New Delhi: The Nagaland government's conduct in not granting sanction to prosecute five officers, including a then Minister of State, in a graft case has been "deprecated" by a special court which observed that states try to "shield" higher officials involved in such illegal acts.
The court's observation came while convicting former Union Minister PK Thungon and three others in a corruption case lodged in 1998 by CBI in connection with misappropriation of funds released by the Centre.
The court also summoned as accused five officials, who were then active public servants and against whom sanction for prosecution was not granted earlier by Nagaland government, for November 4 saying there were enough material on record to take cognizance of offences against them.
The five accused summoned by the court are -- K Konngam Konyak, then Minister of State of Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Mezakrol, then Joint Director in the department, and the then public servants Nielakuo Suokhrie, K Angami and Bandang Wapang.
Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Jain held despite these kind of "gross abuses" of authority by government officials and making of money in illegal or corrupt manner, the Nagaland government had not accorded sanction to prosecute them.
"The conduct of state government in this regard is deprecated. The people of Nagaland are deprived of legitimate central funds released for their development and the act of non-grant of sanction for prosecution against corrupt official by state govt is in fact betrayal of public trust.
"It reminds whenever the higher officials are found involved in such activities, the state governments try to shield them from prosecution," the judge said.
"State government officials including K Konngam Konyak, Mezakrol, Nielakuo Suokhrie, K Angami and Bandang Wapang are found to be indulged in the illegal acts for misappropriating the additional central fund," the court said.
CBI, in its charge sheet filed in 2003, had said these five accused could not be prosecuted due to want of sanction.
The court had on July 21, convicted 69-year-old Thungon, who was the then Minister of State Ministry, Urban Affairs and Employment, Tali AO, C Sangit and Mahesh Maheshwari in the case and they were ordered to be taken in judicial custody.
The court would hear the arguments on quantum of sentence against these four convicts on July 27.Thungon and three others were convicted for offences
under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy) read with 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document) of IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
In its 138-page judgement, the court held that there was no requirement to take sanction from the Nagaland government and the five accused summoned by it were not entitled for protection under the provision of the CrPC.
"There is enough material on record for taking cognizance against accused K Konngam Konyak, Mezakrol, Neilakuo Sukhorie, K Angami and Badang Wapang for committing offences under section 120-B, 417, 420, 467, 468, 471, 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) IPC and section 13 (2) read with section 13(1)(c) and (d) of PC Act, 1988 and under all the substantive offences thereof," it said.
In its verdict, the court observed that facts of the case highlights the "pathetic condition of administrative affairs of Nagaland" as Rs two crore were misappropriated by accused persons but no complaint in this regard was initiated.
The court noted that fortunately this matter surfaced in 1996 during a search conducted at Thungon's house in relation to some other case.
According to CBI, in pursuance to the proposal of Nagaland Government, the then Planning Commission had sanctioned an amount of Rs two crore in 1994 for renovation and upgradation of minor irrigation projects for the state and the money was to be released in two instalments of Rs one crore each.
It has alleged that accused had misappropriated the funds received by the Centre.