Rashid Paul

HC asks VOK to expedite probe and report

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Multi-crore Handwara PHE scam



Rashid Paul

Srinagar, Nov 27: J&K High Court on Tuesday directed the Vigilance Organization Kashmir (VOK) to expeditiously complete and report investigation into the scam in the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Division, Handwara.

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) with regard to the multi-crore scam in PHE Division Handwara in which many engineers and other employees were allegedly found involved, Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar directed the VOK to complete the investigation into the matter expeditiously and report the court.

The direction followed as the counsel representing the petitioner informed the bench that neither details nor the particulars of the accused officials in the embezzlement have been provided to the court. No disciplinary action has been taken against them, he added.

The counsel representing PHE department submitted that entire record pertaining to the case has been seized and taken over by the investigating agency (VOK). As such, the department is not at this time in a position to apprise the court about the disciplinary proceedings against the erring officials, he said.

The court in its last hearing had directed the government to provide status of disciplinary proceedings against erring officials—involved in swindling of funds meant for providing potable water to the people of Handwara in north Kashmir.

The court had directed that the particulars of the erring officials involved in the scam be provided by next date of hearing, listed on November 27, 2018.

Apart from that, the court imposed fine of Rs 5,000 on PHE, Horticulture, Agriculture, Floriculture, Fisheries, Pollution Control Board, and Geology and Mining departments for non-compliance of earlier order dated September 24, 2018.

VOK has reported that embezzlement of funds, worth crores of rupees has taken place in the PHE department, Handwara, but no name involved in the irregularities of funds has been spelled out by the concerned authorities before the court.

The High Court is hearing a PIL on the scam involving siphoning of around Rs 45 crores in the PHE Division Handwara, which was meant for providing safe drinking water to Handwara and adjoining hilly areas.

The drinking water scheme was executed under National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP). The funds meant to be utilized on the scheme, were allegedly siphoned off by the officials of PHE department, Handwara.

The scam came to light in April 2014, involving fraudulent withdrawal of crores of rupees from the official account which was managed by the Executive Engineer, PHE Division, Handwara, under NRDWP.

Various employees from the rank of Executive Engineer to Junior Engineer are under suspension and are facing trial.

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