The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India to audit cyclone Amphan-related relief amid allegations of irregularities. A division bench, comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee, urged the CAG to conclude the audit within three months of receiving a copy of the order.
The court noted that the central government rolled out schemes to support the people affected by the devastation and destruction caused by the cyclone in May. The petitioners, in a set of PILs which were heard together, complained that the West Bengal government through its officers had made unauthorised and illegitimate pick and choose of persons to whom the benefits were doled out and that the schemes were not operated in the manner as envisaged either by the Centre or the state government.
The petitioners also alleged that there is no transparency in the distribution of relief to the Amphan- affected people in the state and that a large number of people, who were true and real victims of the cyclone, were denied benefits under the relief schemes. After hearing the additional solicitor general for the Centre, the advocate general of West Bengal and the petitioners, the court was of the view that the CAG is best suited to delve into the allegations of financial and factual irregularities in relief distribution.
It noted that the CAG has the necessary constitutional, statutory and administrative sanction, power and authority to conduct such inquiry, as is necessary, to ensure that there are financial audit and performance audit of the utilisation of the Amphan relief. The bench observed that this will pave way for the competent authority, either in the central government or the state government or at both levels, to decide the next course of action that should be taken in case of any fault being traced.
"We leave it open to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and its office to take a comprehensive look at all the issues and carry out such audit, as is found necessary, to ensure that there is performance audit and financial audit of the Amphan related issues," the division bench said in its order. Disposing of the PILs, the court requested the CAG to conclude the exercise within three months from the date of receipt of a copy of the order.
The bench directed that it will be open to the CAG and its office to issue such directions, as may be found necessary, to any authority to ensure that the result of the audit is carried out to its hilt to ensure that no funds are abused in the name of Amphan.