Calcutta High Court on Tuesday made the Bengal finance secretary a party in a case that alleged that the state government had failed to submit proper utilisation certificates against central funds of Rs 2,29,099 crore allotted to various departments till March 2021.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava has ordered that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also be made a party in the petition which may come up for hearing on January 31.
Beng al BJP g eneral secretary Jagannath Chattopadhyay and others had moved the petition demanding a CBI inquiry into the matter while referring to a CAG report.
The petitioners claimed that the state government had failed to submit utilisation certificates for Rs 81,839 crore sent to the panchayat and rural development department, Rs 36,850 crore to the school education department and Rs 30,693 crore to the urban development and municipal affairs department.
The petitioners also alleged that departments like health and family welfare (Rs 12,706 crore), woman and child development and social welfare (Rs 12,638 crore), power and non-conventional energy sources (Rs 7,715 crore), minority affairs and madarsa education (Rs 5,927 crore) and agriculture (Rs 3,239 crore) were on the list of defaulters.
“The petitioners have claimed that the CAG mentioned in its report that outstanding UCs of these three departments (panchayat and rural development; school education and urban development and municipal affairs) accounted for 39.30 per cent of the total outstanding UCs,” said a lawyer representing the petitioners.
According to them, in the absence of the UCs, it could not be ascertained whether the departments had utilised the grants for the purposes for which the funds had been sent.
“This assumes importance as pendency in non-submission of UCs is fraught with the risk of misappropriation,” a petitioner quoted the CAG report.
The petition, multiple sources said, was filed with a political motive to embarrass the state government ahead of panchayat polls.
The high court’s order to make the finance secretary a party in the case has come as a blow to the top brass of the state administration as this is the first time that a case deals with the utilisation of the central funds.
“This is quite different from the CAG reports under which the state’s explanation is sought under several issues, particularly where the CAG has questions over expenditure of funds. But this is different. It is tough for the departments to explain why UCs could not be submitted within a short period,” said a source.