Funds 'embezzlement' case | Court rejects bail plea of SMC officials, NGO office bearers

The Special Anti-Corruption Court here has rejected anticipatory bail plea of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) officials and office bearers of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in a case of “embezzlement” of funds.

After hearing special public prosecutors Ghulam Jeelani, Riaz Ahmad, and defence counsels, the special anti-corruption judge RN Watal said material collected by investigating agencies “in the guise of oral and documentary evidence prima facie establishes petitioners embezzled public money.”

“The police report reveals that under Swachh Bharat Mission scheme Srinagar Municipal Corporation allotted construction of 218 individual household latrines (IHHL) units and nine twin shortage pits to the NGO M/S Social Welfare of India and the work was to be executed under the supervision of engineering wing of the SMC,” the court observed.

It said the construction completion certificate was submitted by the NGO to the Commissioner SMC with a claim of Rs 39.20 lakh, adding the Commissioner as per the procedure directed its engineering wing to submit the verification report after physical inspection of the units alleged to have been constructed.

The court said that report was submitted to the Commissioner that units exist on the ground and accordingly the funds were released by the Commissioner.

“On joint surprise check, it came to fore that not a single unit was constructed by the NGO and engineering wing had submitted false verification report,” the court said.

It said the NGO represented by Zaheer Abbas Bhatti and Ishrat Ashraf Shah, and the SMC junior engineer Javaid Iqbal, along with executive engineer and other officials under well-knit conspiracy manipulated the false report about the construction of IHHL units for their personal gain and loss to government exchequer.

The court said the allegations against the petitioners speaks volumes about the conspiracy that the petitioners hatched to swindle the money under Swachh Bharat Scheme in complete disregard to very object of the scheme that was to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management.

“I am of the considered view that the petitioners have failed to carve out a prima facie case for indulgence of this court for the concession of bail in anticipation of their arrest. The applications are as such dismissed,” the court said.