A high court division bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Partha Sarthy passed the order while hearing a PIL filed by Veterans’ Forum, a civil society, regarding alleged embezzlement of funds by affiliated/constituent colleges in the state.
The court directed the appointed advocates to conduct inspection in the offices of the vice-chancellors of B N Mandal University (Madhepura), Lalit Narain Mithila University (Darbhanga) and B R Ambedkar Bihar University (Muzaffarpur) and find out as to why no records for utilisation of UGC funds worth Rs 100 crore were maintained. It also wondered how the universities failed to return the unutilised funds to the UGC on time.
The division bench also directed the state government to take care of all amenities and security of the advocate commissioners appointed for the inspection. The PIL, filed four years back, complained about the embezzlement of UGC funds worth Rs 287 crore by several colleges in the state in connivance with various officials. “These are acts of malfeasance and misfeasance on the part of officials concerned,” the court observed.
The petitioner had alleged that altogether 325 colleges affiliated to eight universities in Bihar defaulted in submission of UCs against the expenditure of funds granted to them between 2007-2017.
Taking serious notice of financial irregularities, when the high court started passing slew of directions to university administration as well as UGC for initiating criminal as well as administrative action against the erring colleges, the unutilised funds kept for more than a decade suddenly started getting returned by the defaulting colleges.
It was only upon the orders of the high court that Rs 167 crore got settled by January 2020, either by refund or submission of UCs showing the exact expenditure incurred. A three-day mega camp was organised in Patna in August by the joint director of UGC for further settlement of unutilised funds.
The UGC’s counsel informed the court that after the 2017-18 financial year, the original scheme of advancing funds to the universities discontinued and a new system was introduced where the amount being spent by colleges/universities gets reimbursed after verification of said expenditures.
The high court has fixed December 15 as the next date of hearing in the case.