GUWAHATI: The Nagaland government has allegedly withdrawn Rs 22.42 crore from the state exchequer against the construction of judges’ bungalows. However, no area for the same has been earmarked yet.
If you are amused, then there is more for you. The government allegedly also withdrew Rs.44.24 lakh against electrification and water supplies at the project site but the basic structure of the high court building is yet to be completed.
Hearing petitions filed by Nagaland Tribes Council and some social and RTI activists, the Gauhati High Court, in an order, termed as “beyond belief” Nagaland government’s payment of Rs.1.3 crore as consultancy fee for the building’s construction. The HC directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary investigation into charges of misappropriation of public money in the construction of the HC complex in Kohima.
The construction started in 2007 with an estimated budget of Rs.43 crore. Eleven years since, only 35 per cent of the work has been completed. Work for the construction of high court complexes in Tripura, Meghalaya and Manipur had started around the same time as that of the HC in Nagaland and the courts in the neighbouring states started functioning since 2013.
Between March 2009 and March 2017, there were 18 withdrawals by the Department of Justice and Law, Nagaland, and the project cost was increased to Rs.52.63 crore. The department also took a loan of nearly Rs.12.46 crore from the HUDCO.
In its affidavit-in-opposition, the Secretary in the Department of Justice and Law, Nagaland, stated that as per detailed project report (DPR), the total project cost was Rs.161,10,72,200 and it was based on Nagaland Public Works Department (NPWD) SoR, 2010 and due to escalation of price, if the DPR is revised as per NPWD SoR 2016, the total project cost will be over Rs.200 crore.
The respondent said the funds released were not meant exclusively for the construction of the HC building but for the entire HC complex. Accordingly, the funds were utilised for site development, protection wall, retaining wall, security fencing, approach road including the construction of the main HC building, power connection including transformers, consultancy fees etc.
It was stated in the affidavit that due to lack of funds, the state government had made allocation under negotiated loan from HUDCO and over a period of 10 years, it could mobilise Rs.57.61 crore from special plan assistance and negotiated loan which is about 35 per cent of the total project cost.
The Commissioner and Secretary in the Department of Works and Housing, Nagaland, said Rs.36,92,35,100 was released by the Department of Justice and Law and paid to the contractor.
After hearing all parties, the Gauhati HC said: “…It is an admitted fact that only 35% of the work has been completed till date. The foundation stone was laid long back in 2007 and it is surprising to find that the progress of the work is pitiable during last 10 years. At the same time, Rs.52.63 crore has also been withdrawn for the said project. We have also considered the letter petition sent by some social and RTI activists of Nagaland who alleged 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 be completed. Besides, Rs.1.3 crore has been paid as consultancy fee which is also beyond belief and after exhaustion of the entire money, the state government has again taken a loan of Rs.12,45,90, 287 from HUDCO…It is equally true that the construction works of all the other high courts of Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur, which were simultaneously started with Nagaland, have long been completed and are fully functioning since 2013. Therefore, there is a prima facie case of misappropriation of huge public money and siphoning off the same in a systematic manner to the gross prejudice to the public exchequer. The contesting respondents, including the state of Nagaland, have tried to explain the money utilised, but the same does not nullify the fact that the construction of the new high court complex is far behind completion than its counterpart…”
The court said the affidavits filed by the respondents, representing Nagaland government, were silent on whether the state government submitted the utilisation certificate to substantiate the claim that the funds allotted were utilised in a proper manner.
“The allegations, therefore, require a thorough probe by an independent agency…We, accordingly, direct the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations…and submit a report within three months to the Registrar General of this High Court,” the order said.