Congress demands SIT probe into Odisha chit fund scam

Bhubaneswar, July 10 (IANS) Describing the judicial enquiry ordered by the state government into the alleged chit-fund scam in Odisha as "too little, too late", the Congress Wednesday demanded a thorough probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT).

Former minister and senior state Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik said a judicial enquiry is not a criminal investigation. A judge has no powers to collect evidence for prosecution of the guilty in a court of law, Patnaik said.

"There is an impression that the set of steps announced by the government is only to influence the course of the ongoing public interest litigations (PILs) in the Supreme Court and the Odisha High Court," Patnaik told reporters.

"Why were these steps not taken earlier, and why are they being taken now, coinciding with the court hearings," Patnaik asked.

He demanded a thorough probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under judicial supervision to prosecute the guilty.

Expressing happiness at the creation of a corpus fund by the government, Patnaik, however, wondered how Rs.300 crore can compensate a scam that is now estimated at Rs.10,000 crore.

The alleged chit fund scam came to light after several small investors complained that firms engaged in Ponzi schemes collected huge amounts of money from them, but later refused to pay back as promised.

The economic offence wing of the crime branch of Odisha Police was investigating the allegations.

Although police raided offices of several such companies and arrested a score of people for irregularities, the government had came under heavy attack from the opposition.

It had ordered a judicial probe and requested the Odisha High Court to spare a sitting judge.

The Odisha government Tuesday said it appointed former chief justice of the Sikkim High Court and former chairman of the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Justice R.K. Patra to head the panel that will probe the chit fund scam.

The appointment came after the high court turned down the state government's request.

The authorities also announced the creation of a corpus fund of Rs.300 crore to help chit fund victims in the state.

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