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
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
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
Accountability Commission. Jammu and Kashmir State
Of these complaints, 221 were pending in the
Jammu wing of the Commission and 88 in 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. Srinagar
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.