” he told PTI.

Nayak said surveillance was what the government often does under executive instructions and that was not the purpose of the RTI Act. “People whose cases relating to their life, liberty, property and rights, are decided by the high courts and the Supreme Court. People have the right to know not only the criteria but all material that formed the basis of making the decision regarding appointments of judges in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act,” he said.

Nayak said where exemptions were available under the RTI Act, they would be legitimately invoked by public authorities and all other information should be in the public domain. He said the appointment of judges, who were public functionary, was a public act.

“People have the right to know everything that is done in a public way by a government, in a democratic country, which must be accountable and responsible,” Nayak said. Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi also hailed the top court’s decision. “I had expected the same decision to come as logically there was nothing else. It is unfortunate that this has taken 10 years. The CIC has upheld this. The Delhi HC had also upheld this. Now, the SC has upheld this. All public servants that are paid by the government are a public service, no matter what the position is. You need to be accountable for your work. I congratulate the Chief Justice and the court for having given such a decision,” he said.

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal lauded the top court’s verdict. “I welcome the Supreme Court’s verdict. It is a victory of the RTI Act,” he said.

Another activist Ajay Dubey said the apex court’s decision was ‘historic’. “It is a historic decision and I welcome it. All decisions made by a public authority must be in public domain and under the RTI Act,” he said.

Dubey, however, expressed shock over the top court’s remark that the RTI Act cannot be used as a tool of surveillance.

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Shopkeeper shot dead in Tral

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Nov 13: Unidentified gunmen shot dead a shopkeeper at Tral in South Kashmir’s Puwlama district on Wednesday, police said.

The slain was in his shop near Old Bus Stand, Tral, 36 kms from here, when pistol borne masked men shot at him from point-blank range at around 3 p.m.

Zarger was immediately shifted to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead.

 

A police official while confirming the killing said the slain hailed from Tral town.

Reports said the killing created panic in the town.

In recent weeks, militants have started targeting civilians and hurling grenades at crowded places to impose shutdown in the Valley.

Last Monday one civilian died while over 40 were injured when militants threw a grenade in a crowded market near city center Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

Prior to that, non-local laborers, truck drivers and fruit traders were targeted by the militants in south Kashmir.

On August 30, unidentified gunmen shot dead a 65-year-old shopkeeper at Parimpora area of Srinagar.  On September 30, unidentified gunmen shot at apple grower at Sopore leaving the grower and four others including a four-year-old girl injured.

The Valley witnessed spontaneous shutdown after the Center abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5.

However, in recent weeks the impact of the shutdown is waning as more and more people are resuming their normal activities across Kashmir.

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Yet another accident: Four killed, 5 injured in Kishtwar mishap

Press Trust of India

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Jammu, Nov 13: Four people were killed and five others injured when a vehicle skidded off the road and rolled down into a deep gorge in Kishtwar district on Wednesday, officials said.

The vehicle, carrying pilgrims from Palmar to the Sarthal temple, fell into the gorge after the driver lost control over it, they said.

Police and locals rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to a district hospital in Kishtwar, where doctors declared four of them brought dead, the officials said.

 

Three critically injured people were shifted to the Government Medical College here through a chopper for specialised treatment.

District administration, Kishtwar, provided immediate relief of Rs 10,000 each to the family members of the deceased and 5,000 each to the injured.

This is the second such incident in 24 hours as 16 people, including five women and three children, were killed on Tuesday when a passenger vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge in Doda district.

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