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CBI files FIR against Chhattisgarh officials who siphoned Rs 1,000 crore off rehab fund of physically disabled

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Wednesday registered an FIR against unidentified officials of Chhattisgarh for allegedly siphoning off about Rs 1,000 crore from funds meant for the rehabilitation and welfare of physically disabled people, officials said.

The amount was siphoned off over a decade through sham transactions, they said.

The CBI registered the case on orders issued by the Chhattisgarh High Court on January 30.

Besides provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the agency has also invoked Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections related to criminal conspiracy (120-B), cheating (420), criminal breach of trust by public servant (409) and forgery (467) among others, the officials said.

About 11 senior officers of the state are under the scanner, they said.

The State Resource Centre (SRC), set up in 2004, was given the mandate to set up and operate Physical Referral Rehabilitation Centres (PRRCs) for the welfare of physically disabled people, the officials said.

But no tangible activity or recruitment process was undertaken for the PRRCs and it is alleged that the institutions were only running on papers, they said.

It is alleged in a PIL that some people were shown as employees even when some of them were working in other departments, the officials said.

The SRC allegedly kept withdrawing money from the exchequer for the payment for PRRC employees when no one was actually paid, they said.

Many payments were allegedly made in cash, thereby, avoiding banking transactions, the officials said.

On October 1, 2018, the Chhattisgarh government, under then chief minister Raman Singh, had admitted in a submission that there was no precise information available at the PRRC regarding drawl of salary for payment to the employees, the high court had noted in its order directing a CBI probe.

The finance department was requested for conducting an audit only after filing of the writ petition in 2018, a bench of justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and Parth Prateem Sahu had noted.

“In the said audit irregular and illegal withdrawal of cash has been, prima facie, proved.

Thus the allegation of the petitioner about the financial irregularity has been, prima facie, admitted in the state’s memo of submission.

The state has issued show-cause notices to some of the employees, but no further action has been taken,” the bench said.

The report along with submission memo of the state partially admits of certain financial irregularities.

However, no serious attempt has been made to unearth and find out who siphoned the amount, it said.

The petitioner has alleged that the SRC is a society whereas PRRCs are government entities, making it impossible and questionable as to how the society manages a government department, the bench noted.

“The respondent officers being high ranked, there is apprehension that the investigation may be influenced, therefore, having considered the law laid down and the observations made by the Supreme Court in the facts and circumstances of the case, we direct that the matter be investigated by the CBI in a fair and independent manner,” it had said.