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Friday, March 27, 2015

Mufti Govt. mulling Crime Branch probe into Rs 30 cr solar energy scam established by CAG

Minister Ruhullah cancelled supply order but J&KEDA officers still purchased solar lights worth Rs 11.24 crore from blacklisted firm

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Jammu, March 26: The State Finance Ministry, now operating under Dr Haseeb Drabu, is understood to be considering Crime Branch investigation into the Rs 30 crore solar lights scandal involving top officials of the Jammu and Kashmir Energy Development Agency [J&KEDA].

Well-placed sources in Finance Department revealed to this writer on Thursday that over the last one year, auditors of the State Accountant General’s office have investigated a major embezzlement of the funds provided by the Centre for setting up solar light units in the villages not covered by the Power Development Department. It has been established during the investigation that almost all these units, installed with the financial support of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, have been provided to the people of the electrified villages on the recommendation of different politicians and officers.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India [CAG] has compiled a detailed report on this investigation which is likely to figure in the CAG report being tabled in both Houses of J&K Legislature here on Friday.

While the National Conference President and former Lok Sabha member from Central Kashmir, Dr Farooq Abdullah, headed the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, NC’s Budgam MLA Aga Syed Ruhullah functioned as Cabinet Minister incharge Science and Technology in Omar Abdullah’s government in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to the sources, top J&KEDA officials in 2009 planned to place a major supply order for procurement of the solar lighting equipment with a blacklisted firm while bypassing Mr Ruhullah. Immediately after the Minister learned about it, he ordered cancellation of the supply order in November 2009. Still, in violation of all rules and norms, the J&KEDA officers proceeded with the scandal and purchased equipment worth Rs 11.24 crore from the same blacklisted firm. Tactfully, the supply order was broken into 13 different parts to escape notice of the Minister and others not involved in the fraudulent acquisition.

In addition to that, the J&KEDA officers placed similar supply orders with other beneficiary firms to the tune of Rs 16.92 crore in gross violation of terms and conditions of different quotations.

“CAG is understood to have established a fraud of Rs 28.16 crore. The new government is seriously considering handing over this case to the Crime Branch for a time-bound criminal investigation”, said a senior bureaucratic source. “But, let us wait and see what the CAG report says about this exercise”. “Possibly”, he said, “this investigation may be assigned to Crime Branch after a scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee”.

Rs 1.75 crore to 3 private schools

Meanwhile, officials in the Ministry of School Education said that the AG auditors also carried out a thorough investigation into the financial assistance provided by the previous government to three private schools in Kashmir.

“We have been told that Rs 1.75 crore has been provided to the three private schools, one of them owned by the wife of a senior Congress leader and former Union Minister. It has been provided on political recommendations and in total violation of rules and norms. But, we don’t know whether the CAG report contains anything on it or not”, said an official.

Significantly, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-BJP coalition government has decided to table this year’s CAG report in Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council well ahead of the last day of the Budget session. Almost all previous governments had invariably retained the CAG reports for weeks between the Finance Ministry and Raj Bhawan and presented the same not before the last day of the Budget session, obviously to escape debate in the Legislature.


Mufti government embarrassed over recommending 'retired ASP' as PSC member

Raj Bhawan returns panel with serious observations

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, March 25: In its first major goof up after taking over on March 1 in the Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's PDP-BJP coaltion government has recommended a "retired additional Superintendent of Police" for the membership of the prestigious State Public Service Commission (PSC). It has been virtually turned down by Raj Bhawan which has raised serious questions over the way Mufti's government has laboured under favouritism in recommending members for the top Constitutional body.

Cabinet on March 15 had cleared six names to fill up some vacancies in the PSC which has become defunct after retirement of its Chairman and all the eight members in the last several years. Mufti's government had subsequently recommended six nominations to the Governor who is the competent authority to appoint Chairman and members for the autonomous body that makes selection of gazetted officers for the State government. While as the Chairman of PSC is by law equivalent to the rank and status of Chief Secretary, men and women of eminence in public service, not above 65 years of age, are normally appointed as members.

Currently Vice Chairman in J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, Lateef-uz-Zamaan Deva, has been recomnended as Chairman. Sources said that Raj Bhawan, which had issued a special release of advice while rejecting the recommendations of Omar Abdullah government in December 2014, was not satisfied even with Mr Dev's nominations as being from 1984 batch of Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS), he is holding the rank of only a Secretary to government and is junior to dozens of senior IAS officers manning the higher positions of Commissioner-Secretary, Principal Secretary and Financial Commissioner.

Significantly, even a senior IAS officer of 1982 batch, Khursheed Ahmad Ganai, who is currently holding rank of FC (equivalent to Chief Secretary, has worked as additional Secretary in Union government and is due to retire later this year, failed to become PSC Chairman when Governor turned down Omar government's panel of nominees.

However, questions were not raised over Mr Deva's nomination by Mufti government as he has retained reputation of an upright officer and is known for honesty and integrity. Mr Deva has been inducted into IAS with effect from the year 2002.

Rishi Kumar Dogra, G.R. Bhagat, Prof. Mushtaq Wani, retired academic Indu Kilam and retired KAS officer Munshi Muzaffar Hussain have been recommended as members by the Mufti government.

Questioning the "due diligence" of the General Administration Department (GAD), which functions directly under the control of Chief Secretary and Chief Minister, Governor is said to have pointed out how even the junior officials with no significant contribution to public or civil service have also been recommended for appointment. Highly placed official sources revealed that the Governor's observation was based on a "heap of complaints" received by Raj Bhawan.

In some of the complaints, it has been highlighted that Rishi Kumar Dogra had joined the feeding stream of Kashmir Police Service as Dy SP in 1984 when he was in service as a teacher. He remained "absconding" for about 11 years when he was posted as Dy SP District Armed Reserve in Leh. His services were subsequently terminated by the government .

However, during Mufti's government in 2003, Mr Dogra surfaced with a submission and court order that he may be taken back into the government. With a break of 12 years in his service, he was allowed to join back and posted on a vacancy of Dy SP in Sher-e-Kashmir Police Academy Udhampur. Director of academy, Mr Masood Chowdhary, upon retirement and appointment as Vice Chancellor Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, got Mr Dogra on deputation as Officer on Special Duty in the University. He held office at the university's Jammu office at Sainik Colony. It has been pointed out by the complainants that Mr Dogra, who was neither "Professor" nor held a sensitive government position where his integrity could be at test, retired only as an additional SP.

It has been pointed out in one of the complaints that after his retirement as a junior rung State officer, G.R. Bhagat had publicly joined a political party. Photographs of the National Conference workers putting garlands on Mr Bhagat at Sher-e Kashmir Bhawan of Jammu, have been mailed to Raj Bhawan. However, Mr Bhagat is on record to have contradicted his joining any political party.

According to knowledgeable sources, to avoid further embarrassment, Government was likely to push only Mr Deva's nomination as Chairman. "A fresh panel is likely to be cleared by the Cabinet and submitted to Raj Bhawan", said a source who insisted that "extensive lobbying" was going on in favour of and against different individuals. Governor N.N. Vihra is understood to have made it clear that any nominations based merely on somebody's political or bureaucratic clout, would not be endorsed. "Parameters of merit, integrity, competence and public reputation, as laid down in different Supreme Court judgments and ordere in the last few years for such appointments, will be strictly adhered to", said a senior Raj Bhawan source.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NC MLC disturbs Mufti’s Govt on non-existent “Disturbed Areas Act”

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Jammu, March 24: The opposition National Conference member Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri generated a high voltage drama in the Upper House of Legislature in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir while floating a resolution---followed by an adjournment motion---on Tuesday for revocation of a law that has ceased to exist after October 1998.

The special law--- initially titled in Governor’s Rule in 1990 as “The Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, 1990 (Governor's Act No. 12 of 1990; in President’s Rule in 1992 as “The Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, 1992” and in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s civilian government in 1997 as “The Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, 1997---had given special powers to magistrates and officers of the armed branch of J&K Police for fighting militancy.
Being of temporary nature and subject to legislative review, the law expired on October 7, 1998, when Dr Abdullah’s government and following governments did not grant it’s enforcement any extension.

Veeri’s resolution, which was disallowed by Legislative Council Secretariat for being non-existent, read: “This august House resolves that in view of improving security environment in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, “Disturbed Areas Act” may be revoked with immediate effect in the larger interest of people of the State”.

Veeri pressed the matter in the House while bringing a motion, seeking adjournment of the Question Hour and a special debate on the laws that grant extraordinary powers and immunity against “any act done in good faith” by officers of Police and armed forces. Council officials said it was pending disposal with Chairman Amrit Malhotra whose is from Congress party and whose term would end on March 27.
With most of the people, including those in media, politics and bureaucracy, being little educated about the law, rejection of Veeri’s resolution generated a debate in different circles, particularly on television news channels. It was projected as if the PDP-BJP, headed by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was averse to a debate on the issue of special powers enjoyed by the armed forces. It forced the government to issue an official clarification in the evening, making it clear that the DAA had ceased to exist after October 7, 1998, and as such there could be no debate on its “revocation”.

The clarification has obviously put the NC MLC in an embarrassing situation. Not perhaps properly educated and prepared for a discussion on the subject, the MLC possibly wanted revocation of the two notifications, issued by Governor in 1990 and 2001, declaring entire State of J&K, excluding the Ladakh districts of Leh and Kargil, as “Disturbed Areas”, under Section 3 of a different law that granted special powers to the officers of the central armed forces fighting armed rebellion in the State.
The law related to the special powers of the military and paramilitary forces, including Air Force personnel engaged in counterinsurgency operations, was initially titled as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.  It came into force on July 5, 1990, and was notified by Governor Girish Chander Saxena’s government on July 6, when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister.

Section 3 of AFSPA authorises the Governor, but more significantly also the Central government, to declare any areas of the State as “Disturbed Areas) so as to grant special powers to the armed forces. The Governor’s notification was published under signature of Additional Chief Secretary (Home) J&K Government vide SRO NO. SW 4, Dated 6-7, 1990, in the State Gazette. It declared all six districts of Kashmir province---Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag and Pulwama---besides areas falling in the 20 Km strip on the LoC in Jammu’s Poonch and Rajouri districts as “Disturbed Areas” and granted special powers to the central armed forces.
AFSPA-1990 received President’s assent on September 10, 1990. It was published by Legislative Department of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice in an extraordinary gazette of the Government of India on September 11, 1990.

The President issued a Proclamation on the 8th July 1990 under Article 356 of the Constitution of India, in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir declaring inter alias that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament. Parliament, under Article 357(1)(a) of the Constitution, conferred on the President, the powers of the Legislature of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to make the laws vide the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature (Delegation of Powers) Act, 1992 (21 of 1992), as Governor had dissolved the State Assembly, following Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s resignation, in 1990. In 1992, Parliament ratified the Governor’s law as AFSPA-1992 in to-to.
When Dr Abdullah came back to power in 1996, his government left the AFSPA intact and the Governor’s “Disturbed Areas” notification, dated July 6, 1990, in force. It was never amended or repealed by the successive governments either.

On August 10, 2001, Governor, on the recommendation of Dr Abdullah’s Cabinet, declared all six districts of Jammu division---Jammu, Kathua, Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Doda----as “Disturbed Areas” vide SRO 351. It was issued by Principal Secretary Home vide No: Home-219/97-ISA Dated 10.8.2001.
It is by virtue of these two notification, both issued under Section 3 of AFSPA, that Central armed force are enjoying extraordinary powers in Kashmir and Jammu provinces.

 Extraordinary powers under AFSPA
Under AFSPA, any commissioned or non-commissioned officer or warrant officer, is authorised

“(a) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of  things capable of being used as weapons or of firearms, ammunition or explosive substances;

(b) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which  armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made, or any structure used as training camp for armed volunteers or utilized as a hide-out by armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence; 

(c) arrest, without warrant, any persons who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest; 

(d) enter and search, without warrant, any premises to make any such arrest as aforesaid or to recover any person believed to be wrongful restrained or confined or any property reasonably suspected to be stolen property or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances believed to be unlawful kept in such premises, and may for that purpose use such force as may be necessary, and seize any such property, arms, ammunition or explosive substances”.

Besides, no criminal proceedings can operate under any such officer as all of the officers’ acts during counterinsurgency conditions are deemed to have been done “in good faith”.




National Conference MLC Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri today brought a resolution in Legislative Council seeking revocation of "Disturbed Area Act" in J&K. It was disallowed with the reply that the DAA has expired in 1998 and it does no more exist. It is a fact that Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act 1992 [Act No: 4 0f 1992], which was originally titled and enforced as Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act 1990 [Governor's Act No: 12 of 1990], and which gave special powers to Police and other forces not covered under J&K AFSPA 1990, has lapsed on 7-10-1998. Successive governments of Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Governor Vohra and Omar Abdullah have not extended this law after 1998.

However, it appears, the MLC actually wanted the notifications, under which J&K areas have been declared as "Disturbed" and brought under purview of J&K AFSPA 1990, to be repealed. For that purpose, the MLC should have specifically called for revocation of Governor's Notification No: SW: 4 Dated 6th July 1990 (which declared all 6 districts of Kashmir valley as also 20 Km strip along LoC in Poonch and Rajouri as "Disturbed Areas" under Section:3 of Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1990) and also revocation of Governor's Notification SRO: 351 Dated 10th August 2001 (which declared all six districts of Jammu division as "Disturbed Areas" under Section 3 of J&K AFSPA 1990). If such a resolution is brought and passed by Assembly, it will force the State Government to send the Notification of Revocation to Governor [under section 3 of J&K AFSPA 1990] who is then bound to revoke the said notifications. Once that is done, no armed forces in J&K can have any special powers.

Let it also be clear that AFSPA 1958, which is in force in some North Eastern States of India, has never been and will never be applicable/ in force in J&K State. That is a completely irrelevant law with regard to J&K.

However, the most significant point of AFSPA 1990, passed by Parliament and enforced by Union Home Ministry when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was Union Home Minister, is that the Governor has wrongfully given the State's sovereign power in the hands of the Central Government. J&K AFSPA 1990 gives the power of declaring an area as "Disturbed" to Governor (who any way has to function under the advice of State Cabinet) as well as to GOVERNMENT OF INDIA. This encroachment of the State's sovereign jurisdiction, which has been shifted to New Delhi under the direction of then Home Minister Mufti Sayeed, needs to be amended. It needs simple majority in J&K Legislature. Since Mufti Sahab is now CM, he should himself initiate it alongwith revocation of the two Governor's notifications (under section 3 of J&K AFSPA) in which Central government has no power to resist____Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Monday, March 23, 2015

Amid anti-Pak slogans, J&K Legislature condemns fidayeen attacks

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Jammu, March 22: Notwithstanding a walkout by the opposition National Conference (NC), which insisted on a special debate, both Houses of the State Legislature in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday condemned the previous week’s twin fidayeen attacks in Jammu.

Legislative Assembly, followed by Legislative Council, passed separate resolutions urging New Delhi to impress upon the Government of Pakistan to take “all measures for preventing such dastardly acts in future for a lasting peace in the region so that the initiatives towards peace do not get derailed and allow the people of Jammu & Kashmir to get the dividends of peace process”.

“The House, which is the most legitimate democratic institution representing the aspirations of the people of the State, resolves that the movement for peace and reconciliation will be carried forward with full force and the enemies of people will be defeated”, said the resolution.

Proceedings in the Assembly were marred in the very beginning as members of Congress, NC as well as the ruling BJP, created ruckus over the twin strikes in which nine people, including four militants, died in Kathua and Samba districts on Friday and Saturday. Congress and BJP members, all from Jammu, shouted anti-Pakistan slogans even as the former contended that the PDP-BJP government’s policies had raised the morale of the separatists and the militants had executed such type of attacks after a long time.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed intervened with his strong condemnation of the fidayeen strikes and announced that the Legislature would pass a resolution and impress upon the Centre to convey to Islamabad, “which itself is embroiled with terrorism”, to ensure that such attacks did not subvert the peace process. “Pakistan’s establishment shall have to control it. Otherwise how can the vehicle of peace surge forward?” he said.

Mufti referred to General Musharaf’s period and recalled that “not a single incident of terror happened from Kargil to Kathua in those six years”. He said that the J&K Assembly had the “biggest representative character” as its elected members had come with a massive mandate. It said Assembly would take a call and convey to Pakistan through New Delhi that such incidents would have to stop. “The relations between India and Pakistan won’t improve if such incidents continue to happen,” he said, while calling for a greater vigil on the borders to prevent such attacks.

While asserting that such dastardly acts are timed to subvert the peace process that has lately resumed between India and Pakistan, Mufti said such forces were desperate to disturb peace in the region. They won’t be allowed to succeed, he said. “If we have to carry forward the process of reconciliation, such incidents should not be repeated”.

“We have invested a lot in the peace process. There are some rogue elements which in the name of religion are carrying out such acts. These elements will not be allowed to damage the fabric of peace in the State,” Chief Minister said.

NC walkout

NC MLAs disagreed with CM’s suggestion of merely passing a resolution. They demanded adjournment of the business and a special debate on the status of internal security besides circumstances leading to the fidayeen attacks. Speaker Kavinder Gupta did not admit the motion. Thereupon, all the NC MLAs led by Omar Abdullah staged a walkout in protest.