GUWAHATI: A division bench of the Gauhati High Court comprising Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Manish Choudhury disposed the PIL (58/2021), and directed the Assam Chief Secretary to consider the representations submitted by the petitioner.
Various allegations of financial irregularities, misappropriation of funds, etc., got highlighted in the petition. The allegations are based on certain reports i.e. inspection reports prepared on accounts of the Director of Welfare of Tea and Ex-Tea Garden Tribes, Assam, from November 2011 to February 2018 prepared by the office of the Principal Accountant General (Audit), Assam consisting of as many as five such inspections. The petitioner – Amguri Naba Nirman Samity – also mentioned various other financial irregularities with evidence in the form of reports from competent authorities.
In the first report relating to the period from November 2011 to November 2012 in respect of the Director of Welfare of Tea and Ex-Tea Garden Tribes, Assam, irregularities to the extent of Rs 57.95 lakh have been pointed out in the matter of implementation of the scheme – providing financial assistance, course fees to ANM/GNM/BSc Nursing and Para Medical Trainees, etc. Other irregularities also have been pointed out in the report.
From December 2012 to February 2014, similar financial irregularities have been pointed out relating to providing electric meters free of cost for installation in quarters of tea garden workers covering all tea gardens in Assam, in a phased manner, wherein it has been mentioned that payment has been made for the installation of meters @ Rs 100 per meter instead of Rs 80, thus incurring extra avoidable expenses. There has been also an allegation of extra expenditure of Rs 23.47 lakh relating to providing sports gear/items like sports vests, game shoes, football, etc. There has been an allegation of irregular payment to the extent of Rs 98.88 lakh relating to the supply of sports gear. There has been also allegations relating to providing solar lamps to the deserving students belonging to Tea tribes of Assam, who had passed the HSLC/HSSLC exam at least in a 2nd Division as an incentive for further studies. Though expenses have been shown to have been incurred, a list of such beneficiaries was not available.
From March 2014 to August 2015, irregularities also have been pointed out including disbursement of subsidy amount for purchase and distribution of Taxi-cab involving the expenditure of Rs 5 crore to educated unemployed youths belonging to such category of Tea Tribe persons.
From September 2015 to January 2017 irregularities relating to the payment of grants to schools to the tune of Rs 54.75 lakh have been also pointed out.
Similarly, in respect of the period from February 2017 to January 2018 irregularities, including excess expenditure to the tune of Rs 370.40 lakh, which relates to sponsoring candidates for undergoing study/training in different job-oriented courses in the Assam Down Town University, have been pointed out. An excess amount has been allegedly paid for conducting Civil Service Examination Coaching for the students belonging to the Tea tribe community.
The present petitioner, an NGO, submitted a
representation to the Superintendent of Police, Chief Minister's Special Vigilance Cell, Assam on September 27, 2019, highlighting the various financial irregularities followed by other representations on June 12, 2021, addressed to the Chief Secretary to the Government of
Assam as well as to the Superintendent of Police, Criminal Investigation Department.
"Given the above submission made, we are of the view that since the petitioner had submitted representations to the authorities as mentioned above, we would direct the authorities to examine the same given the irregularities pointed out in the said reports.
"These reports being prepared by the competent authorities of the office of the Principal Page Accountant General (Audit), Assam, deserve the serious consideration of the authorities and accordingly, we dispose of this PIL with the direction to the respondent authorities more particularly the respondent No.2, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam, to consider the representations submitted by the petitioner based on the materials so submitted and to dispose of the same, following the law, after giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner by passing a speaking order by causing an enquiry as directed above and taking necessary preventive, remedial and punitive actions wherever necessary.
"It is also made clear that while constituting the Committee, care must be taken to ensure that the officials, who are members of the Committee, are not the ones against whom allegations have been made. The aforesaid exercise shall be undertaken by the respondent authorities as expeditiously as possible, preferably within 12 weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order," the order said.
If the petitioner is aggrieved by the action taken or non-action, the petitioner would be at liberty to approach this Court again, the order added.