Kochi: In a major setback for the state government, the Kerala High Court on Friday asserted that the government cannot direct municipalities to expend its own funds for the conduct of 'Nava Kerala Sadas' led by the Chief Minister. The court stayed an order issued by the government granting powers to municipal secretaries for the same.
The HC's stay would be in force until the disposal of a petition filed in this regard. In the stay order, Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas said that money could be spent from the municipal fund for the Nava Kerala Sadas only if the council took a decision to this effect.
“The conferment of power upon the Secretaries of the Municipalities by Ext.P1 (impugned order), to spend money without any decision of the Municipal Council or the Chairperson’s directive is therefore stayed until disposal of this writ petition. It is clarified that the contribution to the “Nava Kerala Sadas” can be expended from the Municipal fund only if the Municipal Council takes a decision in that regard, in accordance with the law,” the Court added while issuing the interim order.
The High Court issued the order while considering a petition filed by Beena Sasidharan, municipal chairperson of Paravoor, against the order of the Additional Chief Secretary, Local Self-Government Department. The petition alleged that the order interfered with the self-governing powers of local bodies.
According to the court, the government has no power to direct municipalities to spend municipal funds for a specific purpose. The government told the court that it had not issued mandatory orders to municipalities to extend financial aid to the Sadas. In fact, the order to secretaries only said that they could spend the money if the council approved it, said the government. However, the court ruled that the government order was illegal under the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994.
Venue shifted from Thrissur Zoo
In a related development, the government informed the High Court that it had changed the venue of the Sadas in the Ollur Assembly constituency from the zoological park at Puthur. The court had earlier ruled that the event could not be conducted on the premises of the zoo. The new venue would be Agricultural College Ground, Vellanikkara.
The order was issued by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Asish J Desai and Justice V G Arun based on a plea filed by Shaji J Kodankandath, a resident of Thrissur.
The government argued that the event was planned at the parking ground and not inside the zoo. But, the court asked the government how such a programme could be conducted at a place where wild animals were kept. The division bench also sought to know whether it was legal to operate loudspeakers at such a place.
Subsequently, the government informed the court that the venue would be shifted.
CUSAT circular triggers row
Meanwhile, eyebrows have been raised over a circular issued by Dr V Meera, registrar of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), asking employees and students to attend Nava Kerala Sadas to be held at Kalamassery on December 8. The circular also mentioned that the Vice-Chancellor has given directions regarding the same.
(with Live Law inputs)