The Supreme Court on Wednesday barred the Andhra Pradesh government from transferring funds from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to a personal deposit account, saying “this is a very severe”.
A plea filed by State Resident Palla Srinivasa Rao said that while the Higher Court actively and continuously monitors the implementation of its October 2021 order, dealing with the issue of the payment of relief to courtesy of Rs 50,000 to relatives of Covid-19 victims, the AP government’s diversion of funds from SDRF to a personal deposit account is not only against the law of the land but is also dismissive in nature.
Lawyer Gaurav Bansal, representing Rao, argued that the AP government diverting SDRF funds to a personal deposit account is not permitted under the Disaster Management Act. Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, also said the Ministry of Finance had questioned the state on the matter.
A bench of Judges MR Shah and BV Nagarathna said it was a very serious matter and called on the state government not to misappropriate funds under the Disaster Management Act. After hearing the arguments, the bench issued an opinion to the state government on the matter.
The bench also ordered the state government not to use the funds they transferred to other accounts under the DM Act.
The plea read: “That the plaintiff…has knocked on the door of the temple of justice on the grounds that the state of Andhra Pradesh is unlawfully using funds from the State Disaster Response Fund to purposes other than those specified in Section 46(2) of the Disaster Management Act – 2005.”
The plea cited a letter issued on March 12, 2022 by the Union Minister of State for Finance, which clearly states that the Government of Andhra Pradesh received an amount of Rs 324.15 Crore as the central share of the Fund State Disaster Response and an amount of Rs 570.91. crore under the National Disaster Response Fund.
“The said letter dated March 12 also mentions that the State of Andhra Pradesh has transferred the funds from the State Disaster Response Fund to a personal deposit account without spending on immediate relief,” added advocacy.
Advocacy argued that once the law prohibits the use of funds deposited under the National Disaster Response Fund and the State Disaster Response Fund, the government of the ‘Andhra Pradesh has no authority to divert the said fund for other purposes.
The plea also called on the government of Andhra Pradesh to submit details of the funds they used under the state’s Disaster Response Fund during the Covid pandemic.
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