A Supreme Court bench called it a very serious issue, and issued notice to the state government in the matter.

Supreme court building: SC restrains Andhra govt from transferring SDRF funds to personal deposit accountsSupreme Court of India: Image for representation/PTI
news Court Wednesday, April 13, 2022 - 19:11

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, April 13, restrained the Andhra Pradesh government from transferring funds from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to personal deposit accounts. A bench of Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna said this is a very serious issue, and issued notice to the state government in the matter. The bench also directed the state government not to utilise the funds which they have already diverted to other accounts for any purpose other than those allowed under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati told the court that the Ministry of Finance has asked questions to the state on the issue. Advocate Gaurav Bansal, appearing for petitioner Palla Srinivasa Rao, submitted that Andhra Pradesh has diverted funds from SDRF — which is being used to disburse ex-gratia to kin of those who died from COVID-19 — to personal deposit accounts which is not permissible under the Disaster Management Act. He submitted that the state government is illegally utilising the funds of the State Disaster Response Fund for purposes other than specified under Section 46 (2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Personal Deposit Accounts, or Personal Ledger Accounts, are established under statutory provisions of the government or created under any law by transferring funds from the Consolidated Fund of the state for discharging liabilities of the state government arising out of special enactments. Such accounts may also be opened in favour of specified government officers, by transferring funds from the Consolidated Fund of the state, for discharging the liabilities of the state government in respect of the execution of various projects, schemes etc.

Read: Andhra COVID-19 ex gratia claims are nearly three times the official death toll

"It is respectfully submitted that at a time when the court is actively and continuously monitoring the implementation of its order dealing with the issue of disbursing of ex-gratia assistance of Rs 50,000 to next of kin of those who died due to COVID-19 and is leaving no stone unturned to provide benefits of the said order to public at large, the act of Andhra Pradesh whereby the State is diverting the State Disaster Response Fund to personal deposit account is not only against the law of the land but is also contemptuous in nature," the plea stated.

The plea cited a letter issued on March 12, 2022, by the Union Minister of State for Finance, which says that the Andhra Pradesh government received an amount of Rs 324.15 crore as the central share of the SDRF and an amount of Rs 570.91 crore under the National Disaster Response Fund. "The said letter dated March 12 also mentioned that the state of Andhra Pradesh has transferred the funds from State Disaster Response Fund to Personal Deposit Account without spending on immediate relief," added the plea.

The plea contended that once the statute prohibits the utilisation of funds deposited under the National Disaster Response Fund and the State Disaster Response Fund, the Andhra Pradesh government has no authority to divert the said fund to any other use. The plea also sought a direction to the Andhra Pradesh government to submit the details of funds that they have utilised under the SDRF during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With PTI and IANS inputs 

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