MGNREGA Fund Misappropriation: Gujarat HC Rejects District-Level Inquiry Report

MGNREGA Fund Misappropriation

The Gujarat High Court has dismissed a report from a district-level committee investigation, labeling it “sketchy” and “vitiated” and noting that it had not been conducted by a qualified or skilled officer.

This decision was made while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) alleging misappropriation of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) funds in Somasar village, Surendranagar.

The court has ordered a new inquiry into the allegations.

A bench of Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi, was reviewing the PIL filed by five locals from Somasar village. The petitioners complained about fund misappropriation occurring in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Allegations and Previous Investigation

The PIL claimed that 68 locals received MGNREGA wages under the Somasar Gram Panchayat despite not performing any work under the scheme. It was also noted that the wife of the then-sarpanch, Shakuntalaben Bhulani, who is now the Somasar village sarpanch, received MGNREGA wages for work in an anganwadi, despite being a recipient of funds for being an anganwadi employee.

Following the PIL, the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) conducted an investigation, including a district-level committee. The report, submitted to the Commissioner (Rural Development) in December 2023, stated that out of 18 MGNREGA works mentioned, 15 were completed, and three were not undertaken. Among the 68 people who allegedly received payments without performing work, statements from 38 could be documented by the committee.

These individuals claimed they had completed the assigned work and received payments accordingly. Bhulani’s statement was also documented, wherein she claimed to have been an anganwadi employee during the COVID-19 pandemic.

High Court’s Orders

In addition to the inquiry report, the High Court sought a government affidavit regarding changes made to the framing of rules to offer guidelines for grievance redress in MGNREGA execution. The court observed that the committee had “not properly investigated” the complaints, noting, “From the averments in the affidavit (by the deputy secretary of the rural development department, presenting the inquiry report), it is unclear how the wife of the sitting sarpanch was engaged as a worker under the MNREGA scheme, even during COVID-19. There is no clarity regarding other beneficiaries (30) who were paid against whom allegations were made.”

Read More: Supreme CourtDelhi High CourtStates High CourtOther Courts, International

Recommended For You

About the Author: Nunnem Gangte