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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Govt continues to protect its corrupt KAS, IAS darlings

Supreme Court order says no prosecution sanction required after 3 months but J&K Vigilance Organisation surrenders before Govt, fails to file chargesheets

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 9: In a demonstration of brazen disregard to Supreme Court of India judgment dated January 31st, 2012, Government of Jammu and Kashmir as well as its integrity watchdog, State Vigilance Organisation (SVO), are continuing to protect a band of KAS and IAS officers against whom charges of corruption have been established. Retired and serving bureaucrats and officials, who are beneficiaries of the coalition government’s ‘Operation Cover up’, include former Chief Secretary Ashok Jaitley, then Principal Secretary of Power Development Department, Ajit Kumar, former Directors of Local Bodies in Jammu, Mohinder Singh and Avtar Krishen Raina, then Director of Rural Development Department and now MLC, Syed Asgar Ali, retired IAS officer and former Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Mehboob Iqbal, Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Baseer Khan, and a group of Block Development Officers (BDOs).

Earlier this year, SVO had explained in reply to a petition under RTI that as many as 62 corruption-related matters, involving KAS and IAS officers, had been filed in J&K from 01-01-2000 to 31-12-2011. SVO had said in the reply that out of these 62 FIRs, challan had been produced in 17 FIRs, 7 FIRs had been closed as not established while as sanction to the prosecution was awaited from the Government in 6 FIRs.

With the bureaucrats and politicians in J&K Government sleeping over the six particular high profile FIRs and the SVO expressing helplessness in absence of necessary sanction to the prosecution, Supreme Court of India delivered a significant judgment, enabling the investigation agency to proceed with the challan if the issue of sanction is not disposed within three months. Surprisingly, neither the Government has disposed SVO’s request for sanction to the prosecution of KAS and IAS officers nor has the SVO initiated prosecution in any of the six matters.

In the petition, titled Dr Subramanian Swami versus Dr Manmohan Singh and Others, Supreme Court’s Division Bench, comprising Mr Justice G S Singhvi and Mr Justice Aftab Alam, deliberated on the following issue:

“Whether a complaint can be filed by a citizen for prosecuting a public servant for an offence under Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA); and, whether the authority competent to sanction prosecution of a public servant for offences under the PCA is required to take an appropriate decision within the time specified in the direction contained in paragraph 58 of the judgment of the apex court in Vineet Narain versus Union of India”.

In operative part of its historic judgment on 31-01-2012, the DB said: “All proposals for sanction placed before any sanctioning authority empowered to grant sanction for the prosecution of a public servant under section 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act must be decided within a period of three months of the receipt of the proposal by the concerned authority”.

The judgment added: “Where consultation is required with the Attorney General or the Solicitor General of the Advocate General of the State, as the case may be, and the same is not possible within three months mentioned in clause ‘a’ above, an extension of one month period may be allowed but the request for consultation is to be sent in writing within three months mentioned above. A copy of the said request will be sent to the prosecuting agency or the private complainant to intimate them about extension of the time limit. At the end of the extended period of time limit if no decision is taken, sanctioned will be deemed to have been granted to the proposal for prosecution and the prosecuting agency or the private complainant will proceed to file the chargesheet/ complaint in the court to commence prosecution within 15 days of the expiry of aforementioned time limit”.

More surprisingly, sanctions to the prosecution of KAS and IAS officers in these six particular matters have been pending with Government from a minimum of one year to maximum of nine years. Departments of Law and General Administration, besides a number of departments related to the accused officials, have been conveniently sleeping over the SVO’s requests. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s much hyped “Year Against Corruption” in 2011 has failed to cut any ice. Bureaucrats dealing with these matters have been actually honoured, rewarded, publicly hailed and recommended for awards and prize postings.

Early Times made repeated attempts to know why SVO had not proceeded to file challans even after the Supreme Court of India judgment, dated 31-01-2012. However, Vigilance Commissioner, Mr P L Gupta, did not respond to phone calls in the last two days. Thereafter, ET sent a detailed questioner by e-mail to Mr Gupta and informed him by SMS about its submission. Still, there was no response from SVO on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Officials in Department of Law maintained that neither any sanction had been granted or denied nor had the Advocate General been approached for consultation in any of the six matters in the last three months.

Oldest of the six FIRs [FIR No: 29 of 2003 VOJ] is against retired IAS officers, Ashok Jaitley and Ajit Kumar, who functioned as Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary PDD in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s government in 1996-2002. Messers Jaitley and Kumar, according to FIR, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Ravish Trehan of Trehan Industries Private Ltd Jammu. One Ashok Kumar, Assistant General Manager BHEL, now retired, by abuse of his official position bull-dozed his way in handing over power house Canal Road Jammu for generating electricity at exorbitant rates, thereby causing huge recurring loss to the state exchequer. However, according to some reports, the accused succeeded in getting relief orders from different courts in absence of sanction to their prosecution.

Second high profile FIR, awaiting sanction to prosecution, dates back to the year 2005. According to FIR No: 18 of 2005 VOK, then Director RDD Kashmir, Syed Asgar Ali, ACD Anantnag Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, BDO Qoimoh Kulgam, Zaffar Altaf, BDO Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Ganie, BDO Dachnipora Abdul Hamid Wani and BDO Pohloo Mohammad Saleem Khanday, caused huge loss to the state exchequer by drawing fraudulently claimed payments on account of electrification of a large number of Panchayat Ghars in South Kashmir.

Third high profile case [FIR No: 8 of 2009 VOJ, relates to the infamous Gulmarg Land Scandal. Charges have been established in the FIR against three senior officials, namely Mehboob Iqbal (then Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, who retired in November 2011), Baseer Khan (then DC Baramulla and currently DC Srinagar) and Farooq Ahmed Shah, then Additional DC in Baramulla. Interestingly, Mehboob Iqbal subsequently got more prize postings and retired as Commissioner Secretary Irrigation and PHE. Baseer Khan was inducted into IAS during Omar Abdullah’s government and posted on more sensitive positions like VC SDA and DC Srinagar.

The accused allegedly committed misuse of official position for illegal transfer of state land at Gulmarg worth by “misusing Roshni Act”. Even as J&K High Court denied them anticipatory bail, SVO never detained or arrested them. However, challan was completed and the sanction to prosecution is awaited since 2010.

FIR No: 21 of 2006 VOJ is registered against then Directors of Local Bodies Jammu, namely Mohinder Singh and Avtar Krishen Raina.

FIR No: 22 of 2009 VOJ stands registered against then CDPO Social Welfare Doda, Babu Ram, who allegedly made illegal appointments.

FIR No: 17 of 2010 VOK stands registered against then Joint Registrar Cooperative (Audit), Kashmir, Ghulam Hassan Wani. He is alleged to be owner of properties disproportionate to his known sources of income. In different communications to Government, SVO claimed to have established charges in all the six FIRs and sought mandatory sanction to the prosecution from competent authority. However, it has neither been granted nor denied within the time frame of three months as stipulated by Supreme Court.


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