SC orders Centre to audit 32 lakh NGOs to check misappropriation of public funds
“You have to set the procedure right. If it hasn’t been done in the past, then do it for the future. You cannot allow misuse of public funds in such a way,” the bench told additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta.india Updated: Jan 11, 2017 12:26 IST
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to audit over 32 lakh NGOs and voluntary organisations and initiate proceedings to recover money from them if they have misappropriated public funds.
A bench led by Chief Justice JS Khehar set the March 31 deadline to carry out the directive and asked the government to submit action taken report on April 5.
The court said by then the government must frame rules and guidelines to accredit NGOs and also develop a mechanism to audit them.
The guidelines should also spell out action, including criminal prosecution, intended to be taken against such organisations.
“You have to set the procedure right. If it hasn’t been done in the past, then do it for the future. You cannot allow misuse of public funds in such a way,” the bench told additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta.
“What have you been doing for so many years? Why haven’t you taken action? You can’t let public money go waste like this,” the bench noted, making it clear that the government can take both civil and criminal recourse against firms found guilty.
The court order came on a PIL that had originally sought a probe against an NGO run by Gandhian Anna Hazare.
The top court had expanded the scope of the PIL and asked the CBI to ascertain how many NGOs had submitted utilisation certificates with the agencies they are registered with.
A compilation of state-wise data by the CBI revealed that of the 32 lakh NGOs, only 3 lakh filed audited accounts with authorities.
Between 2002 and 2008, the Centre had granted Rs 4,756 crore to NGOs and states had given out Rs 6,654 crore.
Mehta claimed there was no statutory provision to act against such NGOs. However, the CJI was not ready to accept the argument. “It is your money why don’t you act? It is public money. How can you say that? Tell us how do you want to regulate them?” the CJI asked the government counsel.