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Monday, June 25, 2012

Appointment of CVC

Queries that Governor did not raise

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 24: Despite his discreet loyalty to all organs of the chair for the last five years as Director General of Police, political majors of Jammu & Kashmir have done a disservice to Mr Kuldeep Khoda. At a moment, when everybody laboured under the impression that Mr Khoda had neutralized PDP’s potential of opposing his nomination as the state’s first Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) through the good offices of benefactors like Makhan Lal Fotedar, Mehbooba Mufti shot out with her sting. The PDP chief, some believe, wanted to teach the coalition government a lesson of ignoring her recommendations in favour of Justice (rtd) Bilal Nazki and Justice (rtd) Bashir Ahmad Khan in appointment of the Chairperson of Accountability Commission last year.

With Congress representative in the selection committee meeting, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, according to Ms Mufti, assuming neutrality, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as well as Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar, put their foot down to see that the NC’s nominee makes it to the hot seat.

Hurriyat and JKLF have been, in fact, more benevolent to Mr Khoda by not going proactive against an official accused of his involvement in “killings” by a major mainstream party. The outgoing DGP, according to well-placed sources, delivered his personal condolences on the death of a separatist leader’s father who, in turn, was equally courteous all through the telephonic conversation. Even the group of human rights activists and lawyers, that threatened to challenge J&K High Court’s clean chit to Mr Khoda a day after the selection committee meeting, has meaningfully not approached Supreme Court in the last 27 days.

Look, how the ruling coalition has impaired Mr Khoda’s prospects more than the opposition---mainstream and separatist.

Firstly, Mr Khoda was indiscreetly encouraged to persist with his ‘on spot recruitment drive’ in J&K Police around the timing of his retirement from services and nomination as CVC. The drive, according to government sources, had been approved by Minister incharge Home for the poorly represented Revenue Niabats in the state Police. It practically revolved around the Assembly segments of only some influential Ministers and MLAs, making easy for others to view it as the DGP’s ‘operation quid pro quo’. 

Secondly, Mr Khoda’s nomination was inordinately delayed---exactly to the timing of his superannuation---provoking civil society to interpret it as a blue-eyed IPS officer’s post-retirement rehabilitation, rather than Omar Abdullah government’s commitment to eradication of corruption in public offices. Significantly, the State Vigilance Commission (SVC) was constituted vide SRO-59 on February 15th, 2011, and the first meeting of the selection committee was called not before May 28th, 2012, just three days before Mr Khoda’s date of retirement. It could have easily taken place three months before or later. This actually brought the debate out from confines of the state Law Department, General Administration Department and Chief Minister’s Secretariat and automatically out from Raj Bhawan too.

Thirdly, the names of two retired IAS and IPS officers, Samuel Varghese and Ashok Bhan, were incorporated in the panel by unknown sources at the eleventh hour. Both have been public servants of unmatched name and fame for over three decades of their service. In the wake of Ms Mufti’s dissent, Government would have to convince Raj Bhawan how its nominee was superior to Varghese and Bhan in honesty, integrity, competence and initiative. Its task would have been perhaps easier while weighing Mr Khoda against certain dwarfed panelists.

Fourthly, Mr Khoda’s image could have been boosted while making him proceed against some of his subordinate officials known for their brazen indulgence in corruption, extortion and secessionist-friendly activity. For decades, the number of Police officials, booked in corruption-related matter by State Vigilance Organisation, was almost zero. It was, in fact, out of this compulsion that the state government and its people realized the need of creating a high powered Vigilance Commission that would not have monopoly of the state Police.

Fifthly, Mr Khoda’s name was favoured by the Government members of the selection committee in the evening on May 28th when a matter of his alleged involvement in so-called “Bhaderwah triple murder” was under hearing of the High Court. In other words, had the Government submitted its recommendation to Raj Bhawan immediately after the selection committee meeting, had the Governor appointed Mr Khoda as CVC on the basis of same recommendations on forenoon of May 29th, and, had the High Court ordered criminal proceedings or CBI investigation, as prayed by the petitioners, Governor would have been subjected to unimaginable embarrassment, no less than the one suffered by the UPA Government at the Centre in PJ Thomas’s appointment as Central Vigilance Commissioner with Supreme Court’s judgment dated March 3rd, 2011.

It is just a coincidence that within hours of the selection committee meeting and Ms Mufti’s playing up of ‘Bhaderwah killings’, Mr Justice Hasnain Masoodi of J&K High Court got his clean chit to Mr Khoda announced through then acting Chief Justice in Jammu.

The issue being in the peoples’ court would make it immaterial whether or not Department of Law succeeds in convincing Raj Bhawan over the necessity of appointing Mr Khoda as CVC. Restricting Raj Bhawan’s queries merely to legality and technicality does obviously run the risk of the entire exercise getting dubbed as a ‘fixed match’ in Mr Khoda’s favour between Civil Secretariat and Raj Bhawan.

Even as Raj Bhawan has returned the file to the government with only the queries that could be comfortably responded to by the Civil Secretariat, it would be difficult to expect a Governor of Mr N N Vohra’s stature to mutely function as a rubberstamp to safeguard the government’s ego in his last year in office.

From the civil society, there is already enough of criticism that the state government was permissive to corruption, SVO had ceased to exist, SVC had remained fully blank since its inception in February 2011, State Human Rights Commission’s recommendations were not being implemented and both, State Information Commission and State Accountability Commission, had been rendered dysfunctional due to non-availability of staff and other infrastructure by the regime Governor calls “my government” each year in his Budget session speech in the Legislature.


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