The Delhi High Court on Wednesday expressed shock and wondered if there was some misappropriation of funds when it learnt that Prasar Bharati had no record of how it used Rs. 190 crore allocated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for telecast of awareness programmes on family planning and population control.
The court was even more surprised when Prasar Bharati said it has received Rs.190 crore and not Rs.160 crore, as stated in an RTI reply by the Union Health Ministry.
Prasar Bharati submitted that it did not keep any record of how the money was spent as 122 programmes were telecast from 30 different kendras and it was not possible to collate all the data of expenditure because there were many “hidden costs”.
A Bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar was hearing a petition by Satyanarain, who had sought details of how the money granted by the Health Ministry in 2012-13 for family planning awareness programmes on Doordarshan was utilised and how many shows were telecast.
While the petitioner had sought a record of Rs.160 crore as per the information received in an RTI reply from the Health Ministry, Prasar Bharati said in the court that it had received Rs.190 crore and even showed a record of having spent the money.
“How is it that they [Health Ministry] gave you Rs.160 crore and you spent Rs.190 crore? How has this discrepancy crept in?” the Bench asked the counsel for Prasar Bharati.
“There is a CAG report to show everything. We have telecast shows. But we don’t keep a record of how much money is spent on each aspect of a show,” said the counsel, adding that the Rs.190 crore figure had been reached as there were certain “hidden costs”.
To this, the Bench remarked: “If you don't have record of expenditure from that Rs.160 or Rs.190 crore, that means anyone can come take out the money and go. You must be having some record on how much you spent on production, on stage, etc., otherwise you can receive Rs.190 crore and spend it wherever.”
“We will simply say that Doordarshan is unable to give a clear picture of amount received and spent. You are not giving satisfactory answers. Why do you want to hide things,” the Bench asked as Prasar Bharati said collecting information sought by the petitioner would lead to diversion of funds. On Prasar Bharati saying that RTI Act does not apply to information which is not available, the Bench said this is a case of information not being collated and “it is about money for which there is no information”.
The Bench asked Prasar Bharati to collate all information on how the money was spent and fixed the matter for hearing on January 25.