Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Thursday handed over to the CBI the investigation into the multi-crore scam in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA), observing that the beneficiaries include the “influential and mighty.”
Disposing of a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Bansi Lal Bhat also pulled up the police, saying its investigation lacked both speed and credibility and that a lack of will to dig out the scamsters was “writ large on the face of its performance”.
“Having regard for the quantum and magnitude of the scam involving huge loss of public money and failure of (police) to conduct the investigation with speed, fairness and objectivity and given the inordinate delay in concluding the investigation coupled with lack of credibility of the (police) and also taking into consideration the serious allegations made against the beneficiaries involved, including the influential and mighty, we are of the considered opinion that it is a fit case where the investigation must be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation for purposes of a fair and result oriented investigation,” the bench said and ordered the court’s registry judicial to send a copy of the judgment to the Director CBI for taking up the investigation.
It directed the CBI to bring it to a logical conclusion as expeditiously as possible, “preferably within six months.”
In its 17-page judgment, the court has given a detailed rationale for handing over the probe to the CBI and not to the state’s crime branch, as was suggested by advocate Mian Qayoom, counsel for the petitioners — the two cricketers from the Valley— Majid Yaqoob Dar and Nissar Ahmad Khan, as well as advocate GA Lone, representing arraigned parties in the PIL.
“It is well settled that where scams take place, the allegations of misappropriation of funds are required to be looked into. The source of funds plays a crucial role in investigations. Bearing in mind the volume of funds alleged to have been misappropriated; the investigating agency will have to inquire into the outflow of funds released by BCCI to JKCA. This would necessitate verification and authentication of the accounts of BCCI headquartered at Mumbai,” the court said.
The alleged involvement of Farooq Abdullah, the former chief minister of J&K and a former minister in UPA-II, was also cited as one the reasons by the court for handing over the probe to CBI. “The very fact that the President of JKCA is a tall political personality…whose complicity is alleged in granting approval to two contradictory resolutions pertaining to operation of accounts of JKCA to keep accused Ahsan Mirza in control of financial matters despite his ceasing to be a Treasurer…coupled with the fact that one of the beneficiaries namely Aslam Goni indicted by the interim report has swindled amount exceeding Rs 40 crore together with Ahsan Mirza and Saleem Khan having serving the state as advocate general in the former regime, rendered it imperative that investigation is transferred to CBI,” the court said.
It its response to the PIL, Farooq had favoured an impartial investigation to bring the culprits to book.
Besides, the court observed that the investigation agency needs to reconstruct the damaged records (due to floods last year), dig out the bogus accounts, unravel the modus operandi adopted to swindle the money released by BCCI, identify the beneficiaries, work out the undue pecuniary benefits conferred, identify the accused to which the misappropriated money has been transferred, work out the assets raised out of the funds ‘illicitly’ transferred and appropriated and unveil the criminal conspiracy, the characters involved and the role ascribed to each conspirator.
“This is a herculean task and can be executed by an agency having credibility and capability to instill confidence. Such an agency must be equipped with necessary wherewithal in the shape of highly trained manpower, state of art technology, to expedite cracking financial scams and accessibility to institutions within and outside the State,” the court said.
“The crime branch is a limb of (state’s) Home Department and may not be able to stand up to the influence and clout enjoyed by the accused,” the court said. The court also observed that the crime branch would encounter a lot of hassle in retrieving the documents from the BCCI in Mumbai.
The court also came down heavily on the state police for its investigation into the case (FIR 27/2012) registered at Ram Munshi Bagh Police station on March 10, 2012. “We are of the considered opinion that the investigation has been handled in a causal manner (by the police). Despite a lapse of three years, (police) could not even verify or authenticate the amount released by BCCI to JKCA. (It) remained content with the information provided by the administrative officer of BCCI that funds to the tune of Rs 113.67 crore were released by 2002-03 upto 31.12.2011. An exercise had to be undertaken to verify and authenticate the volume and extent of release of funds,” the court said. This was imperative and indispensible, the court said, in view of police having stumbled upon two inconsistent sets of balance sheets allegedly fabricated with intention to defraud.
“The investigating agency exhibited insensitivity to pilferage of public money at all stages right from acquisition of funds to utilisation thereof. Both speed and credibility are found lacking insofar as the role of investigating agency is concerned. Not only this, the lack of will to dig out the scamsters is writ large on the face of the performance of the investigating agency (sic),” the court said.
The division bench also gave a reason for assigning the probe to the CBI without the state’s consent, which otherwise is required as per Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
“The dictum of law enunciated by the Supreme Court is loud and clear. This Court has to discharge its constitutional obligation to give effect to and enforce the fundamental rights of citizens. Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 is no bar for this Court to direct an investigation by the CBI.”