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Friday, December 30, 2016

Massarat Alam released, re-arrested in another case

PDP-BJP coalition under fire for booking Alam on faulty grounds, “lackadaisical pursuance” of his case in High Court

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 29: Icon of the over four-month-long street turbulence of the year 2010 in Kashmir valley and a senior leader of the separatist group Muslim League, Massarat Alam Bhat, whose release in 2015 by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government had triggered off a major controversy at national level in the country, was released from a jail in Kathua on Thursday but re-arrested quickly in a different case registered against him in the Valley.

Official sources said that Bhat was released from a jail in Kathua two days after Mr Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar of the Jammu and High Court quashed his detention under the preventive law Public Safety Act (PSA) and ordered his release.

Sources said that Bhat was subsequently taken into custody and whisked away to a temporary detention centre of counterinsurgency wing of J&K Police (CIJ)in Miran sahib area of Ranbir Singhpura, Jammu. He was likely to be handed over to Kashmir Police who have reportedly sought his detention in a criminal matter.

Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani told STATE TIMES that Bhat was arrested in a different case. “We have arrested him in a different case. There are several cases registered against him in which he is wanted in Kashmir”, IGP Kashmir asserted.

After over five years of continued detention, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-BJP Government had released Bhat within days of assuming office in March 2015. He was, however, re-arrested and detained under PSA when his release triggered off a political controversy and immediately thereafter he organised a massive pro-Pakistan and anti-India demonstration in reception of the separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani outside the office of the Director General of Police on Srinagar Airport Road. "Haafiz Sayeed ka kya paigaam: Kashmir banega Pakistan" was Alam's lead slogan in the rally that waved a profusion of the Pakistani flags and set the tone for a new upheaval in the Valley.

As the courts quashed all of his PSA detentions and some orders expired, in the currently year Bhat was again detained under PSA on the charge that some separatist activists had deceitfully met him inside a jail in Baramulla in the month of August and received from him directions to strengthen the then blooming Burhan Wani turbulence across the Valley. His counsels challenged the detention in J&K High Court.

In the High Court junior Government advocates pursued and defended Bhat’s detention. On the other hand, senior advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom argued strongly against the detention and the State government lost its case on Tuesday when Justice Attar announced the judgment that had been reserved in the previous week. He ordered Bhat’s release “forthwith”.

Agreeing with the defence counsel, Justice Attar observed that the grounds of detention mentioned by the detaining authority (District Magistrate of Baramulla) were invalid and not sufficient to warrant preventive detention of any citizen. He observed that if four visitors had met Massarat Alam inside his Barrack No:8 in Sub Jail Baramulla instead of the detainee of Barack No: 7, Assadullah Parray of Hajan, who they had mentioned in the entry, Bhat could not be held responsible for meeting them.

“The allegation in the FIR and statements of all these Police personnel would, prima facie, show that all the Police authorities, posted at Sub Jail Baramulla, have failed to discharge their duties in accordance with law because it was within the competence and authority of these Police personnel to ensure that the visitors would meet only Shri Assadullah Parray, for meeting with whom they had sought permission and not the detenue (Bhat). The record does not show whether those persons have been arraigned as accused in FIR No: 258/2016 dated 3oth August, 2016. No material is placed on record to suggest that all those persons, after allegedly meeting the detenue, did actually indulge in such activities, which would either adversely impact security of the State or the public order. The record further does not show that what actually transpired between the detenue and those four persons in the alleged meeting they had with each other in the jail premises”, Justice Attar observed.

“The democratic societies not only swear but live by democratic values and principles. Even in the face of extreme provocations, the laws of the land are to be implemented. Laws possess unique quality, in as much as, they, even at times, protect those who break them. Thus they prove better than many human beings”, Justice Attar noted in his order, illustrating difference between a criminal detention and a preventive custody. He asserted that liberty of every citizen had been guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Thursday, December 29, 2016

First time in J&K’s history: CS, DGP from Jammu

Ahmed Ali Fayyyaz


JAMMU, Dec 28: For the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir since 1947, the State will be having both, Chief Secretary as well as Director General of Police, from Jammu province. And the distinction has by coincidence come at a time when BJP is ruling at the Centre and also partner in the coalition with the Kashmir-centric Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

With the appointment of Dr Shesh Pal Vaid (IPS-1986) as DGP in a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, J&K on January 1, 2017, will be having its heads of bureaucracy and Police both from Jammu. On September 1, 2015, Mr B.R. Sharma (IAS-1986) had taken over as Chief Secretary during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-BJP rule.

In the last 70 years, sons of soil in J&K have been simultaneously heads of the State bureaucracy and Police for 7 times — often for brief periods. While as the CS and DGP have been simultaneously four times from Kashmir, both have been never from Jammu.

For three days, from January 1 to January 3, Jammu will also retain the honour of having Chief Justice of India (Tirath Singh Thakur) from the province. In the post-47 history, Jammu has had one CJI (Dr Adarsh Sen Anand) and one Army chief (Gen N.C. Vij) from the Dogra heartland.

In 1954-1956, Chief Secretary Pir Ghulam Ahmad was from Kashmir and IGP (then designation of the State Police chief) Lt Col Baldev Singh Samial was from Jammu. In 1963-1964, Pir Ghulam Ahmad served as Chief Secretary briefly with IGP L.D. Thakur of Jammu.

In 1978-1979, Syed Muzaffar Aga of Kashmir served as CS and D.N. Kaul of Kashmir as IGP. In 1979-1980, Syed Muzaffar Aga was CS and Peer Ghulam Hassan Shah of Kashmir IGP. In 1980-1982, Noor Mohammad of Kashmir served as CS and Peer Ghulam Hassan Shah as IGP/DGP. In 1984-1985, Mir Nasrullah of Kashmir functioned as CS and Peer Ghulam Hassan Shah as DGP. Finally in 2007-2008, it was for a brief period that both CS (B.R. Kundal of Jammu) and DGP (Kuldeep Khuda of Kashmir) were permanent residents of the State.

Of the 12 State subject Chief Secretaries, 8 have been from Kashmir, three from Jammu and one from Ladakh. While as Pir Ghulam Ahmad served as CS from 14-06-1954 to 7-03-1964, the Chief Secretary’s seat was retained by P.N. Kaul from 27-03-1977 to 01-01-1978, S.M. Aga from 20-01-1978 to 30-04-1980, Noor Mohammad from 01-05-1980 to 31-12-1983, Mir Nasrullah from 01-01-1984 to 31-01-1986, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool from 21-09-1992 to 15-04-1994, S.S. Bloeria from 30-09-2002 to 31-07-2005, Vijay Bakaya from 01-08-2005 to 31-05-2006, C. Phonsog from 03-05-2006 to 31-10-2007, B.R. Kundal from 01-11-2007 to 02-06-2008 and Iqbal Khanday from 18-02-2013 to 31-08-2015. B.R. Sharma is functioning as CS since 01-09-2015.

Of the 8 State subject IGPs/DGPs in the 143-year-long history of J&K Police, 4 each have been from Kashmir and Jammu. Vaid is the 9th State subject and 5th from Jammu province to head the over 100,000-strong Police organisation. With total strength of 1,000 village watchmen, J&K Police had been informally raised by Maharaja in 1873. It had one head (Kotwal) and 14 Thanedars (SHOs), all in Srinagar. In 1913, an IP officer, Mr Broadway, borrowed from the British India government, was appointed its first IGP. In 1947, J&K Police was a 3,300-strong organisation. From 1913 to 1947, only one State subject, Col. Gandarabh Singh (1927-1931) functioned as IGP.

In the post-accession history, Lt Col Baldev Singh Samial of Jammu acted as IG of J&K Police from 01-11-1954 to 30-10-1956, L.D. Thakur of Jammu from 30-09-1963 to 27-07-1966, D.N. Kaul of Kashmir from 02-09-1977 to 03-09-1979 and Peer Ghulam Hassan Shah of Kashmir from 01-10-1979 to 24-05-1982. Mr Shah was designated as the first DGP on 25-05-1982 and he functioned as head of the state Police till 16-01-1985 when he had completed six months of his two-year extension but quit in protest as Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s government marginalised him to the ex-cadre position of Transport Commissioner. Thereafter Manmohan Khanjuria of Jammu served as DGP from 16-01-1985 to 20-05-1986.

Upon Khajuria’s retirement from service, Governor Jagmohan brought in Francis Thomas Raphael Colaso as DGP of J&K though he was only 49 year old and had not completed even 25 years of service in IPS. When he went back to the Centre on 21-05-1987, he was posted as IG in BSF. Just 6 months short of his retirement, he was appointed as DGP in his home State of Karnataka in 1995.

Ghulam Jeelani Pandit of Kashmir took over as DGP on 21-05-1987 and held that position till 20-12-1989. For 18 years, nobody from J&K headed J&K Police. Finally, Kuldeep Khuda of Kashmir served as DGP from 18-07-2007 to 31-05-2012.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

With Vaid, Mishra and Sahai in the race, Cabinet may pick up new DGP on Wednesday

Promoted IGPs likely to get posting, Uttam Chand may be cleared for Central deputation

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 26: Before the outgoing Police chief K Rajendra Kumar’s three-month extension would end on December 31, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in coordination with the BJP-led Centre is likely to pick up new Director General for the Jammu and Kashmir Police in a Cabinet meeting on December 28.

Well-placed sources in the coalition government insist that an interaction was already in progress between Ms Mufti and the Government of India, which could also take on board State and Central leadership of the BJP, for the appointment of the new DGP. If the sources are to be believed, names of three senior IPS officers of J&K cadre are currently under consideration and the consensus on the final choice could be churned out on Tuesday.

Sources said that senior BJP leaders Amit Shah and Ram Madhav were in favour of entertaining recommendations and objections from the State BJP leaders, even as the Central bureaucracy would like the exercise to remain “purely professional” with focus on seniority, suitability and individual merits and demerits of the three shortlisted candidates.

According to sources, DGP Coordination and Law & Order, Dr Shesh Pal Vaid (IPS-1986), DG Prisons S.K. Mishra (IPS-1985) and Shiv Murari Sahai (IPS-1987) were the three frontrunners. Of the three, Vaid has the advantage of being a son of the soil while as Mishra has the advantage of being the senior most IPS officer on the ladder after Rajendra and Sahai is rated exceptionally competent and experienced in handling the secessionist strife and cross-border terrorism.

Appointed in the prestigious National Security Council Secretariat in the Union Government earlier this year, Sahai is reportedly enjoying support from the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Deputy NSA and former Director of Intelligence Bureau Syed Asif Ibrahim, who is currently PM's special envoy to West Asia and Pakistan-Afghanistan region. Sahai has successfully served twice as IGP Kashmir, ADG Armed and ADG CID after holding key positions as SP and SSP in the executive Police in Kashmir. However, during the Burhan Wani turbulence, he had fallen out of the ring of favour and confidence of some influential Ministers and bureaucrats for his alleged proximity to a particular Cabinet Minister of Ms Mufti’s party.

Sahai’s real disadvantage, however, would be his being junior to five IPS officers, namely S.K. Mishra, S.P Vaid, D.R. Doley (1986), Navin Agarwal (1986) and V.K. Singh (1987). Of them, Doley and Agarwal are currently on Central deputation and V.K. Singh is ADG Headquarters.

Mishra has successfully served as SSP Srinagar in 1997-98 and lately completely an impressive term with BSF during which he played a key role in resolving India’s border dispute with Bangladesh. However, his disadvantage is his prolonged Central deputation during which his liaison with the officers and politicians in J&K, besides his practical knowledge of the people and their changing political sensibilities, remained minimal. He is rated as an unassuming, no-nonsense officer and a man of high integrity who has never landed in any controversy.

Apart from being the only son of the soil and a favourite of many of the influential Ministers in the two ruling parties, Vaid has the distinction of having served as SP, SSP, DIG and IGP in the most challenging circumstances. He has fought militancy from the front and once survived a deadly militant ambush when, as DIG North Kashmir, he was returning at midnight to Baramulla from Srinagar. He was injured in that attack near Hygam. Significantly, within a brief period, he was recalled from his posting of DG Prison and appointed back as DGP Coordination and Law & Order at Police Headquarters recently---a clear indication of his elevation to the top rung on the ladder after end of Rajendra’s extension.

Of the seven top officers, Mishra is due for retirement on Feb 28, 2019, while as Vaid would reach superannuation on October 10, 2019, Doley on May 31, 2019, Agarwal on July 31, 2021, V.K. Singh on September 30, 2021, and Sahai on March 31, 2023. VK Singh and Sahai would be completing the qualifying service for appointment as DGP in 2017.

Sources said that after necessary off-the-screen interactions between PDP and BJP, Cabinet was likely to pick up Mr Rajendra’s successor on Wednesday.  

Sources said that at least five DIGs, who had been promoted as IGP several months back, were likely to be given new postings in the December 28 meeting which could also clear Central deputation of Uttam Chand, DIG North Kashmir, for his subsequent posting in RAW.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, December 26, 2016

Good for PDP, bad for BJP: Centre orders withdrawal of 40 CRPF companies from J&K

Officials quote ‘improvement in situation, deployment for Punjab, UP elections’ as the reason

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 25: With the situation improving in Kashmir valley and the Assembly elections in Punjab and UP drawing nearer, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has ordered withdrawal of 40 CRPF companies from Jammu and Kashmir.

According to a communication received in the offices of the top Police and paramilitary officers in J&K on December 23, Government of India has ordered withdrawal of 40 companies of CRPF with effect from January 2, 2017. It has not specified the reason or purpose but emphasised that the paramilitary personnel of Punjab, UP, South India and North East based battalions should be withdrawn from J&K in the first phase of relocation.

Officials unwilling to being identified revealed to STATE TIMES that an exercise had immediately begun to identify and withdraw the CRPF personnel who had been specially deployed in J&K for strengthening the law and order bandobust in the wake of the summer turbulence, triggered by the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8. Thousands of the paramilitary personnel have already been withdrawn or immobilised after getting injured in the street turbulence for around five months in the Valley.

Even as the officials claimed that withdrawal of the 40 companies of CRPF from J&K was sequel to “improvement of law and order situation in the Valley besides security arrangements for some States, particularly Punjab and UP, politicians affiliated to the ruling outfit Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) insisted that the exercise had been launched on sustained insistence from Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

“This will come as a short in the arm in PDP as we can claim credit that the forces involved in killing of 90 persons and causing fractures and injuries to over 10,000 Kashmiris were being recalled from the Valley. This is part of the demilitarisation we have been demanding. This is good news for us as Mehboobaji has struggled a lot for it”, said a PDP leader. “A number of the camps have been closed down. CRPF has been relocated from different government and public building including a major educational institute lately in Habbakadal-Fatehkadal area in Srinagar. Amar Singh Club and Indoor Stadium are also being cleared of the CRPF in near future”.

Withdrawal of the 40 CRPF companies from J&K could come as a breather for PDP that has encountered unenviable conditions after allying with BJP for formation of the coalition and the Government in 2015.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Blue-eyed ACF cherry-picked by Minister for two posts of CF in Forest Department

Lal Singh throws resentment of IFS officers to dustbin, makes appointments of non-cadre officers in brazen violation of IFS cadre Rules

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 24: Throwing all rules and resentment of the Indian Forest Service (IFS) cadre officers to dustbin, Minister of Forest Choudhary Lal Singh has now cherry-picked an Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) simultaneously for two cadre posts of Conservator of Forest (CF).

Two days after the Jammu and Kashmir branch of the Indian Forest Service Association submitted a representation, seeking posting of officers on the cadre positions strictly as per the IFS (Cadre) Rules 1966, Commissioner-Secretary Forest Mohammad Afzal Bhat has issued Government Order No: 308-FST of 2016 Dated 23-12-2016. The order issued with the approval of Forest Minister says that Mohammad Maqbool Rather “incharge DCF”, Joint Director Forest Protection Force Kashmir, shall hold the charge of Conservator of Forest, North Circle, Kashmir, in addition to his own duties.

The IFS Association’s representation signed by its Secretary Dr Rajeev Kumar Tiwari and delivered in the office of Commissioner-Secretary Forest on December 20, had complained that posting of non-cadre officers against the cadre posts of DCF (Divisional Forest Officers) and CF had generated intense resentment and demoralisation among the IFS cadre officers in Jammu and Kashmir. It had been pointed out in detail that most of the young IFS officers were being attached to insignificant office and field positions in blatant violation of the IFS (cadre) Rules and many of such posts were manned by junior and non-cadre officers.

According to the latest Seniority List, issued vide Government Order No: 273-FST of 2015 Dated 09-10-2015, Mohammad Maqbool Rather, with Arts graduation and DDR, is simply an ACF who has joined as Forester as a Matriculate in 1977. While compiling the Seniority List, the competent committee set up by the Government had noted in the Remarks column: “There is no relevance for writing i/c DCF in the Seniority List as it has no bearing”. Without regard to the committee’s remarks, Commissioner-Secretary Forest has mentioned Mr Rather as “incharge DCF” and kept him posted as Joint Director Forest Protection Force, Kashmir, (equivalent to CF), besides Conservator of Forest North Circle, Kashmir.

“It is exactly like posting a Dy SP as DIG of Central Kashmir and giving him the additional charge of DIG of North Kashmir”, simplified a senior IFS officer. He revealed to STATE TIMES that the IFS Association would soon submit a comprehensive memorandum for redressal of grievances to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest. “Even a blind man will read out of this that such transfers and postings in Forest Department are the result of pecuniary considerations”, he asserted and claimed that a Srinagar-based DFO, who stands booked in several FIRs, played the role of middle-man in this and some other prize postings.

The IFS cadre post of CF North, Kashmir, was lying vacant since December 1 when, upon the retirement of CF Srinagar, Zahoor Ahmad Jan, CF North Javed Andrabi was shifted from Baramulla to Srinagar. For three weeks, Mr Andrabi also held the additional charge of CF North. On Saturday, he has been relieved by Mr Rather.

Resentment is palpable among not only the regular recruits of IFS, who stand confirmed as DCF, but also among the State Forest Service officers inducted into IFS. While picking up Mr Rather, Forest Minister has completely ignored CF rank officers like Ali Mohammad Dar, Agrostologist J&K, and Mohammad Shafi Kenu (DCF selection grade) who is currently Regional Director in Department of Environment and Remote Sensing.

Lal Singh’s favourite Mohammad Maqbool Rather is still ACF and far junior to both Ali Mohammad Dar and Mohammad Shafi Kenu and even the Kashmiri IFS regular recruits Irfan Ali Shah and Tauheed Deva who are holding insignificant postings of DFO Photo Interpretation Division and Project Coordinator WUQMA. Both are confirmed as DCF and superior in rank to Mr Rather.

Most of the non-Kashmiri IFS officers have been posted on insignificant positions. They include IFS-2009 officer, B Mohandas (DFO PI Division), IFS-2010 officers Jitendra Kumar Singh and Sat Pal (both posted in office of PCCF), IFS-2013 officers Jyotsana Sarkar (attached to office of DFO Jammu), Shveta Jandial (attached to office of CF East Jammu) and Neelima Shah (attached to office of Regional Director Social Forestry Jammu) and IFS-2014 officer Mohan Choudhary (attached to office of CF Chenab Circle Doda).

It has been repeatedly pointed out to Minister and Commissioner-Secretary Forest that these IFS cadre officers have not been posted against IFS cadre post (DFO and equivalent) which have been given to non-cadre officers against pecuniary considerations, favouritism and political clout.

The appointments of DFOs and CFs, ordered by Forest Minister Lal Singh, are clearly in violation of Section 8 (1) and Section 9 (1) (a) of IFS cadre Rules 1966 which make it incumbent upon the State Government to appoint only the IFS officers on the IFS cadre posts. Rule 9 (1) mentions that a non-cadre officer, if posted as a result of the non-availability of the cadre officer, shall be replaced by the cadre officer when he becomes available. It makes clear that a non-cadre officer cannot continue on a cadre post for more than three months without the “prior approval” of the Central Government.

While as the Forest Minister did not respond to phone calls from STATE TIMES, Commissioner-Secretary Forest Mohammad Afzal Bhat claimed that Mohammad Maqbool Rather had been appointed as CF North (in addition to his current posting as JD FPF) for being “senior most among the State Forest Service officers”

When it was pointed out to Mr Bhat that as per the Seniority List Maqbool Rather was only an ACF, he said: “He has been recommended for promotion (as DCF) but a court has stayed the process”. He said that Rather, along with a Jammu-based SFS officer, was already holding the post of JD FPF, equivalent to CF. He said that the IFS officers were "unnecessarily raising hue and cry" on transfers and postings ordered in the interest of the administration.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Incredible: Nobody in Mehbooba’s Govt knew SARFAESI was being heard in Supreme Court?

Govt’s stand was never discussed in Cabinet or vetted by Law Department; no record of counter-affidavit; even the standing counsel was absent when an unprepared AG appeared before the Bench

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 23: When the Jammu and Kashmir Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai met the eminent Supreme Court lawyer Gopal Subramaniam at latter’s office in New Delhi at 6.30 pm on December 5, he definitely did not discuss with him legality of the application of the Central law SARFAESI Act 2002. First: The J&K Government’s Law Department had never assigned that particular case to the AG. Second: AG had little idea of its being in the final stage of arguments with the Bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R.F. Nariman.

“I believe the pleadings are still incomplete. Who told you it’s listed for arguments tomorrow?”, Ganai asked his assistants Mehfooz Nazki and Mr Raina. He quickly did a surfing on the Supreme Court’s cause list and was taken aback to learn that the State’s most discussed case was listed for arguments on December 6, 7 and 8. It was marked as "part heard". He immediately flashed it to Law Secretary Abdul Majid Bhat in Jammu, attempting to know about the Government’s brief on it. For the whole day on December 6, and until he returned and landed in Jammu on December 7, Ganai did not receive any reply from Law Secretary.

So, what did the J&K AG discuss with Subramaniam? Asked him why Niira Radia described him “a very upright person” in her telephonic conversation with Ratan Tata that was taped by Income Tax department? Wanted to know why he quit in protest as Solicitor General of India when Manmohan Singh’s government decided to field then private lawyer R.F. Nariman in a high profile telecommunication case? Wanted to learn how he functioned as Chairman Bar Council of India? Desired to know how Subramaniam pleaded as CBI’s prosecutor in the Bombay blasts of 1993? Or how he got Ajmal Kasab to gallows for the 2008 terror strike in Mumbai? Or how he argued in the matter of 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament?

None of the above, indeed!

During an extensive investigation, STATE TIMES learned that Ganai had arrived in New Delhi on December 5 for engaging Subramaniam, days after he alerted Law Department over a news in The Times of India which reported that Supreme Court of India would discuss Article 370 [that accords special status to J&K State] in a Special Leave Petition (SLP) titled Mohammad Hanief Lone and others versus Ashok Kumar Sharma and others on December 9. The legal battle over promotion of open and reserved categories between incharge Chief Engineers and incharge Superintending Engineers of the J&K Irrigation and Flood Control Department had taken a dramatic turn as some petitioners challenged Article 370 after losing their case in J&K High Court. After the meeting, Subramaniam sent his consent by WhatsApp to the J&K Accountant General.

Ganai had also to appear before National Green Tribunal (NGT) on December 6 in two important petitions  one filed by environmental activist Dr Irfan against a garbage disposal ground at Achhen, on Srinagar outskirts, and another pursued by Maneka Gandhi associate Gauri Malekha for banning passage of mules from Katra to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Cave atop Trikuta Hills in Jammu.

When on December 6, purportedly of his own, Ganai visited the Kurian-Nariman bench, the arguments from the private petitioners Zafrullah Nehru and Santosh Gupta’s counsel Vijay Hansaria were already in progress. J&K Government’s Advocate on Record Sunil Fernandes was pursuing a different case in a different court. The only file of SARFASEI case was in his possession and the AG was simply groping in the dark as he had failed to receive any brief from the Government in Jammu.

Incredibly, STATE TIMES learned that the Government’s stand, which, at its face, was a major policy matter, was discussed not once in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s or Mehbooba Mufti’s Cabinet after it was decided by Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey in J&K High Court on July 16, 2015, and subsequently challenged by the banks through SLP in the Supreme Court.

Well-placed sources in Civil Secretariat insist that there is no record of any brief having been vetted by the Law Department. So this was not for nothing that Sunil Fernandes’ interview  in which he told a Srinagar-based newspaper what he had proposed on behalf of the State came as a surprise to legal and political circles. “That’s a key policy matter on which the coalition partners (PDP and BJP) have divergent views. How could a junior advocate in Supreme Court speak on behalf of the Government without a Cabinet or Law Department brief?”, a senior bureaucrat pointed out.

According to the sources privy to the developments, Advocate General had on December 5 night advised Fernandes to seek deferment of the hearing of the arguments till December 13 by which time, he thought, a brief would pour in from Jammu. However, Fernandes did not raise questions on how the arguments would initiate when the pleadings were still incomplete. He did not seek any adjournment either. For most of the time, he remained absent. Ganai’s impromptu and desperate submission that the State would make its own SARFAESI law in the next session of the Legislature went unheard.

With the State going unrepresented, the Bench reserved judgment on December 8 and announced the same on December 16 in favour of the banks represented by Attorney General of India Mukul Rohtagi and senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, triggering a political controversy over J&K's "sovereign jurisdiction of legislation" in such matters. If sources in Law Department are to be believed, even an affidavit or counter-affidavit was never approved by the competent authority in the State government or filed in the Supreme Court after being vetted by the Law Minister. Who exactly is responsible for the "lapse"? Was it the State government's insensitivity and non-seriousness or an act of connivance and collaboration with the BJP-ruled Centre? One remains at a loss to understand.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What was J&K Law Minister, Advocate General doing in Delhi on December 5-7?

J&K Govt’s connivance is more evident than ‘non-seriousness’ in SARFAESI episode

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 21: With virtually everybody in the opposition, from Hurriyat Conference to National Conference, blaming the Mehbooba Mufti Government for “non-seriousness” while dealing with the SARFAESI petitions in Supreme Court of India, it appears that the coalition in Jammu and Kashmir was actually in connivance with New Delhi to ensure defeat to so-called ‘Kashmir sentiment’.

Investigating the reasons behind the State government’s lackadaisical attitude vis-à-vis the petitions seeking enforcement of the Central law titled Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, (SARFAESI) in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, STATE TIMES has learned that both, Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan and Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai, were very much present in New Delhi during arguments of the case in Supreme Court.

According to the official records in possession of this newspaper, Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan camped in New Delhi for about four days when the arguments were underway on the petition before Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R.F. Nariman. Mr Khan arrived in New Delhi on December 4 and returned to Jammu by the morning flight on December 7. After staying in Jammu for three days, he flew to Srinagar with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in the State government’s aircraft on December 10 and returned to the winter capital on December 13.

Advocate General arrived in New Delhi on December 5. He stayed there for two days and returned to Jammu on December 7. Before his departure, he was spotted in company of Justice (retired) Bilal Nazki’s son and a Kashmiri Pandit Mr Raina.

During the same time, when Law Minister and Advocate General were camping in the Union Capital, the Supreme Court bench heard counsels of the petitioners and respondents on December 6 and 7. The Bench announced the judgment on December 16. This makes clear that there was no “non-seriousness” towards the SARAESI petition on the part of the Mehbooba Mufti government but raises question as to why Law Minister and the Advocate General left entire job to a junior counsel, the advocate on record Sunil Fernandes.

In certain crucial matters, previous State governments are known to have specially engaged the country’s top lawyers like Fali Nariman, father of one of the judges who adjudicated on SARFAESI Act’s applicability to Jammu and Kashmir. In recent times, Omar Abdullah’s government had engaged eminent Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve for a hefty fee when it wanted to ensure that the detained Superintendent of Police Javed Iqbal Matoo does not bail in so-called twin rape-and-murder case of Shopian in 2009.

Even in the recent matter of a Dy SP’s alleged hand in the death of a civilian protester, the State government is known to have engaged a senior lawyer for the officer’s defence.

Even as a barrage of criticism is pouring in from the Valley, raising questions and presuming quid pro quo of the Law Ministry functionaries with the Centre, STATE TIMES is still investigating as to why a senior lawyer or the Advocate General himself did not appear in defence of the State’s stated position. Mr Khan did not respond to phone calls. Officials in Law Department maintained that he was currently in Mumbai.

Mr Ganai said through WhatsApp that he would respond to questions after returning to Jammu from Srinagar. Sources in the Law Department confirmed his presence in New Delhi on December 5, 6 and 7 and claimed that on December 6 he “briefly appeared” before the Supreme Court Bench. “He contended that Government of Jammu and Kashmir would soon bring its own SARFAESI legislation in the next session of the Legislature. But neither his attendance nor his argument was recorded. He immediately left the court”, said an official, claiming that nobody knew why the State government’s contention had gone unheard.

This newspaper is investigating whether the Law Minister and the Advocate General were under pressure from Government of India to remain mute to the proceedings in Supreme Court or there was some other consideration. Remarkably, after the Opposition began raking up this issue, Mr Khan publicly approved of the judgment and called it “an achievement” for J&K State.

Author of at least one book on law and a legal practitioner himself for over three decades, Mr Khan lately co-hosted an official function for Chief Justice of India Justice T.S. Thakur in Jammu.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Divided on Sarfaesi Act, Kashmir Bar may not support separatists’ stir on SC verdict

In J&K High Court, ex-Bar chief alongwith GOI counsel argued strongly in favour of SARFAESI; incumbent Bar President opposed it

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 19: Notwithstanding a barrage of statements from both, the separatist as well as the mainstream opposition leaders in Kashmir valley against the Supreme Court of India verdict, Srinagar-based High Court Bar Association (HCBA) seems to be unlikely to take a stand on enforcement of the Central law giving powers to banks and other financial institutions to auction the mortgaged immovable properties of the defaulting borrowers in Jammu and Kashmir.

Even as some of its top functionaries, while responding to newspersons’ queries, have maintained what they argued as private counsels previously in J&K High Court, HCBA significantly had not issued any statement in support of the separatists’ diatribe till late on Monday.

Announced on December 16, the judgment of the Supreme Court judges Kurian Joseph and R.F. Nariman has stirred a hornets’ nest in Jammu and Kashmir as it has been resolutely hailed by the Jammu-based political parties, including BJP and National Panthers Party, but stoutly assailed by almost all the separatist and mainstream parties, including Omar Abdullah’s National Conference (NC).

While granting the financial institutions right to auction the mortgaged immovable properties of the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir in the event of their failure to pay back the loans, the Supreme Court has categorically set aside judgment of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that had barred the banks from proceeding against the defaulters under the central law titled Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, (SARFAESI) in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The legal battle in JKHC had witnessed a drama of sorts including sudden resignation of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government’s Advocate General Riyaz Ahmad Jan in the thick of the arguments on June 25 — within 100 days of his appointment on March 15, 2015. Legal circles insist that Mr Jan —who asserted that the Mufti government had compromised dignity of the AG’s office, but never elaborated— wanted to oppose enforcement of the Sarfaesi Act but was “under pressure” from the PDP-BJP coalition to remain equivocal and borrow time.

The opposition politicians, as well as the independent writers, have invariably attached intrigue to the Mehbooba Mufti government’s “lackadaisical attitude” while pointing out that no eminent lawyer appeared in Supreme Court to defend the State’s exclusive right of legislation on matters of immovable property. The entire job was left to the State’s standing counsel. Even the Advocate General and the senior AAGs played truant.

On the other hand, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, joined by eminent lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing on behalf of State Bank of India and the Government of India, defended the different banks’ notices to the defaulters and enforcement of Sarfaesi Act in J&K. The judges decreed in their favour, asserting that J&K Sate had a special constitutional status but did not enjoy any “sovereignty” within the dominion of India.

“From High Court to Supreme Court, it was a discussion simply to determine whether it was the Parliament or the State Legislature that was by law and Constitution empowered to make laws related to this issue. High Court upheld that it was none other than the State Legislature. Supreme Court quashed that judgment and decreed that it was the Parliament”, former judge of JKHC Justice (retired) Hasnain Massodi explained.

HCBA apparently has its constraints in not taking a public stand as its top faces Mian Abdul Qayoom and Zaffar Ahmad Shah held divergent positions in JKHC. HCBA has been a constituent of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference and both, Mr Qayoom and Mr Shah, have been disputing J&K’s accession to India and struggling for Plebiscite under the UN resolutions.

While appearing on behalf of private petitioners, HCBA President and top notch lawyer Mian Qayoom, and senior advocate Altaf Haqani in JKHC opposed enforcement of Sarfaesi Act tooth and nail. They held that it was a matter of “administration of justice” in which the Executive or Legislature of the Government of India had no authority to legislate or make rules.

Mr Qayoom attracted the Bench’s attention to Article 370 of the Constitution of India and submitted that the mechanism prescribed in the said article for application of laws to the State of J&K, had not been followed. He argued that clause B (i) of Article 370 had restricted the power of the Parliament to make laws for the State of J&K to those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List, which in consultation with the Government of the State, were declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the Instrument of Accession. He also referred to clause B (ii) of Article 370 and submitted that other matters in the Union List may be applied to the State of J&K with concurrence of the Government of the State by the President. He contended that this constitutional mechanism had not been followed for application of law to the State of J&K.

Mr Qayoom also referred to an application/ affidavit filed by the State of J&K in a writ petition in Jammu wing of the Court and submitted that the State of J&K had raised objections in respect of enforcement of the Act of 2002 in the State of J&K. He referred to section 140 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 (a State Act) to indicate that application of the Act of 2002 had directly impacted the fields of legislation, for which laws could be exclusively made by the State legislature.

On the contrary, former HCBA chief and the top advocate Zaffar Ahmad Shah, appearing on behalf of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, argued strongly in favour of enforcement of the Sarfaesi Act in J&K, while claiming that the Parliament was within its right to make related laws for J&K State.

Zaffar Shah submitted that in view of Entry 45 of List-I, (Union List) of 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India, the Parliament was competent to legislate the Act of 2002. He emphasised that the Central Government had amended the Rules of 2002 and it had been prescribed that while enforcing the Act of 2002, the interests in the immovable property could be transferred only in favour of the State subject. He also submitted that in view of the amendment made in the Rules of 2002, grievances of the petitioners stood redressed.

Mr Shah, while referring to Article 370, submitted that in view of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 (C.O. 48-S.R.O 1610 dated 14-05-1954) issued by the President of India, the Central Government had been authorised to legislate laws in respect of Entries in the List-I, (Union List) of 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India, including entry 45, which Entry, he argued, stood extended to the State of J&K in terms of the aforesaid constitutional order. He further submitted that it had been held by the Supreme Court, in case reported in (2009) 4 SCC 94 that the Act of 1993, as also Act of 2002, had been enacted in terms of Entry 45 of List-I, (Union List) of 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Mr Shah argued that in view of the Authoritative Pronouncement of the Supreme Court, the issue that enactment falls within the purview of Entry 11 (a) of List-III, (Concurrent List) of 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India, had been “rendered irrelevant”. He asserted before the JKHC Bench that huge amounts of money had crystalized into Non Performing Assets. He submitted that withholding of huge amounts by the borrowers was “directly and adversely affecting the economic growth of the State of J&K”.

However, Mr Qayoom’s team won the case in JKHC. Even as Mr Shah did not appear in Supreme Court, his arguments in favour of the enforcement of Sarfaesi Act were further strengthened by Attorney General and other eminent lawyers engaged by the Centre to defeat a State that was in tacit collaboration with the Centre. Finally the verdict on December 16 came in favour of the Centre and the banks of which one respondent bank is controlled by Government of Jammu and Kashmir.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

3 soldiers killed in terror attack: Again in Pampore; again despite alert from IGP Kashmir

On almost all the attacks on convoys, Police, forces had been alerted; STATE TIMES predicted the strikes on the highway

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 17: In the evening on December 8, 2015, union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Prakash Mishra to greet him over the news that two of three militants, who had attacked a paramilitary convoy at Green Tunnel Bijbehara a day before and left six personnel injured, had been gunned down at Sempora — the border point of Srinagar and Pulwama districts on Srinagar-Jammu highway, on outskirts of Srinagar. Minutes before that, Mishra, on way from Anantnag to Srinagar, had crossed the same point, around 300 yards from the magnificent and imposing EDI complex.

On a tip-off, Police and security forces had laid an ambush at Sempora and started checking of all incoming vehicles. Two Lashkar-e-Tayyiba militants travelling in a load-carrier jumped out and attempted to escape while firing but were both shot dead in retaliation. The civilian driver, hired in Pulwama, survived. The militants were virtually chasing the CRPF DG. That was the beginning of a series of attacks and encounters on the highway, perceived to be free of militants for years.

The seventh attack in the chain, on Saturday, at Pampore, 2 Km from Sempora, in just 12 months, has exposed a many chinks in the armour of the Police and security forces in Kashmir. It left three soldiers dead and one more injured.

In the afternoon on Friday, a communication from IGP Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani to all the senior Police and security forces officer operating in South Kashmir had asked them to take “all necessary precautions” as the militants, according to a credible information, were likely to attack a patrol or convoy of security forces in “a major town” on the highway. Evidently, it was as usual ignored and taken without any sense of seriousness by the field officers.

Significantly, on December 11, STATE TIMES had published that Hizbul Mujahideen’s so-called Highway Squad was planning a major strike on the highway somewhere between Khannabal and Qazigund. They just changed the venue and went ahead with their strike without regard to the red alert that had been sounded on the highway.

Even when the most audacious terror strike was carried out by militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba at Pampore, 1 Km from Sempora, on June 25 this year, STATE TIMES had on the same day published a detailed story, reporting that the militants were planning a major attack on security forces around Srinagar. Officers in Police and security forces as usual ignored it. On the same day, a group of three suicide bombers attacked a CRPF convoy at Frestbal, Pampore, and left 8 soldiers dead. Twenty-one more sustained injuries. Sources insist that the fidayeen attack occurred despite a red alert.

Situated in a high security zone between headquarters of Army’s 15 Corps and the ace counterinsurgency division Victor Force, Sempora-Pampore belt was in fact chosen for almost all the major terror strikes on the highway — except that of the June 3 attack on a convoy in which three BSF men were killed and 6 left injured in Chief Minister’s hometown of Bijbehara. On June 4, militants also gunned down two Police personnel, including an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police, on Khannabal-Pahalgam Road at the South Kashmir district headquarters of Anantnag.

Two attacks on the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) on February 20, 2016, and October 10, 2016, left the key training and capacity building centre for the Kashmiri youths devastated. In one of his unusually terse reactions, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that the militants were the saboteurs of the careers of Kashmir’s educated and unemployed youths.

The first fidayeen attack in February, 2016, damaged EDI’s four-storey administrative complex extensively. The nine fatal casualties in the three-day-long gunfight included two Majors and a soldier of Special Force, two CRPF personnel, a temporarily engaged gardener besides three Pakistani militants of LeT. Those evacuated by Police and security forces included Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin’s son, working as a junior IT manager with EDI.

In the second fidayeen attack in October, the militants failed to cause any fatal casualty to Police or security forces but kept themselves holed up and alive for 56 hours. Finally troops stormed the devastated 9-storey hostel block and killed both the militants.



Terror attacks/ encounters in Kashmir valley on Srinagar-Jammu highway

Dec 07, 2015   

Green Tunnel, Bijbehara     

6 CRPF men injured

Dec 08, 2015

Sempora, Srinagar outskirts         

2 militants killed; 2 CRPF men, 2 civilians injured

Feb 20, 2016   

EDI Complex, Sempora

3 Armymen, 2 CRPF personnel, 3 militants, 1 civilian killed; 13 injured

Jun 03, 2016   

Bijbehara, Anantnag  

3 BSF personel killed

June 25, 2016 


8 CRPF men killed, 21 injured

Oct 10, 2016

EDI Complex, Sempora

2 militants killed

Dec 17, 2016


3 soldiers killed, one injured


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Valley’s shadows and sunshine run parallel to each other

Kashmir calm as 2 militants die in gunfights, CM visits passing-out, DC mired in ex-gratia controversy, separatists reduce shutdown to two-days-a-week

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 14: Fourteen years ago when Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed conceived the idea of raising Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) at Awantipora, in close vicinity of the headquarters of Army’s counterinsurgency division Victor Force, he dreamt of diverting the Valley’s teenagers to academics, technology and science. Last two years, post-Assembly elections of 2014, this institute of learning has produced a breed of the youngsters who dedicated the prime of their youth to killing and getting killed.

As rhetoric often eclipses intentions, many of the IUST students nourished the dreams of achieving what a generation from Sufi Mohammad Akbar and Maqbool Bhat to Salahuddin and Yasin Malik had failed to accomplish. Paradoxically, they drew inspiration not only from the separatists but also from the genetically equivocal pseudo-separatists who delivered speeches, issued statements, penned articles and sang paeans for everybody from the British soldier Robert Thorpe to Yasin Malik. Many of them are now enjoying dignity and fortunes in the corridors of power in PDP-BJP government.  

Second year student of a diploma in civil engineering at IUST, Basit Rasool Dar, who died in an encounter with Police and security forces in Beowora village, near Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown of Bijbehara, on Wednesday, is the latest in South Kashmir who ended up dying as a martyr to the ever-elusive cause of Azadi. His father, Ghulam Rasool Dar of Marhama (Bijbehara), a manager with Jammu and Kashmir Bank in Anantnag, wanted him to rise as an engineer. Basit chose to follow Burhan Wani, became a confidant of his successor and IUST student Zakir, Ishaq ‘Newton’ and others who emerged as “icons of freedom” in the last two years.

When Basit breathed his last, his mother was in Delhi — escorting elder son, who has been posted in the union capital after his selection in J&K Bank. Both returned to home to attend Basit’s funeral rites in the evening. Police maintained around 5,000 participated in the militant’s burial, though some reports put the numbers between 7,000 and 8,000.

But what is significant at the end of five months of the street turbulence in Kashmir is that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti attended a Police commando passing-out parade a few miles short of Bijbehara and closer to IUST. She spoke of peace and the militants’ families’ right to ex-gratia munificence from the government. Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, and Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, escorted her to the venue. The spot at Lethapora was just furlongs away from the place on Srinagar-Jammu highway which witnessed hundreds of attacks on the mainstream politicians, officials and even the students ferried to Srinagar for a competitive examination. This is exactly where additional DC of Ramban was attacked while a mob torched his vehicle and his PSO opened fire, killing two persons.

For over three months, nobody from politicians to officials dared to venture into this area. Police and security forces surrendered it completely to militants, stone-pelters and demonstrators. Minutes after Basit’s burial, that marked a few incidents of stone pelting but failed to suspend the train services or traffic on the highway, Valley’s separatist leadership issued the fresh shutdown calendar. To everybody’s surprise, it asked the Kashmiris to continue their shutdown only on Saturday and Sunday every week and resume normal activities on five days a week. This relaxation was granted after five months of turmoil.

While the country’s television channels churned their brains on the Mehbooba Mufti government’s “temerity” of granting ex-gratia relief of Rs 4 lakh to Burhan Wani’s family over their another son Khalid’s death during an encounter in Tral in April 2015, DC Muneerul-ul-Islam stood unfazed, flanking Chief Minister at the passing-out parade.

In North Kashmir, LeT’s “Divisional Commander” Abu Bakar died in another gunbattle in Bomai area of Sopore.

Is this the denouement of the melodrama enacted through summer of the year 2016 that brought enriched statements from the separatists, leading to death of around 90 people, devastation of hundreds of properties and injuries to thousands of “protesters”. “We have been never this close to Azadi in last 26 years”, the separatists told the Kashmiris. Now the same people ask questions: “What have we achieved out of the five long months of shutdown? Where is the Azadi you promised us for five months? What makes you reduce the 24x7 shutdown to just two-days-a-week show?”


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ex-Minister Rather’s son claims Nirmal Singh’s JMC issued permission to Paradise Avenue

‘Man masquerading as RTI activist demanded Rs 30 lakh from my firm. We recorded his 40 phone calls. This mafia’s hand can be behind the blackmailing drive’

State Times News


JAMMU, Dec 13: Former Finance Minister and senior National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather’s businessman son Hilal Ahmad Rather on Tuesday claimed that a story about Jammu Municipal Corporation’s “illegal permission”, as carried in a Jammu-based newspaper, was “completely baseless” and possibly the handiwork of a blackmailing mafia that attempted an extortion of Rs 30 lakh from him and his partners earlier this year. Disputing the ‘facts’ given in the story point-by-point with his documentary evidences, the real estate entrepreneur claimed that the revised permission to hundreds of flats in his 13-floor blocks at Narwal Bala, christened as Paradise Avenue, had been issued by JMC when none other than the BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh was Minister of Housing and Urban Development in the year 2015.

As quoted by the daily, Nirmal Singh has alleged that the building permission to Paradise Avenue construction had been found “illegal” and the matter was being referred either to Crime Branch or to State Vigilance Organisation for criminal investigation. The daily has claimed that the permission had been granted by the “NC loyalist” Kiren Watal when he functioned as Commissioner JMC during Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress government.

“It is a fact that the building permission was issued during the NC-Congress government in December 2013 in which my father was a Minister. But, there was never a political intervention. We fulfilled all the legal and procedural formalities. We obtained NOCs from all the concerned departments. Revenue Department verified the titles of the land. JDA gave in writing it was not its land or jurisdiction. Even BDO concerned issued his permission. JMC scrutinised everything. Thereafter, we deposited the fees and the building permission was duly issued by JMC. However, when the PDP-BJP regime took over in March 2015, JMC officials working under the new Housing Minister’s control approached us with the plea that the year 2013 permission would have to be scrutinised afresh. They checked and verified the documents and found everything in place. Thereafter, JMC, under Deputy CM’s control, issued the revised building permission on April 29, 2015”, Hilal revealed at a press conference.

“If the Housing Minister still wants FIR to be registered and this case assigned to Crime Branch and Vigilance, we welcome it. We have everything in place and nothing to worry about. But we alone won’t be in the dock. Housing Minister (Nirmal Singh) will be there too as the JMC under him issued the revised permission when none other than the same man was the Housing Minister”, Hilal asserted, while producing to mediapersons all the NOCs issued and both the building permissions---one issued during Omar Abdullah’s government and another during Mufti Sayeed’s government in which Dr Nirmal Singh functioned as Minister incharge Housing, Urban Development and Power.

“It smacks of political vendetta and targets me only for being an ex-Minister’s son. Behind this well-orchestrated vilification campaign, I also suspect the hand of a blackmailing mafia. I fail to understand how a reputed newspaper has been taken for a ride and how the baseless story has been published without attempting to take our version”, Hilal said at a time when Jammu is abuzz with reports and rumours alleging that a Minister of Mehbooab Mufti’s government extorted an amount of Rs 13 crore from an MLC of his own party for the permission granted to construction of luxury flats around the heritage site of Amar Mahal and close to Raj Bhawan.

 While playing a recorded telephonic conversation, in which two unidentified persons settle a deal over a huge amount to be extorted from the Simula partners, Hilal claimed that a blackmailer in the guise of an RTI activist recently attempted to extort an amount of Rs 30 lakh from his firm. He claimed that his firm had recording of 40 phone calls in which so-called RTI activists demanded money from every partner of his firm in exchange for not publishing the information and documents they had purportedly obtained through RTI application.

The conversation played at the press conference makes it clear that an RTI activist settles a deal with an employee of Hilal’s firm. “We two will take 30% each and your share will be 40%”, says a person about himself and another RTI activist and the employee of Hilal’s firm who seems to have trapped the two RTI activists.

“We will produce this entire documentary evidence to the criminal investigation and press for legal action against these blackmailers. We have no weaknesses, no irregularities that would force us surrender or succumb to any sort of blackmailing”, Hilal Rather asserted.

Hilal, who is a Bachelor of Technology from the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, admitted that a ‘gair mumkin khud’, consisting of 99 kanals of land existed on a part of his society. He, however, revealed that his permission had been issued and the construction had started over a year before J&K High Court banned constructions on such lands in July 2014.

“Honourable High Court is adjudicating on this issue. Let us have faith in the judiciary and wait for the judgment. How can someone in the government in advance issue a judgment selectively against Hilal Rather with retrospective effect?”, Hilal said. He clarified that even after JMC issued permission in favour of his firm at Narwal Bala and Jammu Development Authority (JDA) gave in writing in the NOC that it was outside its jurisdiction, his firm Simula approached the concerned BDO and also got his permission to the construction.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]