Social security pension scam: HC asks CBI to look into the role of municipal councillors - Hindustan Times
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Social security pension scam: HC asks CBI to look into the role of municipal councillors

By, Chandigarh
May 30, 2024 06:36 AM IST

“A scam as such could not have been committed by one person and mere oversight or negligence cannot be drawn as a defence given the volumes and lapses at which it has been carried out” – Justice Vinod Bhardwaj

“A scam as such could not have been committed by one person and mere oversight or negligence cannot be drawn as a defence given the volumes and lapses at which it has been carried out” – Justice Vinod Bhardwaj

Law school (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Law school (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Punjab and Haryana high court, which in May 2023 ordered a preliminary enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the disbursement of old age social security pension to thousands of ineligible beneficiaries in Haryana, has asked the CBI to look into the role of municipal councillors who identified the beneficiaries.

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Justice Vinod Bhardwaj of the high court in a May 24 order said that though a preliminary inquiry report has been filed by the investigating agency, there are certain aspects which had not been properly appreciated during the course of inquiry.

The court said that the authorities chose to look the other way and allowed a free run to the persons against whom inquiries were to be conducted and recoveries were to be affected.

This resulted in a defence being taken in their favour that they have retired from services and thus would no more be liable, the HC said.

“Notwithstanding that all beneficiaries were identified by the municipal counsellors and the pension was disbursed to such persons including dead persons identified by the counsellors, the state gave a clean chit to all the said counsellors and rather chose to bring their own witnesses on board by nabbing in a person who is a Group D level-peon and had no concern with identification or release of pension,’’ the HC said.

The bench said that a scam as such could not have been committed by one person and mere oversight or negligence cannot be drawn as a defence given the volumes and lapses at which it has been carried out. The HC has asked the CBI to seek answers to these questions and submit a response. The CBI submitted a status report to the court in February 2024. “It is evident from a perusal of the aforesaid report that a huge amount of money still remains to be recovered. The CBI, in its preliminary report, has recommended taking disciplinary action against the erring officials for delaying the matters including also the concerned district social welfare officers. It has also recommended criminal action against the persons who had verified and sanctioned disbursement of pension to those who were otherwise ineligible,” HC had said.

Meanwhile, a report pertaining to multiple police investigations in the misappropriation of old age social security pension funds by way of their disbursement to thousands of ineligible beneficiaries in Haryana, submitted by the Haryana anti-corruption bureau (ACB), before the HC had brought out holes in the investigations including the failure of the police to invoke anti-graft law. The ACB report to the HC was exclusively reported by Hindustan Times in June 2023.

The ACB report in the form of a sworn statement submitted in the HC on May 20, 2023, said that 10 first information reports (FIRs) were registered by the state police in the disbursement of old age pension to ineligible beneficiaries. These included three FIRs in Karnal, two each in Mahendragarh, Jind and Kurukshetra and one in Kaithal.

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