Wednesday, December 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Police fails to register FIRs
Missing PSWC paddy

By A.S.Prashar
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Dec 26 — Paddy worth well over Rs 23 crore belonging to the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation lying with the private rice millers in the state, may be lost, thanks to the failure of the police to take even the preliminary step of registering FIRs.

Officials of the PSWC have been repeatedly writing to the police in various districts including Amritsar, Bhatinda, Patiala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Moga and Gurdaspur, wherever the paddy belonging to PSWC has been reported missing. But in most cases, the police has refused to budge for reasons best known to itself. Communications to the DGP and Principal Secretary, (Home), have also not produced the desired result so far.

As per the policy, the state government, the procuring agencies in the state have to store the procured paddy stocks at the premises of allotted rice shellers under joint custody. But the arrangement is only on paper. In actual practice, the procuring agency does not exercise any control over the paddy stocks and the rice millers have total control over the stocks. The paddy is stored in the open, which means that the procuring agency cannot put any lock, etc and the unscrupulous among the millers have a field day. There have been instances of blatant misuse of this position for defalcation by the millers.

Faced with the situation, the procurement agency has no option but to approach the police for initiating criminal proceedings against the defaulting millers by registering FIRs under the relevant provisions of criminal law which is the duty of the police and there is no discretion to refuse the registration of FIRs.

But the police frequently does not register FIRs. Instead, the PSWC is advised to seek a civil remedy. Official sources say that the PSWC has had to face this situation time and again. When the police refused to register FIRs against R.K. Rice Mills, Tangra, the corporation had to file criminal revision petition in the High Court during 1997 to get directions issued to the SSP, Majitha, to do the needful. After the police had complied with these directions and challan was produced in the court, the case was successfully prosecuted and the rice miller was ultimately sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment along with fine.

In the case of Kamboj Rice Mills, Jalalabad, the High Court has issued directions on December 5, 2000, to the SSP, Ferozepore to register the FIR against the defaulters but till date, the police has not moved in the matter.

Mr H.S. Mattewal, Punjab’s Advocate-General who is also Standing Counsel for the PSWC, was approached to file criminal revisions against Padda Rice Mills, Baljindra Rice Mills, Friends Rice Mills and Avon Rice Mills, all in Gurdaspur district, for getting FIRs registered against them on November 30. However, Mr Mattewal declined to file revision pleas on the ground that he was also the Advocate-General and therefore, he was unable to proceed against the state government in this fashion. Faced with this situation, the petitions are being filed separately through some other advocates.

In various other cases like Kalwanu Rice Mills, Patiala, Mahalaxmi Rice Mills, Nakodar, Mahavir Rice and General Mills, Ferozepore, the police has either delayed the registration of FIRs or have flatly refused to register the case. As an alternative,the police advises that the matter be placed before the arbitrator as per the terms and conditions of the agreement between corporation and the concerned rice miller.

It may also be noted that in many cases where FIRs are registered, the prosecution agency takes a long time to file challans in the courts. This results in delayed dispensation of justice and also delayed recovery of huge amounts of public money.

Mr Akshar Kumar, General Secretary of the PSWC Employees Union and a member of the state Foodgrains Coordination Committee, says that the police is duty bound to start criminal proceedings against the defaulters without any option. The PSWC alone has a claim of crores of rupees outstanding against various millers on account of defalcation of its paddy where police action is required. There is urgent need to issue directions to the police by the state government not to delay such cases and to bring to book the accused promptly so that others may not be encouraged to resort to similar nefarious activities.

It is clear that the procurement agencies in general and the PSWC in particular are caught up in a situation where the High Court has to be approached every time to get the wheels of law moving.

“This is indeed a sorry state of affairs”, says Mr Akshar Kumar. “It also reflects the utter failure of the state government to get the FIRs registered to safeguard the interests of the government. Even otherwise, the attitude of the police in flouting judicial directions as in the case of Kamboj Rice Mills, Jalalabad, where nothing has been done despite High Court orders, shows that there is a close nexus between the millers and police, much to the detriment of state exchequer.

Mr Akshar Kumar demanded a detailed inquiry in to the whole episode to determine the role of the police.

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