Thursday, August 7, 2014

Approach Lokayukta with misappropriation of earthquake relief funds complaint, HC suggests petitioner RANJIT SINGH

GANGTOK, 06 Aug: In regard to the allegations of misappropriation and mismanagement of earthquake relief funds by the State government, as leveled in a petition before the High Court of Sikkim, the Court has suggested that the complainant/ petitioner approach the Lokayukta.
While granting the state government four weeks time to file its counter affidavit in relation to the various allegations of misappropriation of funds made in the petition, the Division Bench of the High Court of Sikkim comprising Chief Justice NK Jain and Justice SK Sinha made the suggestion that in view of the subject matter of the petition, the petitioner could also think about approaching the state Lokayukta.
While the petition is still very much before the High Court, the court observed that “…the counsel for petitioners may also seek instructions from the petitioners about approaching the Lokayukta in the present matter in the facts and circumstances of the case”.
It may be recalled that Justice SP Wangdi had earlier recused himself from being part of the bench hearing the matter. The main petitioner is ST Bhutia. The petition accuses the state government functionaries including the Chief Minister, other ministers of the previous government and officials of having misappropriated huge sums of money from the funds released by the central government for Earthquake Relief in the wake of the 18 September, 2011 earthquake.
The allegations include misappropriation by Ministers and functionaries from the disbursed amounts of the Prime Minister’s Special Package Assistance of Rs. 1,000 crore, from the NDRF and State Disaster Relief Funds and also from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The state government has also been accused of presenting to the centre expenditure on dubious and non-existent grounds. The PIL also seeks a CBI inquiry into the matter or the establishment of a Special Investigative Team under the High Court.
Being a basically corruption charge leveled against government functionaries the Lokayukta could also be a possible arbiter in the present case. The state Lokayukta was established some time back and retired Chief Justice AN Ray is the Chairman. Recently the state government also appointed Sirish Chandra Misra as judicial member of the Sikkim Lokayukta. The Lokayukta is empowered to look into all allegations of corruption against government officials as well as Ministers. It remains to be seen whether the petitioners take the suggestion of the High Court and take their case to the Lokayukta.

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