INFORMATION ACCESSED by The Indian Express under the RTI Act shows that the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana (BCPH) incurred an expenditure of Rs 94 lakh on its 2013 elections.
The elections were held in May-June 2013, during the chairmanship of Minderjeet Yadav, whose nine-month tenure from December 2012 to August 2013 is under the Bar Council of India (BCI) scanner for alleged financial irregularities.
Earlier the BCPH was to discuss the allegations against him and other two former BCPH chairmen, Randhir Singh Badhran and Rakesh Gupta, at a meeting last month. But the the three approached the BCI which restrained BCPH from discussing the allegations but has summoned the accounts for examination.
The Indian Express obtained the records through an RTI application and they show that of the Rs 94 lakh spent on the election, an expenditure of Rs 23 lakh was incurred on lunch alone for election staff from June 5-June 24, 2013.
The food came from Zirakpur-based M/s Delight Caterer, which has billed vegetarian lunch for 10 days at Rs 500 per plate for an average of 150 people and non-vegetarian lunch for the other 10 days at Rs 750 for the same number of people. Curiously, the BCPH has been billed for non-vegetarian only lunches on Thursdays, which is a no-meat day for many non-veg eating Hindus.
Apart from this, there are two separate lunch bills from the same catering store — on May 27, 2013, Delight Caterers billed the BCPH for Rs 3.14 lakh for 400 people lunch; just after three days on May 31, 2013, there was another lunch for 390 people for which the payment was Rs 1.89 lakh.
Rajat Gautam, BCPH’s current chairman, accepted that in the past few years there has not been proper audit of BCPH accounts. “We have already decided to conduct re-audit of the accounts for the last five years from an independent auditor,” he added. At the moment, the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana has funds totalling Rs 95 lakh, mainly from three sources — enrollment of new advocates, government grants and from the Bar Council of India.
The records also show election expenditure of Rs 44,431 on “refreshment and food”, Rs. 81,518 on stationary for the elections, and Rs 17,804 on printing and photostat. Among the 26 allegations that the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana recorded in its agenda for the November 8 meeting that were not discussed because of the Bar Council of India’s restraining order, one was that this stationery was not required and was bought
without approval of the Bar Council.
When The Indian Express contacted Yadav, he said, “Everything has been done to defame me, I only sign off on the bills after they are signed by the staff. Records are clear.”