Commission of Inquiry will suggest govt on return of depositors’ money

Recently, the Odisha government asked Justice R K Patra to head a commission to probe into the chit fund scam in the state. In a tête-à-tête with the channel Justice Patra said that the commission will ensure small depositors get justice. The Commission of Inquiry will recommend the state government on ways to return depositors’ money.

Q: Reports say more than one lakh investors of Odisha have been duped by the chit fund companies. My question is, can a judicial commission give them justice? Also, since the state government has asked you to submit the probe report within three months, is it possible to submit it within the stipulated time?

A: I will try my best to ensure that depositors get back their money. As far as the report is concerned, it all depends upon the kind of evidence come to the fore. I will try to submit the report as soon as possible.

Q: The Commission doesn’t have power like a vigilance team or police to conduct a probe. How will you take up the cases?

A: During the inquiry, I can ask police or any probe agency to help me in the investigation process. The Commission has the power of a Civil Court and I can exercise those powers.

Q: Three different agencies – Commissionerate Police, Vigilance team and you – are investigating the chit fund scam and its most likely that three different reports will come out. Don’t you think a conflict will arise out of that?

A: See, police investigation will be confined to find out who are involved in the crime. Mostly, they can file charge sheet of forgery and cheating. The police investigation will not include how depositors will get back their money, whereas the Commission of Inquiry can recommend the government on return of depositors’ money.

Q: Going by reports, many influential people are involved in this chit fund scam. Even names of bureaucrats have been mentioned by the government in the term of reference which was given to you. Though there have been reports in the media about the involvement of politicians in the scam, there are no such names in the term of reference. Will you be able to unravel the nexus between chit fund officials and politicians?

A: ‘Influential person’ term is wider than politicians. During my inquiry I will try my best to expose influential persons or bureaucrats involved in this scam.

Q: How depositors will get back their money?

A: The term of reference also mentioned about how depositors will get back their money. Chit funds must have deposited investors’ money somewhere in banks. Our probe will find out the details of their investment.

I might take help from a chartered accountant to find out how much money investors have lost.

Q: Opposition Congress is demanding for a CBI inquiry into the chit fund scam. Do you think CBI inquiry will be more effective than crime branch?

A: Be it CBI or Crime Branch, their scope of investigation is limited. They cannot recommend anything to the state government. They can only file charge sheet against the accused after the investigation.

Q: How will you look at the judiciary in Odisha? What kind of changes do you want in the system?

A: In Odisha, the judiciary system is good. However, many cases are still pending in the courts across the State. Besides, there is shortage of judges and many times judges are not interested to dispose cases quickly.

The solution lies with the Chief Justice. As head of the institution, he/she can ask judges to dispose cases within a reasonable time.