Monday, October 2, 2023

Rs 100 crore money embezzlement: Supreme Court calls Noida Authority corrupt, directs probe by independent agency

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The Supreme Court has pulled up the state government of Uttar Pradesh saying that probe by an independent agency is required for ascertaining the involvement of higher-ups for not initiating a probe against Noida authority officials who allegedly siphoned off public money tuned to nearly Rs 100 crore.

The order on the same was taken in a case where a former legal officer of Noida authority is accused of wrongfully sanctioning a compensation of Rs 7.28 crore in a land acquisition case, 22 years after it stood paid.

The Apex Court noted that the state government was also not probing 11 other cases of wrongful claims, which were revealed by the Noida authority in its affidavit filed before the court in April this year.

The bench comprising of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Datta said,where is the accountability?

The Court noted that the state is doing nothing despite Noida authority claiming that money to the tune of Rs 100 crore has been siphoned off.

The Court added that this (siphoning off of funds) cannot be done at the instance of one or two officers. Prima facie, the entire setup seems to be involved and thus the matter shouod be handed to some independent agency for a deeper probe to unearth the truth.

The state was represented by advocate Ardhendumauli Prasad who sought some time to take instructions.

So for the time being, that is till the next date of hearing, the court has protected the accused legal officer Dinesh Kumar Singh and assistant legal officer Virender Singh Nagar from arrest in the first information report (FIR) pending before the Sector 20 police station in Noida.

It is important to note that the Noida authority had filed an affidavit in April blaming the legal officer for not carrying out an inquiry before sanctioning the compensation to the land owner in village Gheja Tilaptabad in Dadri tehsil of Gautam Budh Nagar district.

The acquisition was done in 1982 and the owner was paid compensation for his 10-15 bigha land (one bigha is about 25.29 acres in UP) at the rate of Rs 10.12 per square yard. Not satisfied with this amount, the owner approached the district court in Ghaziabad for enhanced compensation. In 1993, the court directed the Noida authority to pay the owner at the rate of Rs 16.61 per square yard. This was done and the claim stood settled. Much later, in 2015, Ramwati, the legal heir of the owner, filed an appeal before the Allahabad high court to reopen the compensation but the same was dismissed.

The same year, the Noida authority agreed to settle all pending claims with landowners by providing compensation at Rs 297 per square yard. According to the police FIR, Dinesh Kumar Singh, along with the other accused, filed an appeal against the dismissal of Ramwati’s compensation claim to show the appeal as pending and paid Rs 7.28 crore to settle a claim that was never filed by the claimant in the first place.

The accused legal officer’s bail plea was rejected by the Allahabad high court in January this year and in February, the top court protected him from arrest, added Noida authority as a party to the petition, and sought information on similar instances of wrongful payouts by authority staff.

The authority spilled the beans in its affidavit and said the same accused committed similar fraud by sanctioning compensation in other land acquisition cases as well.

It said, “on basis of examination of records carried out in the matter of acquisition of land in village Gheja Tilaptabad, there are 11 more instances where such settlement was proposed and approval of administrative authorities obtained by practising misrepresentation.” The authority estimated the loss to the exchequer to be more than Rs 91 crore.

Read here: Some convicts more privileged than others: Supreme Court on Bilkis Bano case

Confronting the state with this information, the court said, “Have you investigated keeping the larger conspiracy in mind? Do you want us to think only one person is involved?”

The state counsel informed the court that the authority has not filed any formal complaint in this regard. To this, the court said, “Do you think the authority having officers of the state government will complain to you? Once this matter got reported, what have you done?

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