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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Punjab govt to take action against 3 IAS officers for Red Cross fund misuse

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, August 03, 2014
First Published: 11:18 IST(3/8/2014) | Last Updated: 11:23 IST(3/8/2014)

The Punjab government has decided to initiate disciplinary action against a serving and two retired IAS officers for improper use of Red Cross Society funds.

These are Vikas Garg, and retired officers KS Sidhu and Harkesh Singh Sidhu. This information was provided in the Punjab and Haryana high court by the state government in an ongoing case. The scandal had been exposed by Hindustan Times in 2007.

Submitting that the competent authority had taken a decision to initiate action against the officers under the All-India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, and the All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958, the government informed the court, “The matter is under process.” The division bench comprising acting chief justice Ashutosh Mohunta and justice HS Sidhu directed the state government to file a status report by September 11.

The impropriety found against Vikas Garg is that during his tenure as Patiala deputy commissioner (DC), using Red Cross funds, a Toyota Innova vehicle worth Rs. 10 lakh was purchased by raising loan against a fixed deposit receipt (FDR) that was yet to mature.

During KS Sidhu’s tenure as Gurdaspur DC, a payment of Rs. 1 lakh was made for a tele phone installed at an MP’s New Delhi residence in January 2002. Similarly, a Toyota Innova worth Rs. 10.5 lakh was purchased in June 2011 during Harkesh Sidhu’s tenure as Kapurthala DC. The court was also apprised that IAS officer K Siva Prasad had failed to submit an explanation till date regarding expenditure of Rs. 1.7 lakh as reimbursement for his mobile phone bills from the Red Cross funds. His file has been submitted to the competent authority for further decision, the court has been told.

Also, explanations from IAS officers SR Ladhar and Sarvjit Singh are under consideration for some alleged infirmities. During Ladhar’s tenure as Sangrur DC, monthly rent of a wedding hall (‘marriage palace’) was arbitrarily reduced. However, when Sarvjit Singh was Sangrur DC, a petrol pump site was leased out without any tendering process to a public sector company.

The state government also informed the court that cases pertaining to IAS officer Anjali Bhawra and now-retired IAS JR Kundal have been closed after examination.

Bhawra, then Fatehgarh Sahib DC, had taken an advance of ` 62,000 from the Red Cross Society, and the amount has been recouped to the society. Whereas, it was found that during the tenure of JR Kundal as the DC of Rupnagar, irregular sale of Red Cross land was made to a private organization, namely Hawks Club.

Exposing the misuse, Hindustan Times published a series of reports in December 2007 based on voluminous information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by NGO Resurgence India.

The NGO then approached the high court through a public interest litigation.

The HC constituted committee comprising justice AL Bahri (retd) and justice RK Nehru (retd) in March 2009 to look into the matter concerning Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The committee submitted number of reports highlighting irregularities.

As for some allegations against IAS officer Kumar Rahul, after considering the matter, he has been directed to remain careful in future, the government has said.

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