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Misuse of police vehicles: Meghalaya High Court drops contempt proceedings against State Home Secretary

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The Meghalaya High Court, while observing that the matter is being attended to by the State with the seriousness that it calls for, dropped the  contempt proceedings instituted against the Home Secretary.

After perusing the detailed affidavit and accompanying report filed by the Home Secretary to the State, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh observed that it was unfortunate that the Court has to resort to extreme steps before appropriate action is taken by the state in some cases.

The report appended to the affidavit filed by the Home Secretary to the State indicates appropriate steps having been taken thus far, including the service of a charge sheet.

It is submitted by Advocate General that the delinquent has sought some documents and has been afforded time to file his written statement in response to the charge sheet. An inquiry officer has already been appointed. Forty-three witnesses have been indicated in the charge sheet and the connected papers.  

The Court hoped that the inquiry is conducted as expeditiously as possible and without affording undue latitude to either the Department or to the delinquent. 

The State submits that appropriate steps would be taken to ensure that the assets of the delinquent are frozen since the extent of defalcation has been, prima facie, pegged at over Rs three crore.

“Since it now appears that the matter is being attended to by the State with the seriousness that it calls for, the contempt proceedings instituted against the Home Secretary are dropped. The rule is discharged and the Home Secretary is excused.

“It is hoped that the entire matter is monitored at the highest level to ensure that deflected public funds are recovered and the culprit or culprits are brought to book.”

The matter is listed for November 25, to ascertain the progress in both the departmental proceedings and in respect of the FIR that is said to have been lodged. 

It is pertinent to note that on October 19, the High Court had issued a suo motu contempt notice to the Secretary in the Home Department of the state for deliberately disregarding an order of the High Court, seeking report on action taken against misuse of official vehicles by the Police Department and embezzlement of funds over their purchase.

The Court issued the notice on a PIL filed by Riewad Vicharwant Warjri and another.

The High Court noted that the petition was not filed immediately upon the publication of the articles. Considerable time had elapsed between the initial publication and the filing of the petition.

It has been evident that the petitioners waited for some action to be taken by the appropriate authorities and, upon finding no action being initiated, brought the complaint to the Court.  

The court wanted the department to ensure that the rule was drawn up immediately and personally served on the state government.

On September 30, the court had directed the State of Meghalaya to file a report on October 17, through the Secretary in the Home Department, indicating the effective measures taken, including arresting any attempt by those prima facie found to be involved in the racket to remove or dissipate or hide their assets or funds.

The High Court further directed the Home Secretary to file a detailed report on the quantum of the perceived loss, the extent of the abuse of authority, the manner of misuse of vehicles and the prima facie affixation of responsibility should be available in court on November 2.

The High Court further took into consideration the September 30, 2022 order, which called upon the State to file a report through the Secretary in the Home Department, indicating the effective measures taken, including arresting any attempt by those prima facie found to be involved in the racket to remove or dissipate or secret their assets or funds. The report was required to be filed on October 17, 2022.  

The Court observed that such farce was never repeated before a court of law, the perfunctory and most insulting report was set out in its entirety.

The case was heard on September 30, 2022 and the High Court vide order dated July 30, 2022 was pleased to direct the State Respondent to file a report on October 17, 2022. 

The Office of the Director General of Police, Meghalaya, Shillong on October 11, 2022 submitted an affidavit of the Enquiry Committee to the Department, along with the Article of Charges and Articles of imputation against the erring officer.

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