Gauhati High Court directs state to verify embezzlement of public money
The Gauhati High Court directed the State Government to place the audit report 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 PIL filed by Amguri Naba Nirman Samity has 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 various Schemes under the Director of Health Services, Government of Assam, during the financial years from 2009-2010 to 2019-2020;
(b) to identify the Government Officials and Contractors and any other persons involved in misappropriation of Govt. Fund and thereafter launch appropriate proceeding for their punishment and also for recovery of the misappropriated Govt. Fund from them;
(c) to direct Respondents to take into account the representations dated 31.01.2022, 15.09.2022 and 15.09.2022 submitted by the Petitioner and do the needful for disposal of the same and/or pass such other order(s) as the Court may deem fit and necessary.
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In the interim, pending disposal of the instant petition the High Court may be pleased to direct the Respondents to submit Status Report of the Enquiry initiated on the basis of the representations dated 31.01.2022, 15.09.2022 and 15.09.2022 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, D. Saikia, Advocate General, 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 D. Saikia, that the allegations levelled in the 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 High 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 the Advocate General, Assam, Assam 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 Samity (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.
6. Accordingly, the State Government would cause these reports of the CAG, 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. 7. The State Government will accordingly cause the matter to be placed before the PAC within the period of 8 (eight) weeks.”
In the case on hand also the allegations made in the present petition are based on CAG report and, hence, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Rashmin Manharbhai Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia observed that it would be appropriate to direct the State Government to place the same before the Public Accounts Committee.
Accordingly, the State Government is directed by the High Court 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.