Staff Reporter

Alleged bungling of funds for holding Bihar panchayat polls `Funds released for eight districts where no election was to be held'

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has sought replies from the Union Government, the Election Commission of India, the Bihar Government, the Bihar State Election Commission and others on a public interest litigation seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of investigation into alleged embezzlement of funds for holding elections to panchayats, to the Lok Sabha and to the Assembly in the State.

A Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice H.R. Malhotra directed the respondents, including the CBI, to file replies to the PIL by February 2.

The State Government had in 1995-96 and 1996-97 released Rs. 42.32 crore to the State Election Commission (Rs.1.23 crore); Directorate (Panchayati Raj) (Rs. 33.91 crore) and District Panchayati Raj Officers (Rs. 7.18 crore) for purchasing election material for holding elections to panchayats, the petitioner, Bharat Jyoti, a social activist, said referring to a Comptroller and Audit General (CAG) report for the year ended March 31, 1997.

Referring to the CAG report, the petitioner submitted that the Directorate (Panchayati Raj) had released a fund of Rs. 39.17 lakhs to eight District Panchayati Raj Officers for formation of constituencies, printing of electoral rolls during 1995-96 where no election was to be held.

The records of the Directorate showed that the officers had purchased white printing paper valued at Rs. 5.65 lakhs for printing of electoral rolls and the rolls were printed which went waste, the petitioner said quoting audit report.

"The injudicious expenditure of 37.23 crore of the total fund on the purchase of election material and contingencies for the eight districts was not investigated and responsibility for the same was not fixed," the petitioner submitted quoting the audit report.

Quoting another CAG report for the year ended March 31, 1998, the petitioner drew the attention of the Court to alleged misuse of a fund of Rs. 15.63 lakhs meant for printing of electoral rolls, purchase of stationery and other things.

Six District Election Officers spent the amount on purchasing colour televisions, room coolers, geysers, refrigerators and other appliances, the petitioner submitted quoting the audit report.