RTI helps detect major fraud
RTI helps detect major fraud

Kamalapurkar filed RTI for the date of commencement of  Centenary/Commemoration Cell for celebration of 50th Anniversary of Indian Republic in or around 2001, budget allocated for the cell, classification and number of programmes undertaken, etc. The CPIO said that efforts are being made to trace the information from the old records of the Ministry on its support for making film on ‘Bal Gangadhar Tilak’. 

Deputy Secretary said that Commemoration Bureau was set up as a special cell, the Ministry of Culture gave Rs. 2.5 crore to Vinay Dhumale to make a film on Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The money was transferred to Vinay in two instalments. She said, however, the film was never made and there was no enquiry into the utility of the funds. She further stated that the ministry was able to find out about this embezzlement of money only after the RTI application was filed by the appellant in 2011. 

Though officers claimed to have made intensive search for missing files, they could not show any document reflecting their efforts. They have not made up any case against any officer or found anybody responsible for last custody or the loss, not they filed any FIR regarding the missing file. It is surprising that the ministry sanctioned Rs. 100 crore, for celebration of Golden Jubilee of Indian Republic and released Rs 2.5 crore to a person for making a film on Bal Gangadhar Tilak and simply ignores its responsibility of following up. It is to the credit of RTI Act that this major lapse has been exposed still it remains a tragedy that the Ministry has lost entire record regarding this huge grant, that too without any consequence. 

The Commission found that key records of sanction and payment of Rs. 2.5 crore are missing and except for some oral statements by the CPIO and Deputy Secretary, there is no record presently of who held the files.  The CIC directed enquiry into missing files, to furnish information about budget allocation and the list of programmes conducted, asked office of CBI, New Delhi to inform about the time they need to finalise the investigation report.

During the hearings on Jan 10, 2018, appellant and officers of Ministry complained that the CBI has not furnished a copy of the charge-sheet. CBI completed the investigation and found that Rs. 2.5 crore was misappropriated in the name of producing a feature film on Late Bal Gangadhar Tilak and filed the charge-sheet in Patiala House Courts, Delhi. However, he pleaded that the charge-sheet is a secret document and cannot be shared either with the appellant or with the department. Dy Secretary and CPIO Suman Bara claimed that entire file containing the key documents sanctioning and paying Rs. 2.5 crore to the producer was still missing. 

The Dy Secretary explained that the special cell was wound up in 2004 and a new cell to celebrate various centenaries was constituted in December 2006. She said that the department of establishment failed to furnish her the names and designations of the in-charge/custodians of the file along with the concerned authorities. Though they have filed FIR against misappropriation, they have not initiated any legal action against persons who caused missing of that file. 

The loss of such an important file will have a serious impact on possibility of establishing the charge of misappropriation. The department of culture is in such a pathetic state that until the appellant V R Kamalapurkar complained, they did not know that the entire money granted for making of the film was swindled. It is surprising to know why the department is not seriously probing/taking action on the loss of the file since last 12 years. 

Nirmala Goyal stated that a CD of scratch movie, which appear to be abridged version of 7 episodes DD serial on Late Bal Gangadhar Tilak was received by the department, which means the producer has played a fraud on the department by showing the old TV serial as new film. The Commission finds a huge public interest in this application and second appeal and the appellant has every right to know the action taken on finding the missing file and misappropriation. 

Charge-sheet 
The Commission held that the claim of CBI representative that charge-sheet is a secret document is quite illegal and against tenets of open prosecution in our criminal justice system. When charge-sheet forms the basis and beginning of public prosecution of accused, how can it be secured as secret and how it can be denied to the complainant i.e., the department and to the appellant because of whose RTI the Rs. 2.5 crore scandal has come out. 

The Commission directed the CPIO of CBI to provide a certified copy of charge-sheet to the respondent authority and also the appellant. The CBI representative K S Pathania, DSP questioned the officers of the Ministry of Culture during the hearing that what they have done for the 12 years to trace the file. But the question is why the CBI did not probe this angle also. The Commission also recommended the CBI and the Ministry of Culture to probe into the missing of the key file in the scandal and inform the action. The case came up for hearing on Feb 13, 2018.

Ministry’s officers stated: The Special Cell is thankful to the Applicant who has brought to light such a serious and high value financial impropriety which had occurred in the year 2001. The set of officers in position in the Special Cell were totally unaware of the subject matter when the RTI application was first received in December 2012. 

But, later on as things unfolded, the Special Cell acted pro-actively with full support and co-operation of the Applicant. As a result, a financial irregularity seemed to have been committed. A major turning point in the matter was the inputs received from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. It is they who informed that Dhumale had earlier made a serial (07 Episodes) on Bal Gangadhar Tilak. …..

Probe into Missing file
Matter was referred to the Delhi Police vide Ministry’s Letter dated 27.03.2007 for investigation into the missing file. Delhi Police has asked for certain information. Establishment Division of the Ministry has been asked to conduct an inquiry/probe to ascertain who held/processed the files and about the person who was the last custodian of the relevant file.

The matter came up for consideration before the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Government of India in the year 2015. At that time, a view emerged that Dhumale’s conduct was an offence more in relation to the Ministry of I&B whose copy right he might have violated while resubmitting the same work again to the Ministry of Culture.

CBI officers, told that the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House Court, Delhi has initiated prosecution of Vinay Dhumale, principal accused, based on the charge-sheet filed by the CBI. However, it is not known till today as to any investigation was taken up against the public servants who handed over a huge amount running into crores and what happened to the records? 

The public authority is under the obligation to provide the copies of the records to the appellant, which cannot be wiped off simply because they have issued search memorandum. It is atrocious that Vinay Dhumale has shown the old TV episode clips as his new film and none checked it in the Ministry before parting away with Rs 2.5 crore. 

A FIR was filed against the unknown officials in this Ministry before the Station House Officer, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road, Tughlak Road Area, New Delhi-110001, but this action is not sufficient to punish the concerned and prevent this kind of corrupt practices.

CIC appreciated Kamalapurkar for bringing this scandal through RTI along with the pathetic state of not keeping the required records for which any public authority should be ashamed of. The CIC also mentioned efforts of CBI and hoped prosecution would be expedited. 

(Based on decision CIC/SH/A/2016/000484 in V R Kamalapurkar v. PIO, Ministry of Culture on Feb 27, 2018)