The Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh authorities to examine reports submitted by the high court-constituted committee highlighting misuse of Red Cross Societies' funds so as to find out any impropriety by deputy commissioners heading the district Red Cross Societies and take action against them in consultation with the Centre's department of personnel and training (DoPT).
The division bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice Augustine George Masih also directed the DoPT to file its reply as to what action it had taken in the case.
The high court had in March 2009 constituted a committee, comprising justice AL Bahri (retd) and justice RK Nehru (retd) to look into the doubtful working of the Red Cross Societies in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The committee had submitted a number of reports highlighting irregularities and given various suggestions.
The scandal had surfaced after HT published a series of reports in December 2007, based on voluminous information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by Resurgence India. Later, the NGO had moved the high court, seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation and prosecution of erring IAS officers who had allegedly misused the Red Cross funds of crores of rupees.
During the hearing of the case on Wednesday, the counsel appearing for the Punjab government said, "The government has recovered the Red Cross Society's fund used for other purposes." On this, appearing for the petitioner, advocate APS Shergill said, "If a thief returns money, then it can't be said that no action should be taken against him. There should be appropriate action against the delinquent officers for misuse of money."
AK Panda, joint secretary of the union ministry of health and family welfare, who was present in the court, said the all India service officers were governed by the all India service (conduct) rules and the cadre controlling authority for such officers is DoPT of the Centre. He said the state government under which the officer functions is the appropriate authority to initiate any action against the officer concerned, if found guilty, in consultation with the DoPT.
The case will come up for hearing on February 17.