Mohamed Imranullah S.

Against two for allegedly misappropriating NREGS funds

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has refused to interfere with the action taken by the Madurai Collector against the president and vice-president of Mathur village panchayat for allegedly misappropriating Rs.2.87 lakh in the course of implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

Dismissing two writ petitions filed by the duo, Justice M. Jaichandren refused to accept their contention that the fraud was committed only by a clerk in the panchayat. The petitioners claimed that clerk was entrusted with all responsibilities as they were not fully conversant with the rules and regulations applicable to functioning of local bodies.

“It would not be open to the petitioners to take shelter under the guise of ignorance of the rules and regulations… Even though certain actions had been initiated against the clerk by suspending him from service besides registering a criminal case, such actions would not be sufficient proof of the innocence of the petitioners,” the judge said.

He went on to state: “Handling of public funds casts a heavy responsibility on the petitioners. Dereliction of duty, in handling such responsibilities, would be a serious lapse. As such he/she would be fully responsible for the loss of funds, even if may not, in the ultimate analysis amount to misappropriation of funds.”

Mr. Justice Jaichandren held that the Collector had rightly seized the account books as well as the cheque book of the panchayat until the allegations against the president and vice-president were ascertained by an impartial enquiry. “Till the enquiry is completed, he/she would not be entitled to have the cheque signing power,” he added.

The misappropriation came to light when Deputy Block Development Officer (NREGS), Madurai East Panchayat Union, inspected the panchayat accounts on April 15. Then it was found that a bogus bank account was being maintained and the money was siphoned off by issuing fake fund release orders.