Hyderabad: The Telangana High Court has directed an IAS officer to refund Rs 15 lakh sanctioned to her by the state government for meeting the legal expenses in a defamation case against an English news weekly, noting that it was not for any public purpose.
Two PILs were earlier filed challenging the Telangana Government Order (GO) issued in August 2015 granting the amount to IAS officer Smita Sabharwal for payment of court fee and expenses for filing a civil suit seeking damages against the management of the magazine for publishing a news report along with a cartoon allegedly defaming her.
Allowing the PILs, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Abhinand Kumar Shavili, (in the order recently), directed the bureaucrat to refund Rs 15 lakh sanctioned by the government within 90 days from the date of the order.
In this case, if the said amount is not refunded by the officer within 90 days, the state shall recover the same from her within a period of 30 days thereafter, the order said.
The court, in its order, observed that it is a case where the IAS officer had participated in a private event, an article was published by the magazine and some comments had been made against the officer and the Chief Minister.
The IAS officer wanted to file a suit claiming damages and it is certainly not at all the action of the state government against the magazine therefore, the exercise of power by the government in sanctioning the amount to the bureaucrat can never be included under the term grant for any public purpose’ keeping in view Article 282 of the Constitution of India, the High Court said in its order.
Earlier, after the publication of the news report, Sabharwal had made a representation to the government for grant of financial assistance to file a civil suit of defamation against the magazine, and accordingly, the GO was issued granting financial assistance.
A civil suit was filed (against the magazine) in a local court, and the same was dismissed in December 2021.