CBI to investigate in UP food scam: HC

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on Friday directed the state agencies to refer to the CBI in order to proceed expeditiously with investigation into the multi-crore foodgrain scam in Uttar Pradesh.

Lucknow: The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on Friday directed the state agencies to refer to the CBI in order to proceed expeditiously with investigation into
the multi-crore foodgrain scam in Uttar Pradesh and conclude the same within six months.

The order was passed by a division bench comprising Justices Devi Prasad Singh and SC Chaurasia while allowing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by one Vishwanath
Chaturvedi, seeking direction for a CBI probe into the scam.

The petitioner drew the attention of the court towards the high degree of corruption prevailing in UP whereby foodgrains meant for BPL card holders covered under schemes
such as Antyodaya, Jawahar Rozagar Yogana and mid-day meals was smuggled not only outside the state but outside the country.

The court, in its order, issued eight directions in this matter.

"The CBI shall proceed with further inquiry not only with regard to Ballia, Lakhimpur and Sitapur districts but also with regard to Varanasi, Gonda and Lucknow districts," the
court directed.

It further said the state agencies shall immediately refer to the CBI for further investigation all cases where it is found that the foodgrains were smuggled to other parts of the country or outside the country.

"It shall not be necessary for the CBI or state agencies to obtain sanction under the statutory provision with regard to present controversy where from initial stage, prima facie intentionally, deliberately and in a planned manner, the foodgrains were lifted from godowns for sale either in the open market or to smuggle outside UP or to other countries," the court directed.

The bench has directed UP chief secretary to ensure that not only in the present controversy but in all cases where the state agencies, CBI or other investigating agencies move an application for sanction under various laws, a decision should be taken within three months.

"In absence of any decision with due communication, it will be deemed that sanction has been accorded and chargesheet shall be filed and the trial court should proceed with trial
to a logical end in accordance with the law," the court observed.

The court directed that investigation into the accusations made against each and every person on reasonable grounds, irrespective of the position and status of such
persons, shall be conducted and completed expeditiously.

"It is imperative to retain public confidence in the impartial working of the state agencies," the bench said.

The court ruled out that a message must be given by the investigating agencies keeping in view the concept of equality enshrined in the Constitution that "be you ever so high, the
law is above you".

"The law must take its course to punish the guilty," it said.

The bench directed that "Director of Enforcement, Union Ministry of Finance shall also proceed with search and seizure of assets, property, cash or kind earned under the food scam under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act or any other law time being in force expeditiously".

The court said it should be open to the CBI and the state agencies to proceed with the investigation with regard to the food scam not only upto 2007 but even beyond that in case some link or evidence is found to the continuance of diversion of food under various schemes of the state and the Centre.

"As an when a chargesheet is filed, the trial court shall proceed with the trial and conclude the same expeditiously and preferably within a period of one year," the court said.

It also directed the Registrar General to communicate the order, circulate it to all courts concerned and submit a compliance report with in one month.

The bench directed the registry of the court to send a copy of the judgement to Law Secretary, Government of India, secretary law and chief secretary UP to consider appropriate amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in light
of the observations made in the order.

"Till the law, appropriately amended by the state or the central government, findings recorded and directions issued shall be followed by all investigation agencies and
subordinate courts of the state while dealing with corruption cases," the bench directed.

It directed to provide a copy of the judgement to the additional Solicitor General of India and the Advocate General of UP and Director of Enforcement, Ministry of Finance,
Government of India for appropriate action.