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"...when startling and disturbing facts have been brought to our notice with, prima facie, proof, this Court cannot shun its constitutional duty and be a mute spectator to condone such lapses", the High Court said.
The Chhattisgarh High Court on Thursday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of around Rs. 1,000 crores in the running of a Physical Referral Rehabilitation Centre (PRRC).
The centre was documented to be maintained by a society known as the State Resource Center (SRC).
The order was passed by Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and Parth Prateen Sahu in a PIL filed alleging that the petitioner and other like persons were being falsely shown as government employees of the PRRC.
The Court was informed that whopping amounts were withdrawn for the purported payment of their salary, although neither the petitioner nor any of the persons shown to be PRRC employees, were ever paid any such salary.
The Court was further told that the entire set up of the SRC and PRRC is running only on paper, without there being any visible tangible activity at any such center.
It was submitted that fake employees are shown to be paid in cash, in a planned and organised manner to siphon hundreds of crores of rupees. Persons shown to be employees were never paid any salaries through the bank accounts linked to their Aadhaar cards.
The PRRC was purportedly set up to work for the welfare of handicapped persons. To this end, it was supposed to make artificial limbs for such beneficiaries. A budgetary allocation of money was also shown for the running of the PRRC. However, the Court was told that cash amounts were withdrawn for different purposes only on paper without there being any activity.
Interestingly, the petitioner had also submitted documents in October last year wherein Rs 50,000 was shown to have been withdrawn as expenses for a vehicle hired by former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir in September 2011.
In October 2018, the state told the Court that it did not have precise information concerning the salary payment for PRRC employees. A financial audit conducted after the PIL was filed also found that the allegations of irregular and illegal withdrawal of cash has been found to be proved, prima facie.
Despite the same, the Court noted that no serious attempt has been made by the state to unearth who siphoned the amount. The Bench took critical note that,
“Only some notices for departmental action have been issued without registering any offence for misuse of public funds of such enormous proportion.”
The Bench proceeded to to observe,
“Public office cannot be a place for acquiring personal gain. Probity in public life is of great importance. Corruption is an enemy of nation and tracking down corrupt public servant, howsoever high he may be, and punishing such person is a necessary mandate under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and the Indian Penal Code.”
The Court further opined,
Given this state of affairs, and since there are allegations that high ranked officers were involved in the alleged scam who may influence the course of the investigation, the Bench proceeded to order an inquiry by the CBI.
The Court has directed the CBI to register an FIR in the case within a week’s time. The CBI is to seize all relevant documents required for the same within 15 days after the registration of the FIR.
Further, the CBI has also bee granted liberty to move the Court if it requires any further direction to facilitate the investigation.
[Read the Order]