Non-teaching staff at six universities in Maharashtra were allegedly disbursed more than Rs 700 crore fraudulently, the state government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday, according to the Hindustan Times.

The universities raised the pay scale of several non-teaching posts after fraudulently getting approvals around 2014, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and RI Chagla.

The government’s affidavit was based on an investigation by the state’s higher and technical education department. Employees of two universities had moved the court against the government’s decision in December 2018 to appoint an investigation squad to look into the matter.

According to the affidavit, in 2014, the state government decided to introduce a new staffing pattern, after which six universities sent proposals to an officer in the department to get the nomenclature of several non-teaching posts changed. The officer got approvals from authorities since there was to be no additional financial burden.

However, along with changing the posts’ nomenclature, the universities also increased their pay scales. The affidavit said that the staff and their duties remained unchanged. Several employees also drew additional amounts in arrears, Kumbhakoni told the bench, according to the Hindustan Times.

“What we have discovered is a fraud on the state exchequer,” he said. “The total excess amount paid is over Rs 700 crore.”

The universities were Savitribai Phule Pune University, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Shivaji University in Kolhapur, North Maharashtra University in Jalgaon, Sant Gadge Baba University in Amravati and Gondwana University in Gadchiroli.

The finance department realised the mistake in October 2017 after employees of other universities began demanding pay scale at par with the staff at the six universities. The department then ordered an investigation. The inquiry team submitted an interim report recently.

The court will continue the hearing on Friday.