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Bombay High Court Deems Suspension of Previous Government’s Projects Unconstitutional

Mumbai: In a recent development, the Bombay High Court has declared the suspension of projects and development works approved by the previous Mahavikas Aghadi government by the Eknath Shinde administration as unconstitutional.

Mumbai | September 28, 2023 : The Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, issued a significant ruling regarding the suspension of various projects and development works initiated during the previous Mahavikas Aghadi government by the present administration led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. The court unequivocally stated that this suspension was unconstitutional and raised concerns about the governance of the state.

The projects and development works in question had undergone meticulous scrutiny and received budgetary allocations, coupled with the Governor’s approval, under the previous government. However, upon assuming office, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde issued a verbal order to suspend these initiatives. Subsequently, the Chief Secretary directed departmental Secretaries on July 18 and 21, 2022, to halt all such works.

Advocate Sambhaji Tope, representing several MLAs who had filed petitions challenging this decision, argued, “As per the order of the Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary directed the Secretaries of all departments to suspend all such works. This order goes against the Constitution and the law, and it was rightfully quashed by both the Aurangabad Bench and the Bombay High Court in response to our petitions.”

More than 80 petitions contesting the suspension of approved projects and development works are currently pending before the court. These petitions allege that the Shinde government suspended these projects for political reasons. Senior advocate Venkatesh Dhond, representing some of the petitioners, contended that the government’s actions were unconstitutional. However, Advocate General Dr. Birendra Saraf, representing the state government, objected to these claims.

Dr. Saraf argued, “The Chief Secretary has not issued a single order. Multiple orders have been misconstrued. Furthermore, the new government has subsequently reviewed many development works and projects, with almost 80 to 90 percent of them being restructured. The state government has the authority to make such decisions. While the High Court previously ordered a stay on the government’s order concerning certain projects, it cannot issue a blanket order, given that these projects span different departments.”

However, various benches of the High Court had already concluded that the Chief Secretary’s orders, based on the Chief Minister’s verbal directive, violated constitutional principles. The court stressed that these orders were inconsistent with Article 166 of the Constitution, which outlines the rules for government functioning.

The High Court provided clarity on the matter by stating, “There is no prohibition on the state government revising development works and projects; they have that right. However, we will dismiss all these petitions by overturning the similar orders issued by the Chief Secretary. If anyone wishes to challenge or review the government’s decisions regarding these development works and projects, they will have the opportunity to do so under our order.”

In response to this, Advocate General Saraf requested time to present the government’s stance, and the bench scheduled the next hearing for October 4. This ruling by the Bombay High Court underscores the importance of upholding constitutional principles in government actions and decisions.

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