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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SIC suffered for Wajahat, SAC shouldn’t for Kakroo

5 judges are eligible for Chairman SAC, 17 for two vacancies of members

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 18: Previous coalition government’s much hyped integrity watchdog, Jammu & Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC), has been completely defunct since June 2008 when its last member, Justice Muzaffar Jan, reached superannuation. One of the two members, Justice Girdhari Lal Raina, had retired few months earlier. SAC’s first and the last Chairman, Justice R P Sethi, had earlier tendered his resignation on 4th of May, 2006, when Government appointed two members for the Commission without taking its head into confidence.

Ostensibly to make the politicians---Ministers, legislators---accountable, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government had constituted SAC in July 2005. A retired judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice Sethi was appointed its first Chairman in August 2005.

 In less than a year, SAC established its credibility when Sethi proceeded against a number of former and sitting Ministers, besides many legislators, in a no-nonsense manner. After Sethi stepped down in May 2006, Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government delegated powers of the Chairman to one of the two members and allowed it to function for some time. Successive governments have not appointed SAC’s Chairman in the last 60 months and no member has been in office in the last 35 months. This serves as a statement on the successive governments’ will to eradicate corruption.

Section 3 sub section 4 of J&K State Accountability Commission Act makes it incumbent upon the government to fill up the vacancies without wasting any time. “A vacancy occurring in the institution of Accountability Commission should be filled in as soon as possible”, says the law.

“We are looking for a suitable Chairman and members” has been invariably the reply whenever any journalist or legislator attempted to learn what a government was up to. “There is an understanding between all political parties. In Mufti’s and Azad’s time, SAC was not allowed to strike on the NC. Now, in NC’s regime, nobody in Mufti’s party would be disturbed. Congress is secure in either regime. They don’t want a Mayawati-Mulayam or Jayalalithaa-Karunanidhi type conflict in J&K”, says a senior mainstream politician from South Kashmir.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah revealed in reply to CPI (M) State Secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami’s question in Legislative Assembly in March this year that there were as many as 309 complaints pending before the defunct SAC. His reply elaborated that 309 complaints of corruption, misuse of power, bribes, misappropriation, bunglings and illegal appointments involving several present and former Ministers, sitting and former MLAs and bureaucrats had been pending disposal with effect from September 2005 till ending January 2011 in Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission.

Of these complaints, 221 were pending in the Jammu wing of the Commission and 88 in Srinagar wing and majority of these cases were in hearing and evidence stages besides proceedings in several cases had been stayed by the State High Court.

Like the SAC, successive governments did not appoint Chairman for the State Information Commission (SIC) for a pretty long time. For nearly two years, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said repeatedly that he was getting head of Government of India’s Central Information Commission (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah. That never happened, even after Habibullah’s term at the Centre ended. Finally, under great deal of pressure from civil society, Omar’s government appointed former Chief Income Tax Commissioner, Ghulam Rasool Sofi, as SIC’s first Chairman. Neither of the two commissioners has been appointed till date.

Even as currently there are five judges, who could be considered for headship of SAC, and 17 more, who could be appointed as members, Government has not undertaken any exercise for making the commission functional. A retired/serving judge of Supreme Court or a retired/serving Chief Justice of High Court can be appointed as SAC’s Chairman. In addition to these, any of the retired/serving judges of
Supreme Court/High Court
or a retired/serving Chief Justice of High Court or any permanent judge of High Court can be appointed as its member subject to the age bar of 70 years.

Former CJ of Jharkhand High Court, Justice Vinod Gupta, former CJ of Orissa High Court, Justice Bilal Nazki, former CJ of J&K High Court, Justice Bashir Ahmed Khan, and sitting judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice T S Thakur, are all sons of the soil. However, political consensus has been elusive in case of any of them, according to well placed authoritative sources.

By all indications, Government seems to be waiting for superannuation of Mr Justice Nisar Ahmed Kakroo who is scheduled to retire as Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court at the end of October 2011. Justice Kakroo exceptionally has the advantage of being the favourite of not only the ruling National Conference (NC) but also both factions of the state Congress. Justice Kakroo’s proximity to Prof Saifuddin Soz has been no secret in J&K. Former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad demonstrated his respect and liking for Justice Kakroo on a number of occasions. NC has been his political alma mater before he was picked up by Dr Farooq Abdullah for the coveted position of Advocate General in 1988.

Even as no visible exercise is underway, sources insist that Mr Justice Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, who is retiring as a judge of J&K High Court in July this year, Mr Justice Pramod Kohli of Punjab and Haryana High Court besides the retired High Court judges, Bashir Ahmed Kirmani and Y P Nargotra, could be potential candidates for the two vacancies of members in the SAC. Many of the government’s well-wishers insist that it should not lose any more days in reviving the SAC.

“If the political parties have consensus on Justice Kakroo, he should be asked to take voluntarily retirement and join as early as possible”, said a senior politician. He asserted that SAC should not suffer for Justice Kakroo the way SIC did for Wajahat Habibullah.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


What about J&K’s Rajas and Kalmadis?

Govt’s support of silence to corruption may prove worse than a violent summer

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 17: That Jammu & Kashmir is enjoying a special (read exceptionally special) status among all Indian states is, in recent times, evident from the fact that the political establishment is unfazed by the trouble A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi have landed in over charges of corruption against them. With everybody from Srinagar to New Delhi being concerned only about the threat of a “hot summer”, corruption, nepotism, favouritism and governance deficits are growing to menacing proportions in the strife-torn state.

Call it irony or paradox but the fact remains that people indulging in corruption, nepotism and favouritism---in both politics as well as bureaucracy---are feeling themselves most secure in Chief Minister’s “Year against Corruption”. Observers, who had expected radical changes in the officialdom with the appointment of a neat and clean Chief Secretary, are now visibly losing faith. Administrative vandalism and anarchy, that had become hallmarks of previous bureaucratic dispensation headed by Sham Singh Kapur, are all intact.

Ironically, in the CM’s “Year against Corruption”, everybody involved in one or the other matter of malpractice---from Srinagar Sex Scandal to Gulmarg Roshi Scandal---has been reinstated and rehabilitated with vengeance. Those fearing arrest and running from pillar to post for getting anticipatory bails in 2009 not only continuing to hold key positions but are now dictating terms to the government. The key accused in Gulmarg Scam, who had been removed temporarily and attached to GAD, was rehabilitated in the thick of Budget session of Legislature in March. He was given prize posting of his choice and the department of a Minister who happens to be the bureaucrat’s close relative.

The impunity and lack of accountability in the bureaucracy reached a level where the state’s Law Secretary found it easy to rope in one of his close friends in the Public Service Commission for the appointment of his own son as an Assistant Legal Remembrancer. Clearly, the scheme was to push a blue-blooded boy on the course where he would become the state’s Law Secretary with the ascendancy of three promotions in the next 12 years. Interviews were held on April 16th and the results have not been declared in the last 30 days.

This newspaper documented dozens of matters of irregularity and malpractices adopted during selection of gazetted officers in different streams by the PSC. Even the High Court observed how vacancies were being clubbed illegally (so as to pick up favourites from tail-ends of merit lists) and summarily quashed entire selection list of Veterinary Assistant Surgeons. Government did not initiate any action against the officials, let alone Members who claim immunity. Till date, there has been no explanation from the government as to how an IAS officer’s disobedience and contempt to a Cabinet order was being tolerated and why nobody had been appointed as Controller---leading to amalgamation of the posts of Controller and Secretary that is being widely viewed as the result of lobbying by influential politicians and bureaucrats who wanted required marks for their low-merit wards in the personality tests.

It was lucidly documented how an official of Auqaf in Jammu allotted a shop to his own wife, how an Executive Officer of Department of Local Bodies, Kashmir, appointed his own son and how another Executive Officer issued order of appointment in favour of his own wife in the same department---well during Omar Abdullah’s government. One of the accused has been temporarily attached but there has been no action against the officers who have appointed over 2,000 people through backdoor in the same department during the last two years alone. This is in addition to 5,000 backdoor appointees of Mufti and Azad-led governments that the Minister of Urban Development has been complaining of from day one.

Again, during the CM’s “Year against Corruption”, all the senior officers of SKUAST-Jammu have been taken off the hook and given a clean chit by the incumbent Vice Chancellor in a serious matter of embezzlement inspite of the fact that sanction of prosecution of the same officials had been previously issued from the same office.

Making a mockery of the entire system of bureaucracy, there has been no action against an official of Transport Department who was found to have been fraudulently appointed as a junior assistant and meteorically elevated to the position of Deputy Transport Commissioner in a short span of time. There was not even a departmental inquiry into the mysterious disappearance of 50,000 driving licences this particular official had issued, at the rate of over 200 per day, while holding the charge of ARTO Udhampur and Doda. Nobody in the government has been questioned over the dubiously conducted induction of the same official into Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS).

To cap it all, Governor and Chief Minister last week conferred the prestigious State Award on an official against whom CBI has two corruption-related FIRs for investigation in hand. This happened on the day Early Times documented incontrovertible details and everybody in the government was in knowledge of the awardee’s tainted profile. Government did not bother even to issue an ambiguous “clarification” in defence. His Excellency offered smiles and whispered greetings into the ear of the CBI-tainted official, as if rubbishing all media reports.

These are few well-documented examples and perhaps a tip of the iceberg. Treating individuals more important than institutions has been unmistakably the biggest root cause of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.

(To be continued….)


EU refuses to meet Osama mourners in Kashmir

Delegation’s appointment with Hurriyat (G), Bar Association withdrawn on US caveat

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 14: On a day of Valley’s lukewarm response to Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call for shutdown, a diplomatic delegation of the European Union refused to meet the separatist hardliners in Kashmir. Taking exception to the hardliners’ policy of submitting demands to the USA and EU but paying tributes to the slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama-Bin-Laden, the visiting diplomatic delegation today withdrew its appointments with Geelani, as well as High Court Bar Association (HCBA), and spent the day in visiting a number of pro-India politicians and the government functionaries like Director General of Police.

Informed sources revealed to Early Times that the EU delegation had confirmed its schedule of meetings with Hurriyat (G) and HCBA, respectively at Geelani’s Hyderpora residence and a luxury hotel on Gupkar Road. Even as the hosts kept waiting for hours, J&K Police’s liaison officer with the EU delegation communicated to Geelani’s and Advocate Mian Qayoom’s radical organizations that the appointments had been withdrawn. Spokespersons of both the outfits maintained that the EU delegation did neither offer any reasons nor fix any fresh appointments.

After four-day-long visit to the Valley, the EU delegation is scheduled to return to New Delhi on Sunday. The delegation, comprising Deniel Smadja, EU’s Ambassador in India, Knneth Thampson, Ambassador of Ireland, Mrs Pierre Vaesan, Ambassador of Belgium, Philippe Gross, EU’s First Secretary, and Mrs Anne Vaugier Chatterge, Attache, European Delegation, called on Minister for Health, Sham Lal Sharma, and discussed with him several issues. Health sector remained focused in the discussion.

The Health Minister apprised the delegation about the medical care, facilities provided by the Government in looking for the people and the measures taken to improve and expand the facilities in the State. He also elaborated the achievements of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) programme launched in the State and the MCH schemes.

The delegation also called on the DGP, Kuldeep Khoda, at the new Police Headquarters on Srinagar-Airport Road. Sources said that the EU delegation had an exhaustive interaction with the DGP over the Valley’s latest situation and political developments. It also discussed conditions prevailing inside different jails. With the passage of time, the EU delegation conveyed to the two organizations that there would be no meeting with them, at least today.

Even as the delegation did not specify any reasons for cancellation of the two scheduled meetings with Hurriyat (G) and Advocate Mian Qayoom-led HCBA, informed sources revealed that hours before the two appointments, Embassy of the United States of America in New Delhi conveyed objections to the EU delegation’s scheduled meeting with Geelani and HCBA. According to sources, it was specifically pointed out that Geelani, HCBA chief Mian Abdul Qayoom and Democratic Freedom Party head, Shabir Ahmed Shah, had not only participated in Osama-Bin Laden’s funeral prayers in Srinagar last fortnight but also extolled him publicly as “a hero of Islam”. Reports suggested that leaders of both the sidelined organizations were “hurt and disappointed” over the cancellation of the appointment.

On the other hand, the delegation had a detailed meeting on the latest obtaining situation in J&K, India and Pakistan, at the new Mirwaiz Manzil in Nageen. Senior leaders of so-called moderate faction of the Hurriyat, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Gani Lone, joined the host, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in the meeting. However, the only hardliner on the “moderate faction”, Shabir Ahmed Shah, was conspicuously absent. Hurriyat leaders insisted that Shah was currently on a tour in Jammu.

Scheduled to conclude its four-day-long visit and return to New Delhi on Sunday, the EU delegation has met with a large number of the mainstream politicians, including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Minister of Forest Mian Altaf Ahmed, NC’s Lok Sabha member from South Kashmir, Dr Mehboob Baig, PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti, CPI (M) State Secretary, M Y Tarigami and the National Panthers Party supremo, Prof Bhim Singh. It also interacted with leaders of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith, Coalition of Civil Society and the State Human Rights Commission chief, Retd Justice Bashir-ud-din.