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Petition against diversion of funds adjourned

By Our Staff Reporter

KOCHI, MARCH 25. A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court today adjourned to April 2 the hearing on a writ petition filed by the Kerala Congress (Secular) leader and Poonjar MLA, P.C. George, seeking a CBI probe into the diversion of the Calamity Relief Fund by the Revenue Department for other purposes.

The Bench, comprising the Acting Chief Justice, N.K. Sodhi, and Justice K.K. Dinesan, adjourned the case to enable the Additional Advocate General, Rajan Joseph, who appeared on behalf of the State Government, and Revenue Secretary to file a counter-affidavit.

In his petition, the MLA alleged that the Department of Revenue, with the sole object of gaining political advantage for the son of the Minister for Revenue, K.M. Mani, had diverted funds from the Calamity Relief Fund provided by the Central Government for construction of new roads, particularly in the Muvattupuzha Lok Sabha Constituency that formed part of the Kottayam and Ernakulam districts. The petitioner said that neither of these districts had been declared drought-hit by the State Government. Nor had there been any flood in these areas. The roads were not constructed as part of the drought-relief or flood-relief measures. The petitioner said that funds had also been diverted for construction of hospitals and to the Fisheries Department. The allotment of money from the Calamity Relief Funds for other purposes was not permissible in terms of the recommendation of the Finance Commission. An amount to the tune of Rs. 21 crores had been made available to the Revenue department from the relief funds for construction of roads in the Muvattupuzha constituency. Besides, the funds had been allotted even without getting reports from the respective District Collectors. The petition sought a direction to the State Government and the Revenue Minister from further diverting any amount from the Calamity Relief Fund except for the purpose of drought in different parts of the State.

Ombudsman's appeal admitted

A Bench comprising Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice K. Padmanabhan Nair admitted an appeal filed against a single judge's order staying the Ombudsman for Local Self-Government's show-cause notice to the Cochin Corporation Mayor, C.M. Dinesh Mani, to appear before the Ombudsman.

The stay order was passed on a writ petition filed by the Mayor challenging the Ombudsman's order.

The appeal was filed by Justice K.P. Radhakrishna Menon, Ombudsman. According to him, the Ombudsman was a body created to oversee the functioning of the local self-Government institutions.

The Ombudsman had the power to conduct investigation or inquiry into corruption or maladministration or irregularities in the discharge of administrative functions by local self-Government institutions or by an employee or an officer working under the local self-Government institution.

The Mayor in his petition had pointed out that the order was not based on any facts or any investigation conducted by the Ombudsman into complaints, if any, against the Corporation. The petitioner had not been given any notice before passing the order. The orders had not been issued in genuine exercise of the power of the Ombudsman under the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.

The power had been "exercised maliciously by the Ombudsman." The Mayor had attributed the motive for issuing such an order to "personal animosity" towards him.

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