The Supreme Court has directed a panel of three senior IPS officers to probe allegations of misuse of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funds by Nagaland and submit a report to the competent court within six months.
Deciding a petition filed by social activist, Rosemary Dzuvichu, a bench of justices Surya Kant and JK Maheshwari in its order of December 6 said, “The most appropriate recourse would be to constitute another SIT comprising three senior IPS officers, preferably direct recruits, to further investigate the allegations and if any substance in such allegations is found, to submit a supplementary charge-sheet.”
The petitioner had alleged that the engineering division of NRHM made bulk advances in cash against various fictitious works and kick-backs were allegedly paid to high ranking NRHM officials.
“Instead of extending helping hand to pregnant women or lactating mothers and little children at the public health centres, the funds provided by the government of India were allegedly spent on purchasing of high-end luxury vehicles,” said senior advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for the activist.
The top court felt that it will be inappropriate for it to make any expression on the issue as the matter is pending trial before a competent court where charge-sheet has already been filed.
“This Court is not the correct forum for the investigation or to reach any logical conclusion with respect to the veracity of the allegations levelled by the appellant. Similarly, the impartiality, objectivity and fairness of the investigation carried out by the SIT will be considered by the court of competent jurisdiction in due course of time,” the bench said.
The Nagaland advocate general senior advocate KN Balagopal denied the allegations of the petitioner and said that a thorough probe had already been conducted by an earlier SIT and part of the allegations made by the petitioner were turned down by the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG).
As regards the allegations substantiated, he pointed out that a chargesheet has been filed after completion of investigation by the SIT based on a first information report (FIR) registered in 2014.
By consent of both sides, the bench felt the allegations could be revisited by the fresh SIT to be headed by deputy inspector general (DIG), Nagaland Police M Roopa.
The three-member SIT will also comprise of Sanmeet Kaur (DIG, Planning and Development, Nagaland Police) and superintendent of police (organised crime) Amit Nigam.
The bench said, “The SIT, so constituted, shall look into all the allegations and will further consider the CAG Report, and make an endeavour to conclude the further investigation as early as possible and preferably within six months and submit its report to the court of competent jurisdiction whereupon, the law will take its own course.
The petitioner had in 2013 first approached the Kohima bench of the Gauhati high court seeking an independent probe by the central bureau of investigation (CBI).
However, the high court on June 16, 2014 disposed the petition being satisfied by the efforts taken by the state to probe the allegations.
Prior to SIT probing the matter, the Nagaland police had held preliminary enquiries by two senior police officials to examine the allegations of misuse of funds.
But the petitioner was not satisfied and had approached the top court in 2014 seeking a probe into allegations of alleged fund embezzlement as provided in the CAG report.
With this order, the top court also disposed the proceedings in the appeal pending since 2014 granting liberty to the SIT to file its report before the competent trial court where charge-sheet in related allegations are pending.