A two-judge panel has questioned the gaps in the functioning of a Delhi based social body, Association for Social Health in India (ASHI), which had received huge amount from Red Cross Societies in Punjab and Haryana but had neither refunded the funds despite repeated reminders nor even bothered to respond to societies’ communication since about an year.
ASHI was transferred an amount of Rs 18.68 lakhs by various Red Cross Societies in Punjab and Haryana over the years but has not even replied to a series of communication since May last year.
The Punjab and Haryana high court was informed about ASHI’s apathy by an inquiry committee constituted by the high court in March 2009 comprising of justices(retd) AL Bahri and RK Nehru to look into the misappropriation of funds and doubtful working of Red Cross Societies in Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh.
This scandal had come to the fore after HT published a series of reports in December 2007 based on voluminous information of the NGO, Resurgence India obtained under the RTI Act. Later, the NGO moved the high court, seeking Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) probe and prosecution of erring IAS officers who had allegedly misused the Red Cross funds to the tune of crores.
The enquiry report which came up for perusal before the division bench of the high court comprising chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and justice Mahesh Grover on Wednesday apprised that funds of a statutory body like Red Cross Society cannot be transferred to ASHI, which is a body of self elected persons having association of representatives of various organizations.
As per the enquiry report aims and objectives of ASHI and Red Cross Societies are different and hence the Red Cross Society funds cannot be spent for different purposes other than the purpose specified in the Red Cross Society Act. “Furthermore, there is no statutory check either of Red Cross Society or of state on spending of such amount by the ASHI. Virtually, it amounts to running an association by office bearers of association/representatives of government departments with unbridled financial powers,” reads the report.
The high court was also informed that when the ASHI can raise donation by its own means and funds of district Red Cross Societies are also raised by donations, then donating some amount to another association is not a “legally viable proposition”.
However, appearing for the petitioner, advocate APS Shergill argued that the enquiry report has nowhere suggested the appropriate action under law against the erring IAS officers who had agreed to refund the illegally spent Red Cross Funds. Taking time from the court for detailed arguments in the case after three weeks, Shergill asserted that criminal liabilities have to be fixed in this case on the basis of infamous 2G Spectrum case.