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Calcutta High Court Orders CAG Audit Of Amphan Relief Amid Allegations Of Corruption & Irregularities In Relief Distribution Work

Sparsh Upadhyay
2 Dec 2020 7:15 AM GMT
Calcutta High Court Orders CAG Audit Of Amphan Relief Amid Allegations Of Corruption & Irregularities In Relief Distribution Work
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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday (01st December) directed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India to audit Amphan Cyclone related relief, amid allegations of irregularities and Corruption in distribution work. The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee was hearing a batch of petitions instituted in the public...

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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday (01st December) directed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India to audit Amphan Cyclone related relief, amid allegations of irregularities and Corruption in distribution work.

The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee was hearing a batch of petitions instituted in the public interest, projecting multi-faceted complaints regarding the different modalities of providing succour to those who are affected by Amphan in the State of West Bengal.

Importantly, the Court opined that "for comprehensively carrying out all the directions (which the Court issued in the instant Order), the Comptroller & Auditor General of India is a necessary party to these writ petitions."

Therefore, the Court impleaded the Comptroller & Auditor General of India as an additional respondent in all the writ petitions.

Background of the Petitions

It may be noted that in the wake of various sufferings of the people of West Bengal as a result of Amphan Cyclone, the Central Government rolled out schemes, which were intended to support the people of West Bengal.

The complaints of the different petitioners were that the State Government, through its officers, "had made an unauthorized and illegitimate pick and choose of persons to whom the benefits were doled out" and that the "Amphan schemes were not operated in the manner as envisaged either by the Union of India or the State Government."

It was further contended by the petitioners that there was no transparency in the distribution of Amphan relief.

Also, it was submitted that there was no material available in the public domain in terms of the provisions of the Right to Information Act or otherwise, which would enable the citizenry to access information regarding the identity of the persons to whom such benefits have been provided.

It was submitted that a large number of people, who were true and real victims of Amphan, suffered the loss of support by way of relief schemes.

Court's order

The Court, in its order remarked,

"The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has the necessary constitutional, statutory and administrative sanction, power and authority to conduct such inquiry as is necessary to ensure that there is financial audit and the performance audit of the utilization of the Amphan relief either extended by the Central Government and operationalized through the State Government or otherwise and ensure that there is an appropriate audit report of the performance as well as accounts."

Further, the Court said,

"This will pave way for the competent authority, either in the Central Government or the State Government or at both levels or at both ends, to decide the next course of action that should be taken in case of any fault being traced by the audit process of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India as regards performance and also regarding accounts."

The Court left it open for the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and its office to "take a comprehensive look at all the issues and carry out such audit, as is found necessary, to ensure that there is performance audit and financial audit of the Amphan related issues."

The Court requested the CAG to conclude the exercise within an outer limit of three months.

Regarding the complaint made on behalf of the petitioners that the list of Amphan relief beneficiaries shown on the website of the State Government does not reflect the true state of affairs, the Court observed that the matter fell within the domain of consideration of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

However, the Court clarified that the directions issued by it wouldn't stand in the way of the State Government or any other authority to carry on with the distribution of Amphan relief.

Thus, all the writ petitions along with the connected interlocutory applications stood disposed of.

[Read Order]


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