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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday favoured an au­dit of govern­ment funds meant for pro­vid­ing shel­ters to the ur­ban home­less, say­ing the money was not be­ing spent by the states and the home­less peo­ple re­mained the suf­fer­ers.

The apex court, while sug­gest­ing an au­dit of the money dis­bursed by the Cen­tre to the states for a scheme un­der the Na­tional Ur­ban Liveli­hoods Mis­sion (NULM), said it could “pos­si­bly” be done by the Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral (CAG) and ob­served that these funds, which are meant for a spe­cific pur­pose, should not be di­verted.

It said such an au­dit was nec­es­sary as the apex-court ap­pointed com­mit­tee, set up to ver­ify the avail­abil­ity of such shel­ters and headed by former Delhi High Court judge Jus­tice Kailash Gamb­hir, would not look into this as­pect.

Solic­i­tor Gen­eral Ran­jit Ku­mar, ap­pear­ing for the Cen­tre, told a bench com­pris­ing Jus­tices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that the un­spent amount by states for the pre­vi­ous pe­riod stood at Rs 412 crore, while Rs 228 crore was re­leased by the Cen­tre for 2017-18.

“One thing is that you (Cen­tre) give money and the states does not spent it. For 2017-2018, you have given Rs 228 crore.

You tell the states that we are giv­ing you money and you are not spend­ing it. So why should we give you more money,” the bench said.

“The money is not spent by the states and the suf­fer­ers are the home­less peo­ple. How can you en­sure that the money is spent? It should not be di­verted as the money has been given for a spe­cific pur­pose,” the court said.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Ku­mar told the bench that the Cen­tre was con­tribut­ing 60 per cent of the funds for the scheme, while the re­main­ing amount was borne by the states. For Jammu and Kash­mir and north east­ern states, the ra­tio was 90 by the Cen­tre and 10 per cent by the states.

“Au­dit is nec­es­sary. The com­mit­tee is not go­ing to au­dit the ac­count,” the bench said, adding, “it can pos­si­bly be done by the CAG.”

The bench also asked the solic­i­tor gen­eral that 790 cities were cov­ered un­der the scheme and mon­i­tor­ing of all these cities would ten­ta­tively not be pos­si­ble.

“We could do two things. One way of do­ing it is to ask the high courts to look af­ter their states. The sec­ond op­tion is that in­stead of ask­ing the high courts, we can look into it,” the bench asked Ku­mar.

Re­spond­ing to this, the solic­i­tor gen­eral said keep­ing in view the mag­ni­tude of im­ple­men­ta­tion of scheme in 790 cities, the op­tion of ask­ing the high courts ap­peared to be bet­ter as they could also have the as­sis­tance of the state and the district le­gal ser­vices author­ity.

He said he would as­sist the apex court on the is­sues asked by the bench, in­clud­ing that of au­dit­ing of money.

The court fixed the mat­ter for hear­ing on Oc­to­ber 13.

The apex court had last year slammed the Cen­tre and state gov­ern­ments for lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach in pro­vid­ing shel­ters to the poverty-stricken in ur­ban ar­eas de­spite avail­abil­ity of suf­fi­cient funds.

It had also ob­served that the mis­sion of the NULM scheme “re­mains a dis­tant dream even af­ter lapse of a long pe­riod.”

The NULM was launched in September 2013 to re­duce poverty and vul­ner­a­bil­ity of ur­ban poor house­holds.

The Cen­tre had ear­lier told the court that an amount of Rs 1,000 crore, re­leased un­der the NULM, does not per­tain only to ur­ban home­less but to other ac­tiv­i­ties also.

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