Calling it “beyond belief”, the Gauhati High Court has ordered a CBI probe into allegations that the Nagaland government misappropriated funds earmarked for the construction of a high court complex at Kohima — a project progressing at a snail’s pace.
Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Ajit Singh said if the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) finds any material to support the allegations, an FIR will be registered while asking for the report to be filed within three months.
The order came on Wednesday as the court disposed of a plea based on a news report alleging that the foundation stone for an independent high court for Nagaland was laid at Meriema in 2007 which has however not been completed till date. Also, the budget has exceeded the original estimate by Rs 9.63 crore.
Planned at the same time, high courts in Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura have been built and are functioning since 2013, the report said.
An RTI revealed that Rs 43 crore was estimated for the project. During 2009 to 2014, Nagaland’s Department of Law and Justice withdrew Rs 41.62 crore and between 2015 and 2017 an amount of Rs 11.25 crore was drawn against the project, taking the budget to over Rs 52 crore.
Despite this, only 35 per cent of the work has been done while the department concerned also took an additional Rs 12 crore loan from HUDCO.
The court order said some social and RTI activists of Nagaland have also sent a letter petition to the high court, stating inter alia that Rs 22.42 crore has been withdrawn against the construction of the judges bungalow whereas there is not even an area earmarked for the same.
“Similarly, Rs 44,24,700 has been withdrawn against electrification and water supplies, whereas the basic structure of the building is yet to completed. Besides, Rs 1.30 crore has been paid as consultancy fee which is also beyond belief…,” the order said.
“Therefore, there is a prime facie case of misappropriation of huge public money and siphoning of the same in a systematic manner to the gross prejudice to the public exchequer.
“The allegations therefore require thorough probe by an independent agency,” the court said and directed the state government to expedite the construction.