The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday imposed a fine of Rs. 20,000 on the Centre for not filing a reply about its proposed line of action with regard to cases in which IAS officers had misused Red Cross funds of crores of rupees in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
The high court has also summoned the joint secretary-level officer of the ministry concerned on the next date of hearing on December 4.
The division bench headed by chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul was anguished over the Centre's lackadaisical attitude since it had failed to file the reply as directed by the court in its orders on July 5. Also, the court had summoned the joint secretary-level officer on the next date of hearing on August 7 for negligence but the officer failed to be present in the court on Monday and the reply was also not filed.
The directions came during the resumed hearing of a public interest litigation filed by NGO Resurgence India.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate APS Shergill had submitted to the court that enough material had come on record to show the complicity of the officers and some of them had even returned the benefits realised. He had submitted, "This cannot recuse the appropriate action from being taken against the IAS officers."
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.
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 giving various suggestions.