Diversion of Rs 80 lakh from MC under HC scanner
A sum of Rs 80 lakh was illegally diverted from the Mandi Gobindgarh municipal council to the Pathankot improvement trust for meeting the expenses of a state-level function organised by the Punjab government to unveil the statue of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder president of the Jang Sangh, at Madhopur near Pathankot on March 23, 2010.
Jatinder Kumar, a resident of Mandi Gobindgarh, had filed a public interest litigation in this regard in the Punjab and Haryana high court against the principal secretary and director of the local government department, Punjab, Dharam Pal Rao, president, municipal council, Mandi Gobindgarh, then Mandi Gobindgarh MC executive officer Ranbir Singh, some councillors and Amloh MLA Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, the ex-officio member of the MC.
During the hearing on the PIL on February 27, a division bench of the high court comprising Justice MM Kumar and Rajiv Narain Raina observed that "this case presents a picture of profligate spending of Rs 80 lakh by the MC, Mandi Gobindgarh from municipal funds under impugned resolution (no. 51 of May 27, 2010) passed by Mandi Gobindgarh municipal council members (respondents) and duly signed by the EO, doling out the huge amount to the Pathankot improvement trust for meeting the expenses of a state-level function".
"We are unable to brush under the carpet the exorbitant expenditure incurred at Pathankot from the pocket of the MC. The sum would need to be regurgitated by the improvement trust," the high court ruled, directing the Punjab chief secretary to devise a way for restitution of the money spent, consider action against erring officials and place the same before the court in six months. The court also asked the chief secretary to disclose before the court the state government's view.
"Why should not the minister-incharge (then local bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia) be made accountable for the expenditure incurred together with the then secretary and director, local government, Punjab, who attended the meeting with the minister in which the crucial decision to unlawfully divert funds from the MC was taken, and that too for a political event and on such shameful scale?" the court asked.
It also asked the chief secretary to explain why Mandi Gobindgarh MC president Dharampal Rao, then MC executive officer Ranbir Singh and councillors be not held accountable for their actions/inactions, which led to the plunder of public money and its transmission outside the limits of the MC.