The High Court of Madhya Pradesh passed a significant order yesterday, upholding the power of scrutiny of Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry, granted to it by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in May, 2009 and further elaborated by the High Court in its order dated 18-07-2013. In their detailed order,
The Chief Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Hon'ble Justice Sanjay Yadav directed that "Notably, the purpose of constituting the said Commission was to inquire into the irregularities committed in disbursal of compensation and including to ineligible persons. Scrutiny of that fact must proceed and cannot brook delay
.The State Government is obliged to honour the direction given by the Supreme Court on 11.5.2009 regarding disbursement of compensation by way of cheques or cash after 24.4.2009 - subject to the scrutiny by Justice Jha Commission. That condition is inviolable"
The Bench further directed that all the payments made by the Govt. without Commission's verification be now placed before Commission for verification within seven days, after which the Commission shall furnish the report within two weeks, for necessary orders in the present proceedings.
The Order was passed on an application by the NBA, which challenged the action of the State Govt/ Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) in not complying with the Orders of the Apex Court and the High Court, mandating pre-payment scrutiny of all forms of rehabilitation grants, under the pretext of another order passed by Hon'ble Supreme Court, limited only to 396 oustees.
After exchange of detailed pleadings and hours of oral submissions, the Hon'ble Court upheld that the Order dated 11-05-2009 of the Apex Court mandating pre-scrutiny of all cash/cheque payments shall not be eclipsed by the subsequent specific order of the Apex Court, permitting cash payment only and only in cases of 396 oustees. Thus, the contentions of the State, based on misrepresentation of judicial orders was rejected.
The Order shall have a significant effect on the working on the Commission which has to scrutinize all cases of cash disbursals, in order to ensure that the oustees, mostly non-literate, tribals, farmers and landless are not swindled by the corrupt nexus of officials and agents. Payments without scrutiny would have opened up a Pandora's Box, which has been avoided by the High Court's intervention. The purpose of scrutiny is to ensure that the oustees are not further betrayed and stripped of their lawful entitlements due to corruption.
It is well-known that as per the High Court's orders since 2008, the Commission has been investigating a massive corruption scam in the rehabilitation of oustees in M.;P., to a tune of 1000 crores including almost 2,000 fake land registries, irregularities in civic amenities at 88 resettlement sites, fraud in house plot allotments, R&R grants to ineligible persons and betrayal of thousands landless persons, entitled to alternative livelihood.
After issuing stern orders to the Chief Secretary, which has led to appointment of 3 senior full-time officials to assist the Commission in the last months of 2013, the Court took into consideration the undertaking given by Senior Counsel appearing for GoMP that henceforth all permissible cooperation would be extended to the Commission for its smooth functioning.
The Court directed the state to meet all necessary infrastructure and financial requirement of the Commission within a period of seven days. Taking on record a detailed list of documents proposed by NBA, the Court directed NVDA to provide all documents required for the inquiry, after hearing of parties by the Commission.
The case was pleaded extensively by Medha Patkar for NBA. Shri R.N. Singh, Senior Counsel with Adv. Arpan Pawar for GoMP and Shri Dharmendra Sharma, for Narmada Control Authority. The case has been listed on 20th January for further orders.