WB guv seeks info on funds used for anti-CAA campaign

West Bengal governor seeks info on funds used for anti-CAA campaign

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar. (PTI Photo)

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has demanded information from the state government on alleged misuse of public funds on an advertisement campaign against the new citizenship law and on the authorities who sanctioned the campaign, official sources said on Saturday.

The governor's office has sent a letter to the principal secretary, Information and Cultural Affairs, to submit to him a detailed response on the money spent on the anti-CAA campaign, they said.

In a communication to the government on February 4, the sources said, Dhankhar took exception to the spending of "crores of rupees" on advertisements in print and visual media having a tagline "No CAA, No NRC, No NPR".

Concern was also raised about the involvement of senior administrative and police functionaries, including the chief and home secretaries and the DGP, in the ads by the side of the chief minister, they added.

Dhankhar had repeatedly cautioned the state government that agitation against a valid law cannot be funded through advertisements at State expense. Later, the Calcutta High Court asked the Bengal government to suspend all such advertisements.

According to the sources, such utilisation of public funds makes a plausible case for grant of sanction of prosecution by the governor. There are instances when governors have given sanction for prosecution of chief ministers for misuse of public funds.

Apart from the A R Antulay case, in recent times then Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj in 2011 sanctioned the prosecution of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa by the Karnataka Lokayukta under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, for his involvement in illegal mining of iron ore in the state.

The Bihar governor gave sanction for prosecution of Lalu Prasad Yadav in the fodder scam case.

It was alleged that no 'live' media coverage was allowed of the governor's address to the assembly on the opening day of the budget session on February 7 because of fears he might have raised the 'misuse of public funds' in his speech. The sources said the government was extremely unsure whether Dhankhar would read out the Cabinet-approved address or would go with the changes he had suggested.

However, maintaining the constitutional practice, the governor confirmed to reading the Cabinet-approved address.

It may be noted that Dhankhar, who is having a running battle with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had suggested a number of changes in the draft budget session speech. However, the changes were not approved by the Bengal Cabinet.

As per documents accessed by PTI, the governor had proposed the addition of the utilisation of State public funds for fuelling a political agitation and described the act as a "serious wrong that generates serious consequences for those concerned."

"This is a betrayal of trust reposed in them by law. This has happened in a blatant manner in the state in several ways. Illustratively crores of rupees have been spent on such advertisements in the print and visual/TV media that advance the agenda of the ruling party. The theme of the advertisement is the virtual tag line of the ruling dispensation in the state., i.e., ‘No CAA, No NRC, No NPR’. This is impermissible and legal outrage. Such blatant misuse of public funds is bound to generate serious consequences in law for those concerned," he had suggested for inclusion.

Alluding to the high court's intervention on this, he had also suggested for an addition that "there has already been a judicial intervention mandating a stop to this. The logical way forward needs to be expedited for this grave infraction of law and propriety so that law takes its course on the fast track."

"I am considering all aspects of the advertisement and role of the officials so that lawful course may be initiated," the governor had suggested for addition to his draft speech.

He had also proposed to indicate in his speech the "worrisome law and order situation" in the state with numerous instances pointing towards "internal disturbances" — an expression that finds mention in Article 355 of the Constitution.

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