Face the inquiry

The latest scam to hit the UPA government is the charge levelled by India Against Corruption (IAC) leader Arvind Kejriwal that a trust run by Union law minister Salman Khurshid’s family is guilty of misappropriating government funds.

The Zakir Husain Memorial Trust has been accused of fraud and financial irregularities of various kinds. Central funds were allegedly sanctioned to the trust on the strength of forged signatures of UP government officials. The utilisation of the funds has also been questioned. They were intended to benefit differently-abled people in the poor strata of society but did not reach the beneficiaries. If the charges are correct they amount to securing government funds through fraudulent means and then not utilising them for the intended purpose. Both Khurshid and his wife are under the pale of suspicion of wrong-doing or abetment to it.

Khurshid has termed the charges as false, malicious and motivated and threatened to slap defamation suits against a section of the media and others over them. But routine reactions to the charges do not help to clear the air and to remove suspicions. In the past also trusts set up ostensibly for altruistic purposes by powerful people have been misused for personal gains. Their activities are not always properly scrutinised. An inspection report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) has pointed to irregularities to the tune of Rs 71.5 lakh in the trust and recommended that the amount may be recovered from the trust with interest. Khurshid’s view that the report is not final is insufficient defence. The charge of forging of signatures has not been denied by the minister. A number of officials have come forward to state that their signatures were forged and some purported beneficiaries have claimed that they have not received any help from the trust.

There are compelling circumstances for a proper probe into the affairs and activities of the trust. The investigation being conducted by the UP government’s economic offences wing and the raids conducted on the trust’s offices are not convincing and may not bring out the truth. The investigation will lack credibility because of the suspicion that it may not be free of political influence is not without grounds. What is needed is an independent probe which should be conducted expeditiously. If the inquiry finds any evidence of irregularities in the trust, Khurshid should not only quit but should also face prosecution.

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