The Bombay High Court expressed shock when informed that the members of the expert committee, which is formed to look into the issue of preserving works of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and other social reformers, will be paid Rs 10,000 a month.
The HC had taken suo moto (on its own) cognisance of a media report highlighting that the government had stalled the project of publishing the literature of Ambedkar with an estimated cost of Rs 5.45 crore.
A division bench of Justices PB Varale and Kishor Sant was informed on Thursday that the government has formed a committee of expert members to oversee the publishing of volumes of handwritten literature of several social reformers.
Additional government pleader Poornima Kantharia submitted an affidavit and a note which stated that the expert members would be given a remuneration of Rs 10,000 per month. This would amount to Rs 300 per day to these experts.
To this justice Varale said: “What is this? Why such a less amount? These are experts. Why can't you pay as per their knowledge and status?”
The note also said that the experts would be allotted Rs 5.60 towards the committee's functioning, this amount is also for ceremonies to be held, if any and expenses towards the staff.
Irked, the judges asked: “Ceremonies? With this budget they won't be able to offer small Bisleri bottles.”
Advocate Swaraj Jadhav who is appointed as amicus curie (friend of the court) to assist the court, said that the experts would also be paid travelling allowance which were paid to MPs and MLAs during 1971. “Today, if one has to come from Dadar to Fort, he has to shell out around Rs 200. How can we expect these members to attend meetings with such low travelling allowance, as most of them are scattered across the State?” asked Jadhav.
Jadhav pointed out that a tripartite agreement was signed between the government, the committee and private persons, who had agreed to provide the original material of these social reformers which was in their possession.
Kantharia said that the agreement had not worked out.
The court took note of the fact that the private persons had agreed to hand over the original material (Ambedkar's literature) in 2013 and the government had agreed to pay Rs 6.5 lakh honorarium to them. However, the payment was not made till 2022 and ultimately even refused to accept the material.
Taking a serious note of the delay, justice Varale said: “In the weather conditions of Mumbai, even iron gets rusted within 10 days. Imagine what would be the condition of these paper documents which are around 50 year old. Why isn't the state accepting the original material?”
The court, in its detailed order, observed that the remuneration decided for the expert members was not a “good gesture” shown on the part of the government. “The state is generously avoiding to pay appropriate remuneration and travelling allowances to these expert non-govt members of the committee,” noted the HC.
On the ceremonies’ expenditure allotted by the government, the HC said: “On one hand state wants to digitise the work of Dr Ambedkar to preserve it for future generation. On the other hand, it hasn't allotted a proper amount.”
The HC also asked the government to take positive steps and ensure that appropriate support staff is provided for smooth functioning of the committee.
The HC has kept the mater for further hearing in the first week of September.