Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Gauhati High Court directs Assam to place CAG report before Public Accounts Committee over money embezzlement charges

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The Gauhati High Court has directed the Assam government to place the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) before the Public Accounts Committee to verify the contentions raised by the petitioner as regards embezzlement of large amounts of public money meant for public purposes.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Rashmin Manharbhai Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia disposed of a PIL filed by Amguri Naba Nirman Samity, which prayed for the following reliefs:-

(a) to direct the Respondent Authorities to conduct an Enquiry through a High Level Enquiry Committee in the matter of huge financial embezzlement committed during the course of implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and other Schemes in the Districts of Kamrup (R), Nagaon, Baksa, Karbi Anglong,Cachar, Udalguri, Nalbari, Chirang, Kokrajhar and Goalpara Districts of Assam;

(b) to identify the Govt. Officials and other persons involved in misappropriation of Govt. Fund and thereafter launch appropriate proceedings for their punishment and also for recovery of the misappropriate Govt. Fund for them;

(c) to direct Respondents take into account the representations dated 12.05.2020 , 20.11.2020 ,23.11.2020 , 24.01.2022, 20.06.2021 ,17.07.2021 and 24.01.2022 submitted by the petitioner and do the needful for disposal of the same and/or pass such other order(s) as the High Court may deem fit and necessary.

In the interim, pending disposal of the instant petition this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to direct the Respondents to submit Status Report of theEnquiry initiated on the basis of the representations dated 12.05.2020 , 20.11.2020 , 23.11.2020 , 24.01.2022, 20.06.2021 , 17.07.2021 and 24.01.2022 if any, before the High Court.

M. Nirola, counsel for the petitioner, relying upon the audit report of the Accountant General (Audit), Assam, has submitted that there is large scale of embezzlement of public funds which is required to be investigated by an independent agency.

As against this, M. Bhattacharjee, Additional SeniorGovernment Advocate, Assam, has contended that the present PIL is not maintainable as the same is purely based on CAG report and it is also the function of the Public Accounts Committee to examine such report submitted by the CAG and to take remedial steps, if discrepancy is found. It is, therefore,contended by Bhattacharhee that the allegations levelled in this petition may be referred to the Public Accounts Committee for their consideration.

Relying upon the judgment dated 19.05.2022 passed by a Division Bench of the Court in the case of the very petitioner being PIL No.68/2021(Amguri Naba Nirman Samity vs. The State of Assam and Ors.), it has been submitted by Bhattacharjee that in a similarly situated case filed by the petitioner, the matter has been placed for consideration of the Public Accounts Committee.

A Division Bench of the High Court in Amguri Naba Nirman Samiti (supra), in similar circumstances has observed thus:

“5. Under the circumstances, we are also of the view that since the allegations of embezzlement are based primarily on the CAG report, the competent forum i.e the Public Accounts Committee may have a look at the same so that in case any illegality is found, necessary remedial actions can be taken by the competent authority.

  1. Accordingly, the State Government would cause these reports of theCAG, which according to the petitioner disclose embezzlement of large sum of public money meant for the Social Welfare Department to the PAC for doing the needful.
  2. The State Government will accordingly cause the matter to be placed before the PAC within the period of 8 (eight) weeks.”

In the case the Bench observed that the allegations made in the petitionare based on CAG report and, hence, it would be appropriate to direct the StateGovernment to place the same before the Public Accounts Committee.

Accordingly, the Court directed the State Government to place the CAG report before the Public Accounts Committee to verify the contentions raised by the petitioner as regards embezzlement of large amount of public money meant for public purposes.

“The State Government will accordingly cause the matter to be placed before the Public Accounts Committee within a period of eight weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order”, the Court further directed.

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