Spl courts likely to try MGNREGS scams

Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday mooted the idea to have special courts in all the states on the lines of the ones Andhra Pradesh Government has set up to speed up the process of bringing the erring officials to justice.
“I think it is a good initiative and it is worthwhile adopting this system in other states,” he told reporters, adding: “We will consult the Supreme Court on this.”
While the government is prodding the states to move expeditiously on institutionalising social audits to check irregularities and misappropriation of funds by the officials responsible for MGNREGS implementation, many of those who have been found guilty took legal recourse to forestall actions against them and thus delay the process of bringing them to justice.

Ramesh said the special MGNREGS courts were intended to fast-track the cases related to irregularities in the rural job scheme. He was talking to journalists after chairing a national conference on social audit of MGNREGA in New Delhi.
A few months back, the Andhra Pradesh government promulgated the Social Audit (Punishment of Corrupt Practices) Ordinance 2011, which has provisions for setting up special mobile criminal courts with first class judicial magistrates as presiding judges.

The special courts will have powers to give jail sentence to erring officials for up to two years for fraudulence in record keeping, misappropriation of fund, non-disbursal of payments and abetment of those offences.

Societies to audit scheme
Ramesh also mooted the idea of creating a society at the national level to oversee social audit of MGNREGS across the country. He said that the societies being created by the state governments in accordance with the social audit rules notified by the Ministry of Rural Development earlier this year could confederate into the national body.

The MoRD on Tuesday asked the state governments to set up societies or independent units to conduct social audits and appoint search committees to appoint the directors of the societies within a month. It also sought budget proposals for setting up the societies as well as for conducting pilot social audit from the state government within a month.

The ministry hopes to start training of 10-20 core resource persons by December 1 next for pilot social audits in one block in each state. The recruitment and training of pilot resource persons should be complete before January next year.
Ramesh said the pilot social audit would be completed by March 2012 and the experience of the exercise would result in evolution of the final structure.

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