Important documents required by the CBI to probe alleged financial irregularities running into crores of rupees are missing from the official files of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), leading to a year-long delay in the investigations.
The CBI is probing the alleged irregularities in the ICCR, reported to have been committed between 2003-05. It had sought documents from the council to proceed in the matter, after the Delhi High Court had directed the investigating agency to “inquire expeditiously” into the allegations in July last year.
An internal circular of the ICCR, in possession of HT, shows many documents required by the CBI, are missing. “It has been brought to our attention that amongst the documents given to CBI some papers are missing from files/folders. Concerned sections may re-check their records and add whatever relevant documents they are able lay their hands on”, Deputy Director General, Ashok Das, recently wrote to all section heads.
The circular mentions in detail that at least 48 documents are missing from 12 official files sent to the CBI for a preliminary enquiry into the allegations, which began in October last year.
“Documents are missing from majority of files, where notings of questionable payments for films, printings, and publications of books and material sent abroad etc., are concerned between 2002-05," a senior CBI official said.
The ICCR Director General (DG), Pavan Varma, has said the council would provide all possible assistance to the CBI in the matter. “I have directed my colleagues to furnish all documents sought by the investigating agency and help them totally in the matter. However, if some documents were removed in the earlier years from the files, those who were managing the affairs of the council at that time should be asked about this," Varma said.
The allegations of corruption in the ICCR, funded by the Ministry of External Affairs, were highlighted in a series of letters to various investigative agencies by the council’s employees association, during last two years. The ICCR audit report (2004-05) had also pulled up its top officials for their “injudicious payments” to private firms.