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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bhubaneswar: Justice MM Das Commission entrusted with the task of identification of depositors affected by the chit fund scam in the state has stopped hearing on new affidavits from Tuesday. A notice informing the same has been seen displayed in the Commission's office at Buxi Bazar, Police line in Cuttack.

Set up on July 9, 2013 to identify the depositors as per the terms of reference provided by the state government for a judicial enquiry into the massive chit fund scam, the tenure of the Commission was last extended on August 2, 2019 for a period of six months. Though February 4, 2020 was the last working day of the Commission, the office was reportedly running till March 3, 2020 anticipating a government order to extend it further.

Evidently, the order didn’t come as happened many times before and the office has to be closed pushing the fate of many depositors into uncertainty.

As per reports, the Commission had sought permission from the government to extend it for few more months, but apparently, no order was issued in this regard.

The notice displayed at the Commission’s office read, “In view of non-receipt of orders of the government extending the tenure of the Commission till date, the Commission shall not hold sittings from March 3, 2020 until further orders.”

As far as the performance of the Commission was concerned, people say that it had managed to perform at par the expectations given the ever changing terms of reference that were issued by the government from time to time. It has managed to identify more than 4, 97,000 small depositors in the seven interim reports submitted with the state government over the years.

More than 8 lakh affidavits were submitted after the initial call by the Commission to submit the same before it in the first phase. Following which the interim reports were also submitted before the government. It has been reported that more than 7 lakh affidavits that were deposited with the Commission in the second phase are still pending for hearing.

Convenor of Chit Fund Khyatigrasta Milita Mancha, Jayant Das, said, “We knew the character of this government. By closing the Commission, Odisha government has effectively doused all the hopes of the depositors.”
“We will submit our demand letter to all the MLAs in the state from tomorrow including CM Naveen Patnaik,” added Das.

Meanwhile, veteran Congress leader Sura Routray slammed CM Naveen Patnaik for failing to refund the depositor’s money. He said, “What happened to that Rs 300 Crore corpus fund. Naveen Patnaik, a 5-time CM should be ashamed of himself for not refunding any money to the depositors.”

Similarly, BJP spokesperson, Golak Mohapatra alleged, “We knew that the government will never refund the money lost by depositors in the chit fund scam. BJD leaders are involved in it, so it’s impossible for them to return money.”

However, refuting all the allegations, BJD leader Ashwini Kumar Patra said, “A corpus fund was constituted for exactly the same reason. A lot of depositors had got back their deposits too. Opposition’s allegations are baseless.”

Notably, the Commission was initially constituted on July 09, 2013 with Justice Patra as the head of it and then Justice MM Das took over the reins from him to continue to head the Commission till now. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was also briefly involved in the enquiry and booked many high profile persons including some political leaders, who were either in jail or were out on bail.

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