Ladhar case: RTI activist moves plea to be intervener
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A city based RTI activist, Vivek Aditya, on Friday moved an application in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to become an intervener in the ongoing arbitration fee case against Jalandhar Division Commissioner S R Ladhar.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain allowed the application, while asking the state government and other respondents to reply to the averments made by Aditya in his application.
In his application, Aditya has alleged that Ladhar's conduct in accepting arbitration fees 'is a direct fraud.' He also enclosed several circulars issued by the Union government, explaining that no officer can charge more than Rs 10,000 in one financial year, on account of any work, even if done repeatedly, or where nature of work also varied. "It is like stealing from government account," he added.
The bench also directed the Union of India to explain the position on rates of arbitration fee to be given to government officers like Ladhar, before February 27 — the next date of hearing.
Moreover, the high court, while directed Ladhar to deposit one-third of the arbitration fee received by him, also impliedly restrained from withdrawing any arbitration fee from "arbitrator's account" for further arbitration work. This will, however, be subject to further orders to by the high court.
H C Arora, who had filed the petition against Ladhar, had vehemently argued that as per Union government's October 27, 2008 circular, Ladhar could charge arbitration fee Rs 500 from government per day, for work of 4 hours or more.
He pleaded that if this interpretation is applied to Ladhar's case — for instance to 639 cases decided by him vide one common order, for which he collected 26 lakhs as arbitration fee — Ladhar was not entitled to collect more than Rs 10,000. Arora therefore, pleaded that Punjab Accountant General (Audit) be directed to work out what Ladhar was entitled to.