Tribal Dept scam: Bombay High Court asks govts not to ‘shield’ 123 bureaucrats

Mumbai: Observing that no corrupt bureaucrat must be shielded by the Maharashtra and the Union Governments, the Bombay High Court recently passed an order demanding to know the status of the criminal and disciplinary proceedings against 123 bureaucrats in the state.

All 123 bureaucrats have been named in siphoning of over Rs 20 crores amount, which was allocated for the welfare of tribals in the state. These bureaucrats are facing criminal and disciplinary action since June 2013 after a HC bench led by Justice (now retd.) Vidyasagar Kanade ordered a thorough probe against them. The scam came to light in 2012, when a bunch of petitions were filed in the HC highlighting the conduct of these corrupt officials. Since then, the matter has been pending in the HC for compliance.

The clutch of petitions recently came up for hearing before a bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Riyaz Chagla, who were “astonished” to note that despite a judicial committee’s report, not a single bureaucrat has been suspended.

Notably, a committee under former HC judge Justice M Gaikwad, was constituted. It submitted its report recommending criminal action against all the corrupt bureaucrats with a conclusion that the officials indeed misappropriated the funds allocated by the state and union governments for the welfare of tribals. The report also concluded that the funds never reached the tribals, leading to higher mortality rate among the tribal communities due to malnutrition.

Having heard all the contentions and scrutinising the material on record, Justice Dharmadhikari noted that despite criminal and disciplinary proceedings being initiated, not a single official has been punished or even suspended yet. Irked over this delay, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “We do not understand this enormous delay in ensuring that the officials against whom criminal investigation has commenced or prosecution is launched, have not even been named as accused. Nothing like filing a chargesheet or framing charges with due diligence by moving the criminal court has been done.”

“What astonishes and surprises us is that although the Maharashtra Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1979 are in force, the accused government servants have not been placed under suspension.”

The bench further said that if the government has accepted the report prepared by Justice Gaikwad and has subsequently launched civil and criminal proceedings, then it must not hesitate in suspending the corrupt officials.

“We would like to know, at what stage the investigation is pending against these officials. Have all the 123 officers been named as accused, are FIRs lodged against all of them. Is anyone arrested after a thorough probe and why none has been suspended yet,” Dharmadhikari said.

seeking replies from the government.

The judges further said that if the government has accepted the judicial committee’s report then it is bound to take it to its logical end.

“We hope that none would be protected and shielded even if close to the political dispensation, presently in power in the state or the union,” the judges said while adjourning the matter till January 2020.

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