Fund embezzlement in Social Welfare Department: Gauhati HC asks Dispur to place matter before PAC
A Division Bench of the Gauhati High Court, comprising Chief Justice (acting) N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Soumitra Saikia
GUWAHATI: A Division Bench of the Gauhati High Court, comprising Chief Justice (acting) N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Soumitra Saikia, has directed the State Government to forward to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Assam Legislative Assembly certain reports of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG, which reportedly disclose embezzlement of a large amount of funds meant under the Social Welfare Department. The court has given the State Government eight weeks' time to forward the relevant reports to the PAC.
While disposing of a PIL (68/2021) seeking appropriate action against the alleged embezzlement of funds, the court accepted the contention of the counsel representing the Social Welfare Department that the matter was a fit one for referral to the PAC.
The High Court observed, "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."
The petitioner, an NGO named the Amguri Naba Nirman Samity, had moved the court on the ground that certain reports of the CAG revealed embezzlement of crores of rupees in the Social Welfare Department during the period between 2009-2010 and 2017-2018. Mentioning that the embezzled funds were meant for the welfare of children, the PIL submitted that "because of such embezzlement of huge public amounts, the matter requires to be investigated by an independent agency."
The Government advocate, however, submitted that first of all "any PIL is not maintainable based purely on the CAG report. Further, if any anomaly is alleged, the competent authority to look into it is the Public Accounts Committee, which is to examine any reports submitted by the CAG and which may take necessary remedial steps if discrepancies are found." Therefore, he submitted that it would be most appropriate if the matter, which is based on CAG reports, were to be referred to the PAC for consideration.
The Division Bench concurred with this argument and directed that the matter should be placed before the PAC for consideration.