Srinagar, Oct10 :High Court today sought affidavit from the authorities disclosing therein the details of amount received and payment made for the supply, purchase and procurement of nutritional items for Anganwari Centers in the State.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Alok Aradhe in a significant direction sought the information of amount received by the Ministry of Women and Child Development Union of India for the purpose of purchase and supply of nutritional items for Anganwari Centers in the State.
The direction followed after the petitioner counsel Shafkat Nazir informed the Court that despite the life of procurement committee has expired which was only for six months and after expiry of six months neither the said committee was given any extension nor any approval from administrative side, Mission Director J&K Integrated Child Development Services/ Scheme (ICDS), Srinagar in total disregard has made almost Rs 32 crores of payment to the contractors who are supplying substandard nutritional items to these centers, last week in order to frustrate the present litigation.
The Department of Social Welfare though its Commissioner Secretary had constituted a State level Purchase Committee for procurement of items under ICDS scheme and the committee was directed to operate for a period of 6 months or till Village Level Councils (VLCs) become operational or whichever is earlier.
But Village Level Councils (VLCs) are still non entities having never been constituted for the purpose. As such said Government order reconstituting the State Level Purchase Committee was to remain in force w.e.f. 27.10.2017 till 26.04.2018.
The petitioner organization (JK Peoples Forum) through its secretary has voiced before the Court about the method and manner of procurement / purchase of the nutritional items required for distribution among more than 15 lakh children belonging to disadvantaged communities through about 30,000 Anganwadi Centers across the state.
The Mission Director (ICDS) in the month of April this invited tenders for procurement of various nutritional items for supplying the same to the Anagnawadi centers of Jammu & Kashmir for the year 2018-19 with some conditions therein.
Court has been informed that the conditions prescribed in the tender documents have not been prescribed as per the guidelines of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for purchase and procurement of necessary items.
The CVC in past had also noticed various irregularities and malpractices in the system of procurement adopted by various agencies and it was just to overcome such irregularities that CVC in its wisdom prescribed guidelines.
It is submitted in the petition that the said Purchase Committee, as per Government order supra was to expire on 26th April 2018. The life of the State Level Purchase committee was neither extended nor any fresh purchase committee was constituted or any Village Level Council was put in place.
“Therefore, any process of procurement undertaken by the Respondents Chief Secretary, Commissioner Secretary SWD and Mission director ICDS is illegal and any procurement made under the said NITs is bad in law and visited by evil consequences”, reads the PIL.
It is alleged in the petition that the Mission Director in colorable exercise of power and without obtaining any administrative approval, exceeded jurisdiction and conducted the process of procurement in an illegal manner just to confer illegal benefits upon some blue-eyed persons who appear to be in league with the procurement agency.
That Mission Director, it is added, for extraneous considerations and mala fide intentions and in active connivance of the so called successful bidder issued approval order of annual rate contract for supply of nutritional items for ICDS programmes in Kashmir and Jammu Divisions for the year 2018-19 in his so called capacity as Chairman of State Level Purchase Committee which had already become Functus Officio due to expiry of term of office of the State Level Purchase Committee on 26.04.2018.
“That whole process of procurement and approval of rate contracts is patently void and illegal, the respondents viz CS, Commissioner Secretary and Mission Director in connivance with each other have approved the supply of all substandard, spurious, misbranded nutritional items at the cost of health and nourishment of thousands of young blooming buds”, mentioned in the PIL.
As proof petitioner has placed on record of prosecutions launched by the prosecuting authority (Designated officer under Food Standard Safety Act) against M/S Rattan Oil Mills from whom biscuits have been ordered to be supplied.
Rattan oil Mills appears to be manufacturing sub-standard biscuits for which it is facing multiple prosecutions not only in Kashmir division but in Jammu division as well. The biscuits constitute an important nutritional item supplied to thousands of Anganwadi centers across the state. Similarly from one Wani Brothers Channa is being procured which is totally misbranded as per the test report submitted by Food Standard and Safety department.