SC indicts Orissa, Centre for failure in executing MGNREGA

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked both the Union and Orissa governments to explain as to why the CBI should not be ordered to probe financial irregularities in implementation of the rural job guarantee scheme in the eastern state.

A bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia sought the explanation from the Centre as well as the Orissa government, indicting both of them for their failure in properly implementing the legally guaranteed scheme.

"We are constrained to observe that the Union of India as well as the State of Orissa, prima facie, have failed to effectively and purposefully implement the provisions of the (Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee) Act," said the bench, which also included justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar.

"This has resulted in the deprivation of the entitled class from getting employment and receiving the allowances due to them in terms of the statutory guarantees available to them under the Act," the bench said.

Seeking their response on ordering a CBI probe, it said, "We call upon both the Union of India and the State Government to show cause as to why there should not be a direction to the CBI to investigate this matter in accordance with law."

Seeking the two governments' replies within three weeks, the bench also asked them to respond to an additional 12-point questionnaire on various related issues on implementation of the rural job guarantee scheme.

The court issued the orders on a PIL filed in 2007 by an NGO Centre for Environment and Food Security alleging large-scale corruption in the implementation of the MGNREGA scheme.

Based on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in 2005, the scheme provides for legally-guaranteed 100 days of employment to at least one member of each rural household.

Seeking to know the yearly break-up of total fund given to Orissa by the Centre between 2006 and 2010 for implementation of the scheme, the bench also said, "Orissa has given to the Central Government the requisite certificate of utilization".

Seeking to know if "any amount earmarked for any of the schemes under NREGA has been diverted for any other purpose," it also asked the two governments to detail the total number of beneficiaries under the scheme.

It also asked if the two governments have ever received any complaint relating to financial or other bungling in implementation of the scheme, and if yes, any authority or the official has been punished for it.

Seeking to know if the statutory social audits under the law or the general audit by the Comptroller General of India has ever been conducted in the utilization of funds, the court also asked both the governments have properly appointed various officials at various levels for implementation of the scheme.

Earlier Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising had told the court that the centre was in favour of a CBI probe into the irregularties.

"We want a CBI probe. Our request has gone to the CBI," she said adding the state governments are reluctant to implement the guidelines for impelmentaion of the fund.

"We are facing resistance from the state governments. States are supposed to convert guidelines into rules but they are not doing this," she said.