Published On:29 December 2010
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Skeleton of official accountability in Jammu and Kashmir: SAC - headless, SHRC - toothless, SIC - body less

By Bashir Assad

Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir coalition government led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, for obvious reasons, is skeptical of making the three most important autonomous bodies functional.

The State Accountability Commission (SAC), the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), the State Information Commission (SIC) are either headless or toothless or body less. The SAC and SHRC touted as backbone of official accountability are without heads for a pretty long time. Moreover the SHRC is functioning with only two members, even as the law provides for a five-member bench including the chairperson of the Commission. The posts of the members in this Commission are vacant for nearly four years.

Of late, according to reliable sources, the state government has prepared a panel of prominent judges of the state, the committee members have not yet been informed of any date for the proposed meeting. The panel includes the names of Justice Bashir-u-Din, Justice Bashir Khan, Justice O P Sharma, Justice S K Bhat and Justice Muzaffar Jan who is one of the two members in the State Accountability Commission.

“A serious exercise is underway and things are getting finalised at the Secretariat,” said a senior officer in the Law department. A panel of judges has been sent to the Chief Minister and Principal Secretary to the CM is likely to convene the meeting of the committee, which is authorised to recommend the final names to the Governor.

Though the constitution of the State Accountability Commission provides for appointment of either retired Chief Justice of the High Court or Supreme Court judge, the government for the sake of convenience of finding suitable persons within the state made an amendment two years ago wherein a retired judge of the High Court is the mandatory qualification for the post.

It merits a mention here that about 16 politicians, including two Congress ministers in the Omar Abdullah-led government and nine former ministers, are facing cases of corruption or misuse of power in Jammu and Kashmir's defunct State Accountability Commission (SAC).

However, they are yet to face the law as eight of them have obtained stay on proceedings from the High Court, while complaints against others are pending as the state Government has not been able to appoint the Chairman and the members of the commission, official sources said.
There are a total of eighteen complaints against them. Two complaints each have been registered before the commission against Public Health Engineering Minister Taj Mohiuddin, Education Minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed (both from Congress) and former Agriculture Minister and opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) leader Abdul Aziz Zargar, they said.
Other Congress politicians who have complaints pending against them include former Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma, his colleague in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led council of ministers Suman Lata Bhagat, former ministers Ramesh Kumar and Abdul Majid Wani, they said.

Among these leaders, only Wani is a member of the current Legislative Assembly. Congress Legislature Party leader in the state Assembly Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam is facing charges of encroaching over 50 hectares of state land in Surankote area of Poonch district, the sources said.
The other former ministers facing corruption charges in the SAC include PDP leaders Tariq Hamid Karra and Abdul Gaffar Sofi, who is a sitting MLA from Homshalibugh, they said.

Former ministers Hakim Mohammad Yasin and Sofi Ghulam Mohiuddin, both part of the erstwhile Peoples' Democratic Front (PDF), also face charges of corruption during their tenure as ministers in the PDP-Congress coalition government, the sources added.

The ruling National Conference has cases of corruption pending against a sitting MLA and a former MLA. Rachpal Singh, sitting MLA from Kalakote, is accused of sheltering criminals involved in a theft case, while Ghulam Mohiuddin Mir (ex-MLA Pulwama) who switched over to PDP in 2009 has been accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 70,000 in lieu of providing a government job to the complainant.

Although eight of the politicians have obtained stay on proceedings from the High Court, they would not have faced the commission as it is headless and without any members for more than 18 months now, the sources said.

The State Government had listed rejuvenation of the SAC among its priorities but has not been able to do so due to varied reasons. The selection committee had recommended names of two retired High Court judges – Justices Bashir Ahmad Kirmani and Y P Nargotra – as members of the commission to Governor N N Vohra but he returned the panel asking the committee to reconsider it.

The selection committee couldn’t finalize the name of the SAC chairman in its earlier meetings due to non-availability of the opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti, who is one of the members of the panel.

On the other hand it was reliably learnt that the Coordination Committee (CC) of the coalition government headed by the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief Professor Saifuddin Soz has identified the chairman and members of the State Information Commission, sources told Greater Kashmir on Thursday.

“The CC is likely to submit the names of the identified persons to the government in the coming days” sources said. They said that CC had been tasked by the government to identify the SIC members as well as the new chairman of the State Accountability Commission (SAC), an anti-graft body, that has been headless since 2008.

“The SAC will continue to remain headless till CC gives its recommendations,” sources added. They said that after CC gives it recommendations the government would hold a meeting of the selection committee to implement its suggestions.

The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, according to the sources, had recently discussed the issue of appointing the SAC chairman and its members with the Governor N N Vohra.

“Appointment of the new SAC chairman will take time. The CC so far has not started the process to identify the person who can head the commission,” a senior Congress leader said.

He said the first priority for them was to hunt for the SIC members. “That job is almost over and now we will start looking for the SAC chairman and its members,’ the leader added.

Pertinently, the SAC was constituted by the coalition government led by Peoples Democratic Party in 2003. Its first chairman was Justice (late) R.P. Sethi, a retired Supreme Court judge, but he resigned in 2006 after allegations of his son’s involvement in a sex scandal.

There were interim arrangements but since 2008 the commission has not had a chairman.

[Bashir Assad is a senior Journalist based in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir. He is now Bureau Chief (J&K) of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be contacted at bashirassad@rediffmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on December 29, 2010. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on December 29, 2010. Filed under , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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