The State Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau today arrested Barkha Ram Chaudhary,Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Theog forest range in Shimla district,for misappropriation of official funds meant for use under the Catchment Area Treatment (CAT) Plan.
The bungling came to light last week during surprise raids at forest offices,during which the Vigilance team caught Forest Range Officer Puran Chand Sharma red-handed. Sharma had stuffed Rs 60 lakhs in his bag after withdrawing it from the official bank account,after the sanction of the DFO.
Barkha Ram had applied for bail at the Himachal Pradesh High Court,which was rejected today,and the Vigilance Bureau took him under arrest. He has been booked for forgery,cheating and criminal conspiracy the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Sharmas bail application is scheduled for hearing on March 16. SP (Vigilance) Diljeet Singh confirmed Barkha Rams arrest.
After the case came to light,the DFO and the Forest Ranger had gone into hiding. After the recovery of Rs 60 lakh,Vigilance found some documents including forged vouchers and bills,on the basis of which the amount was withdrawn.
Sources say these documents supported the suspicion of Vigilance officers that the forest officers had planned to siphon government funds. Vigilance is investigating the role of lower forest officials in the case.
The DFO had given approval to the Ranger to withdraw Rs 38 lakh on the basis of allegedly forged vouchers. The rest Rs 22 lakh were withdrawn by the Ranger without supporting bills and vouchers.
A separate case is already under investigation regarding misappropriation of CAT plan funds in the Theog forest range.
A case against the DFO for possessing disproportionate assets and income is also pending for inquiry. Tracking past records,Vigilance has found that the same Range Officer was also involved in cases of illegal felling earlier.