Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday pulled the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Government over the bi-annual exercise of Darbar Move. The court in its judgment has, however, directed the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, and Chief Secretary, J&K to place judgment before competent authorities to examine the issue and thereof.
The Court has, however, put the ball in the court of the Union and J&K Government but the conclusions made by High Court hints that even the court feels that Move is nothing but a futile exercise.
In its 22 points conclusions, High Court has made it very clear that it didn't find Darbar Move exercise important, keeping in view the technological advancements.
I. No reasons or grounds are forthcoming for enabling and supporting considerations of administrative efficiency, legal justification, or Constitutional basis for effecting the Darbar Moves.
II. Both the Jammu as well as the Srinagar regions equally require administration and governance around the year without interruption. It is unfair and opposed to the public interest to deprive either region completely of access to government machinery for six months at a time.
III. For a period of almost six weeks annually, the entire governance and administration in the Union Territory come to a grinding halt creating a governance deficit. The sensitivity of the issues with which the Union Territory Government is engaged can ill afford this gap in governance. This is glaringly opposed to every element of public interest.
IV. Given the modern weather control mechanisms, clearly the consideration of extremities of weather, which was the case, reason, and basis for the Darbar Move, does not hold weight today. This justification of the Darbar Move has lost all relevance. 88 WP(C) PIL No. 4/2020 c//w WP(C) PIL No. 5/2020
V. Valuable documents and resources of the Union Territory in the nature of important and sensitive government documents are put to tremendous risk in the process of their transportation as they are packed in trunks and carried in hired trucks over a distance of 300 km between Jammu and Srinagar and vice-vice twice a year. This practice may have the consequence of the imperiling State and National security.
VI. On account of technological advancements and availability of electronic modes, maintenance of record, and communication, there is no need for the physical conveyance of assets.
VII. Information technology integrates disjoint units into single units virtually. Therefore, even if the Secretariat and Departments were divided and placed at different locations, they could be virtually unified into a single Secretariat with minimal movement of human resources.
VIII. In view of the large scale logistics involved today, the economic burden of the Darbar Move is not justified by the original considerations of the weather.
IX. Thousands of government employees are compelled to live apart from their families for six months at a time resulting in physical and emotional pressure not only on the employees but spouses, parents, children, and dependents. This has an exponentially negative impact on the emotional health of the employees and their families and would contribute to dejection and lack of interest in assigned tasks of the Darbar Move employees. 89 WP(C)PIL No. 4/2020 c//w WP(C)PIL No. 5/2020
X. The administrative requirement of the biannual shifting of the employees year after year as part of their conditions of service to effectuate the Darbar Move is manifestly arbitrary and is hit by Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
XI. The Darbar Move places a huge burden on the police, security forces in the Union Territory. Security provisions relatable to the Darbar Move are also at a phenomenal undesirable cost (of both financial and manpower), to the Nation and to the public exchequer which ought not to be countenanced in the public interest.
XII. Right to life, education, health, good environment are amongst the several essential concomitants of the right to life guaranteed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Union Territory is unable to provide to all its people even basic essentials including those of education and healthcare, judicial infrastructure resulting in violation of the right to life of the people. Valuable resources of the State - financial and physical - cannot be diverted to completely nonessential usage.
XIII. There is an unwarranted disruption of the movement of traffic and personnel on the National Highway for four days on each Darbar Move adversely impacting public interest.
XIV. Jammu and Kashmir already suffer from the high fiscal deficit and the expenditure on the Darbar Move is an unwarranted burden on the depleted resources of the Union Territory. The Darbar Move is an unwarranted drain on the public exchequer and the taxpayer's hard-earned contributions. 90 WP(C)PIL No. 4/2020 c//w WP(C)PIL No. 5/2020
XV. The expenditure involved is in the nature of misutilisation of valuable public resources which are urgently required for public purposes, say, for instance, the imperative and pressing needs of upgrading public health facilities, and upgrading all health installations. A large financial outlay is required to meet the immediate needs to address COVID-19 issues including health, infrastructure, transportation, technology, security, social welfare, unemployment, food to name just a few.
XVI. Looked at from any angle, the Darbar Move results in wastage of tremendous amount of time, efforts, and energy on inefficient and unnecessary activity (say, packing of records). It nurtures inefficiency and leads to a lack of governance. It also has a huge financial cost in terms of salary paid to employees who spend weeks on this unproductive work. It is a practice that works to the detriment of the larger interest of all the people.
XVII. No reason or justification at all is available for requiring the judiciary to shift with the Darbar Move. The same negatively impact justice dispensation and impedes judicial administration.
XVIII. The Darbar Move causes a delay in justice dispensation as government records are not available to the pleaders in one region for six months at a time.
XIX. Non-availability of the record with the government pleaders in the Wing other than the Main Wing, per force compels them to seek repeated adjournments as they are unable to file their responses in civil cases or conduct criminal prosecutions for want of government record. The Darbar 91 WP(C)PIL No. 4/2020 c//w WP(C)PIL No. 5/2020 Move therefore adversely affects the fundamental right of access to justice of the public as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
XX. Keeping in view the public interest and to enable continuous efficient governance, it is essential that the movement of employees and physical assets be minimized. Rationalization of the Darbar Move is urgently required.
XXI. The spread of COVID-19 infection imperils the Union Territory; the consequential lockdown has compelled enforcement of the 'Stay at Home and Work from Home' situation, social distancing has become a necessary norm. These circumstances compelled the Government's conclusion in the order dated 17th April 2020 that the Darbar Move could have dangerous consequences. For this reason, as well, the Darbar Move is been rendered unworkable.
XXII. In case this practice was rationalized, the amount of money, resources, and time that could be saved could be utilized towards the welfare and development of the Union Territory which has otherwise witnessed much turmoil. The financial saving and resources could be utilized for contributing to the protection and propagation of its inherent culture and heritage of the communities. It could also be used for facilitating expenditure on the COVID-19 related issues including those of food shortages, unemployment, and healthcare amongst others