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Friday, June 1, 2012

Khoda’s appointment: Legally right, morally wrong

Outgoing DGP should not stand at the centre of Govt-Opposition clash over SVC appointments

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 31: Even after his getting clean chit from J&K High Court in the so-called Bhaderwah triple murder, appointment of the outgoing Director General of Police (DGP), Kuldeep Khoda, as the first head of J&K State Vigilance Commission (SVC), is running the risk of being perceived as a blue-eyed boy’s post-retirement rehabilitation rather than Omar Abdullah Government’s commitment to curb corruption.

Omar Abdullah’s government, it appears, is bent upon bulldozing the public opinion and fulfilling its prestige in Mr Khoda’s appointment. It could comfortably sail through the process if Governor, N N Vohra, restricted his judgment merely to the prism of technicality and legality. Government has certain extra advantages too: Khoda’s appointment has been resisted by the leader of a party that has audaciously rehabilitated tainted public servants by inducting them into senior positions, including the membership of Legislative Council; PDP has not discharged its duty as the principal Opposition party when the government moved amendment in the State Vigilance Commission Act of 2010 in the year 2011.

None of PDP’s members in the legislature asked the government as to why the amendment was not in accordance with the Supreme Court of India directions in the PJ Thomas case, as announced on March 3, 2011. Chief Justice S H Kapadia and other members of his bench had categorically asked the state governments to widen their zone of consideration to civil society in appointment of heads and members of Vigilance bodies. In para 55 (ii), Supreme Court had said: “In future the zone of consideration should be in terms of Section 3 (3) of the 2003 Act. It shall not be restricted to civil servants”.

Significantly, in total ignorance of Justice Kapadia’s direction, Chief Minister’s draft of the amendment simply created room for induction of Police officers into SVC. Previously, only civil service officers were qualified to become members and heads of SVC. Appointment of IPS officers, in facts, reduces the difference between the SVC and State Vigilance Organisation. Police enjoyed monopoly in SVO and it was because of this that the organisation did not proceed against Police officers.

Government’s last, but not the least, advantage in this particular matter is that PDP has invoked only wide allegation like “Mr Khoda’s responsibility in 12o killings” or “clean chit to Abdullah family in Haji Yousuf murder case and Cricket Association Scam”. Bhaderwah triple murder was the only specific accusation. Obviously, without much difficulty, Government can convince Raj Bhawan that, after J&K High Court’s clean chit to Mr Khoda, there is no substance in the dissent recorded by the Leader of the Opposition. And the Governor, who showed no hesitation in accepting five of the ruling coalition’s defeated candidates as “representatives of intelligentsia” and nominating them as members of the House of Elders in 2009, is widely expected to go strictly by the desire of National Conference and Congress.

It is already being projected by NC leaders that in PJ Thomas case, Supreme Court has not given “power of veto” to any member or members of the high power selection committee.

But, many other factors can not be brushed under the carpet by custodian of the state Constitution. The timing and manner in which the Bhaderwah killings case has been dismissed a day after the selection committee meeting, has already generated a controversy and doubts over credibility of the state’s institutions. Same could have come easily weeks before or after Mr Khoda’s date of retirement and date of the selection committee meeting.

As the law says, the dissenting member shall have to record as to what precisely made her differ with the opinion of other members of the committee. Government members, in turn, shall have to explain as to what made their favourite (Mr Khoda) in their opinion superior to other nominees of the panel like Samuel Varghese and Ashok Bhan, whose integrity has been above board throughout their span of service in civil administration and Police, respectively.

Other questions of moral significance may also have to be answered. Significantly again, then Commissioner-Secretary of General Administration Department (GAD) recommended his own name at serial number one when Government asked him to collect nominations from all the administrative departments and prepare a list of the candidates.

As long back as on July 16th, 2011, Early Times had made the first ever disclosure of Mr Khoda being the coalition government’s choice for the post of CVC. Government did not react but its functionaries maintained in public and private conversations that this newspaper had ‘no credibility’. Even as the Commission was created by way of an SRO on 15-02-2011, Government conveniently slept over the process of appointments in the SVC of CVC for over a year. Government’s choice last week has made it unmistakably clear that the amendment made in the law was for the sake of making one particular Police officer eligible for headship of SVC.

Public perception of Mr Khoda being a blue-eyed boy of the corridors of power in New Delhi and Srinagar is gaining ground fast. Cynics have gone to the extent of attributing motives even to his initiative of “balancing the representation of Niabats” in J&K Police (spot recruitments of the last few months). Though a number of such camps have been held in segments of PDP’s MLAs, many in the Opposition are dismissing the process as “bribe” to certain men of consequence in the corridors of power.

It has to be born in mind that current controversy on Mr Khoda’s nomination is neither a Service Writ Petition between two Executive Engineers nor a matter of the appointment of a Managing Director for a Corporation. Justice, they say, should not only be done but also seem to be done. What ultimately matters in selection of judges of High Courts and Supreme Court, Chairpersons and members of Vigilance and Accountability commissions or even the Governors is the common peoples’ faith and trust in their person and the institutions. More than the opposition, it is the coalition government that has spoiled Mr Khoda’s candidature by waiting for the day of his retirement and holding the entire existence of the Commission hostage only to fulfill ego.

Having put in 38 years of IPS in his home state, an incumbent like Mr Khoda is not expected to allow himself to be placed at the centre of the clash between the NC-Congress coalition and the PDP. Unfortunately, public perceptions have been more defining than the realities in Kashmir. Who else could know it better than Mr Khoda who experienced dozens of “rape-and-murder in Shopian” during his eventful term of five years as DGP in J&K?


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