The mood is celebratory at Bombay High Court these days — after all the institution recently completed 150 years of glorious legal heritage. So, subsequent to a decision to purchase cars worth Rs 65 lakh for judges from the special funds allotted for the commemoration, the HC administration proposed to procure 2,850 wristwatches, costing approximately Rs 27 lakh. And then it all came to a grinding halt, as the government machinery refused to budge.
Sources say, the HC administration is still trying to get approval for the acquisition of the Titan watches — a decision which was taken in the last week of September. But, the plan is currently wedged in procedural clearances. While state government officials are tight-lipped, S B Shukre, registrar general of the High Court, said, “We intend to finalise the issue (of procurement of wristwatches) by Monday. I will be unable to comment on the matter till then.”
However, sources aware of the developments said such a decision needs prior approval by the state government as the orders (issued on August 14, 2012) about making finances — a maximum of Rs 2 crore — available for the sesquicentennial celebrations do not specify any purchase of wristwatches.
Besides, any procurement that incurs expenditure above Rs 50,000 needs a tendering process, which the HC administration seems to have overlooked, say sources, quoting a Government Resolution (GR) issued in July 1993. A government official, requesting anonymity, said how and why a particular brand of wristwatches has been selected is not known.
He said even if the watches were available at a special discounted price, other companies too could have made such offers. He also said wristwatches cannot be deemed a part of the celebrations.
Interestingly, details of tenders — for everything from printing Diwali cards to outsourcing photocopy work — are regularly uploaded on the High Court website.
Also worth noting is the fact that the concluding ceremony of the yearlong sesquicentennial celebrations was held on August 18, which was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
If this is true, it is unfortunate that public money is being spent in such a self-serving and frivolous manner. After all, the money was allotted for a specific purpose — the sesquicentennial celebrations.
— Advocate Prosper D’Souza