HC declines to quash ACB FIR against Sopore MC officials

Excelsior Correspondent

Srinagar, Apr 28: High Court has declined to quash FIR filed by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) against the officials of Sopore Municipality for regularizing the services of its consolidated employees without any power and said the matter needs thorough probe and investigation by the ACB.
The officials were seeking quashing of FIR No. 16/2018, registered by Anti-Corruption Bureau, Srinagar as also not to treat the registration of FIR against them as an impediment in the future promotions.
It is contended by these officials that in Sopore Municipality, 8 consolidated wagers, working as sweepers, drivers since 2000 had been pressing for their regularization on the ground that they had completed more than 12 years of service and were thus entitled to regularization of their services.
The then Executive Officer of the Municipality while conceding  request passed an order of regularization in their favour in the year 2013 and all the eight persons were put in regular pay scale and the order of regularization was sent to higher authority for grant of necessary approval.
The regularization order however was neither cancelled nor accorded any formal approval and, as a result thereof, the then Executive Officer did not give effect to the regularization of those consolidated workers till he was in office.
It was, however, after some time the audit party raised some objections with regard to the regularization of the eight consolidated workers on the ground that in terms of SRO 417 of 2008, the Executive Officer was not competent to issue any regularization orders and, therefore, release of salary in their favour by the petitioners was not justified.
In this context the FIR was registered against these officials and were served with a questionnaire by the ACB.  Justice Sanjeev Kumar while dismissing the plea said that the nature of allegations contained in the questionnaire served upon the petitioners, it is necessary that an in depth investigation in the matter is made and truth is unravelled.
“Prima facie, the Executive Officer of the Municipality is not the authority to appoint any employee or direct regularization of the daily wagers and consolidated workers as permanent employees in the Municipality”, Justice Kumar recorded in the judgment.
Court said the then Executive Officer has prima facie exceeded his powers and directed regularization of eight consolidated workers without having the approval from the higher authority.
Court added that without trying to find out the exact reasons as to why the regularization order of 2013 passed by the Executive Officer had not been given effect and how he (EO) went ahead and implemented the same by releasing the regular pay scale in favour of eight beneficiaries of the order of regularization.
This is a matter, the court said, which needs thorough probe and investigation and does not in any manner take away the power of the investigating authority to investigate the matter to find out as to whether there is a criminal angle to the transaction or not. Court said it is necessary to find out as to whether the orders passed by the accused named in FIR are in the bonafide exercise of their executive power or is sheer manipulation to confer wrongful benefit on eight persons at the cost of the public exchequer. “These questions that can be determined only after a thorough probe and investigation is made by the respondents-ACB” reads the judgment.
“In view of the settled legal position, I do not find it a fit case for interference in the investigation launched by the respondent-ACB pursuant to registration of FIR No. 16/2018. For the foregoing reasons I do not find it a fit case for indulgence at this stage to quash the impugned FIR by exercising the inherent powers vested in the Court by Section 482 Cr. P. C. This petition is thus found to be without merit and is, accordingly, dismissed”, Justice Kumar concluded.