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It was sent by the Government in compliance with a Supreme Court order awarding `exemplary costs'

Cheque drawn on State Bank of Mysore was returned by the Mahatma Gandhi Road branch of Canara Bank The branch returned the cheque with the remarks `cheque not honoured due to insufficient funds' Now, the Public Works Department Chief Executive Engineer is issuing a banker's cheque

BANGALORE: In a new twist to the controversy over the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project, a cheque for Rs. 5 lakh issued by the State Government to Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) was returned unpaid because of "insufficient funds."

The cheque issued by the Government to NICE, which is executing the BMIC project, was in compliance with a Supreme Court order awarding "exemplary costs."

NICE Managing Director Ashok Kheny told The Hindu on Wednesday that the cheque drawn on State Bank of Mysore was returned by the Mahatma Gandhi Road branch of Canara Bank, where NICE has an account, citing lack of sufficient funds.

The branch returned the cheque with the remarks "cheque not honoured due to insufficient funds."

However, P.B. Mahishi, Principal Secretary, Public Works Department, told The Hindu that "there was a computer problem in SBM and the cheque was not reconciled. We asked NICE officials to submit the cheque again, but they refused to do so. Now the Public Works Department Chief Executive Engineer is issuing a banker's cheque to NICE and getting an acknowledgement." Finance Department Principal Secretary N. Gokulram told presspersons that there was no question of government cheques bouncing as it had sufficient funds in the treasury.

"Five lakh rupees is an insignificant amount for the Government. We are clearing cheques for higher amounts."

On April 20 this year, the Supreme ordered the implementation and completion of the BMIC project "expeditiously" as originally envisaged, without any changes, while dismissing a bunch of appeals filed by the State Government and others against the May 3, 2005 judgment of the Karnataka High Court, which had permitted the completion of the project.

The Supreme Court also imposed exemplary costs of Rs. 5 lakh on the State Government, terming its petition "frivolous" and directed the appellant to pay the punitive cost within four weeks to NICE. The company received a cheque for the amount, dated May 26.

Takeover

Referring to the ongoing moves by the Government to take over the BMIC project through legislation, Mr. Kheny asked, "When a Government cannot ensure clearance of a cheque for Rs. 5 lakh, how can they take over the BMIC project and implement it?" He added, "If the Government wants to take up a road project, let it implement a Bangalore-Mangalore corridor project or a Bangalore-Kolar corridor project."

Mr. Kheny was evasive when asked whether NICE would present the cheque again, but said the matter had already been brought to the Government's notice.

The company is exploring the possibility of initiating legal action against the Government, Mr. Kheny said, but refused to elaborate.

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