The office of Jalandhar divisional commissioner has once again directed deputy commissioners (DCs) of all the eight districts falling under the division to recover the embossing fee from the applicants concerned, which was embezzled more than a year ago by one of its employees along with two private service providers.
Following these instructions, fresh notices are being issued to the people who had availed embossing services from the commissionerate office. Embossing of documents like general power of attorney (GPA) and special power of attorney, executed out of India, is done at the level of divisional commissioners.
Earlier, the fee was taken in cash but adopting a cautious approach, it is now accepted in the form of Indian postal orders only.
Officials in the office of the commissioner said that the recovered amount was being received from various districts but, in most of the cases, details of the power of attorney are not attached due to which the case of the applicant concerned could not be cleared.
It is mentioned in the notices that till the fee is deposited, the document issued to them would not be allowed to be used for any transaction.
NGO Human Empowerment League Punjab (HELP) activist Parvinder Singh Kitna has got a copy of such letters issued by the commissioner to the DCs.
The letter mentions that it was a Rs 1.75-crore scam, which was unearthed by the audit department. It asks the DCs to recover the money from the applicants.
The RTI information also reveals the directions issued further by DCs to the revenue department officials to get deposited the fee according to Section 48 of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899.
It reminds that action would be taken under sections 409, 420, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120 (B) of the IPC against the people who fail to pay the dues and their properties could also be attached.
The people, who had paid the fee to the accused clerk, are reluctant to pay it again whereas the officials say that applicants would have to do so as it was their fault because they should have deposited the money in the banks themselves rather than relying on private agents.
The clerk and the so-called service providers kept the money which they took in cash from the applicants instead of depositing it in the bank. Kitna said that the applicants could not be made to pay twice for the same service.
"Although the clerk has been dismissed from service, embezzled money should be recovered from him and the other accused," he said. Meanwhile, relatives of the NRIs, who had paid the embossing fee of Rs 1,000 for a power of attorney, which was given to them by their overseas relatives, are facing the heat.
"I had deposited Rs 1,000 as embossing fee in the concerned branch of commissioner, Jalandhar division, for a power of attorney in 2010 and was given a receipt but I am being asked to pay it again," said Kulwinder Singh of Saila.
"I was not aware that the receipt issued to me was fake and the money would not be deposited in the treasury," he added.
An auditing team had unearthed the scam following which Charanjit Singh, a clerk working in the office of the divisional commissioner and two private service providers Yogesh Soni and Ajay Soni were arrested.
The trio would issue forged receipts with forged stamps but never deposited the amount collected from the clients in the government treasury through authorised banks.
Recoveries are being made from clients belonging to Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr, Kapurthala, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Pathankot and Amritsar districts.
Interestingly, the name of chief parliamentary secretary Sohan Singh Thandal also figures in the list of the persons from whom embossing fee is to be recovered.
Thandal, however, was unaware of it and said that he had not received any notice. "I'll take up the matter with the commissioner," he said.