Court orders CBI probe into Nagaland High Court scam

Court orders CBI probe into  Nagaland High Court scam
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Kohima, May 3: In a major development which could have ramification on Naga politicians, the Gauhati High Court has directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe into the Nagaland High Court scam.
The Court suspects misappropriation of funds by the State Government and decided to direct the CBI to probe into the scam which could pull up some top Naga politicians.
From 2009-17 there were three Chief Ministers – Neiphiu Rio, TR Zeliang and Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu.
There is a probability that the sleuths could question Rio and Zeliang during the course of enquiry. But it remains to be seen how far the CBI would do justice as Chief Minister Rio is heading the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) Government where BJP is a key partner.
The saffron party was also part of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) Government.
The Guahati High in an order passed Wednesday stated that the foundation stone for a separate High Court for Nagaland was laid at Meriema in 2007 and till date the building has not been completed. The amount for construction has exceeded the original estimate by Rs 9.63 crores. Planned at the same time, the States of Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura have established their High Courts and made them functional in 2013.
According to information acquired under Right to Information (RTI), it was detected that Rs 43 crores was estimated for the High Court Project, out of which during the period from 2009-2014, the Department of Law and Justice withdrew Rs 41.62 crores and for period 2015-17 an amount of Rs 11.25 crores was drawn against the project.
From March 2009 to March 2017 there were 18 withdrawals and the amount increased to Rs 52.63 crores against the original estimate of Rs 43 crores.
Further despite huge expenses being incurred, only 35% of the work was done and the concerned Department had also availed a loan from HUDCO.
“Some of the social and RTI activists of Nagaland have also sent a letter to the High Court stating inter alia that Rs. 22.42 crores has been withdrawn against the construction of the Judges Bungalow whereas there is not even an area earmarked for the same. Similarly, an amount of Rs. 44,24,700 has been withdrawn against electrification and water supplies, whereas the basic structure of the building is yet to be completed. Besides Rs. 1.30 Crores has been paid as consultancy fee which is also beyond belief and after exhaustion of the entire money, the State Government has again taken loan of Rs. 12,45,90,287 from HUDCO,” the order stated.
The High Court order further stated that contesting respondents including the State Government have tried to explain the money utilised, but the same does not nullify the fact that the construction of the New High Court Complex is far behind completion than its counterparts. “It is apparent that a huge amount has already been incurred as expenses and the State of Nagaland has also availed loan from HUDCO after exhausting the entire money,” the Court said.
Further the affidavits filed by respondent Nos. 3 and 5 are silent as to whether the State Government has submitted the utilisation certificate to the Union Government to substantiate its claim that the fund allotted for the purpose was in fact utilised. “The allegations therefore require thorough probe by an independent agency. Since the State has defended the awarding of contracts in question as well as paucity of fund vis-a-vis utilisation of the allotted fund in a proper manner but without any apparent result, we are of the view that the State police will not be in a position to investigate the allegations fairly,” the order said.
“We accordingly direct the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations of misappropriation of public money vis-a-vis the snail pace of construction work of the New High Court Complex at Kohima, Nagaland and submit a report within three months to the Register General of this High Court,” the Court directed the CBI.
Further the order said if the CBI is of the view that there is any material to support the allegations it will take action as per law by registering First Information Report and the State Government should fully cooperate with the investigation.
“Our direction is in conformity with the direction given by the Supreme Court in Noida Entrepreneurs Association vs Noida in 2011, 6 SCC 508. We also direct the Director Central Bureau of Investigation to depute an officer to immediately collect all the relevant records from the Government of Nagaland pertaining to this public interest litigation,” the order stated.
The High Court said since the direction above is only confined to a preliminary enquiry and not an investigation by the CBI it has deliberately refrained from commenting on the explanation given by the respondents justifying use of huge amount as well as completion of works so that neither the enquiry nor the interest of the parties suffer prejudice.
The High Court also directed the State Government to expedite the construction of the High Court complex and ensure that the construction is completed at the earliest with highest standard of construction so that the cherished dream of the people to have an independent High Court is materialised.
The order was passed by Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Justice Prasanta Kumar Deka and for the petitioner SK Medhi, Learned Senior Standing Counsel, Gauhati High Court, assisted by A Das, Learned Counsel and for respondents M. Kechi, Learned Government Advocate. (Page News Service)