Total Pageviews

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?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mehbooba favours Bhan as CVC, says Khoda is facing murder charges

Govt ignores PDP’s dissent; recommends Khoda as SVC chief, Jeerath and Sayeed as Commissioners

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, May 28: In an obvious attempt to embarrass Omar Abdullah-led coalition government over the appointment of the retiring Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, as the first head of the newly created State Vigilance Commission (SVC), PDP President Mehbooba Mufti today walked out of the Search Committee meeting, asking how a Police officer ‘involved in killings’ could be appointed as CVC and expected to curb corruption. Government has, nevertheless, decided to ignore Mehbooba’s dissent and is recommending Mr Khoda as Chief Vigilance Commissioner and two retired IAS officers, namely R K Jeerath and Mohammad Sayeed Khan, as Commissioners.

Early Times disclosure, made exactly a year ago, proved right this evening when representatives of the coalition government---Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and Minister of Law, Ali Mohammad Sagar---recommended the outgoing DGP, Mr Khoda, as the first CVC. However, the fourth member of the statutory search committee, PDP chief and Leader of the single largest opposition party in Assembly, Mehbooba Mufti, expressed her strong reservations. Sources present in the meeting at Hari Niwas Palace told this newspaper that Mehbooba had come “fully prepared” only to block Mr Khoda’s appointment.

Sources said that immediately after the meeting began at 7.00 p.m, the government members asked Ms Mufti to reveal her choices. She desired to know who exactly figured in the panel reportedly prepared and shortlisted by the government. Mehbooba mentioned the names of the former DGP (Prison), Dr Ashok Bhan, and former Financial Commissioner Home, Samuel Varghese, and pleaded that they could be the most suitable for the post of the CVC. She asserted that both of them had retired with unblemished service record and had proved to be the public servants of high integrity, competence and reputation.

However, Omar and Sagar expressed their reservation with regard to both. They insisted that Khoda would be the best incumbent, given his track record of competence and integrity for near 38 years in the state Police. Thereupon, Mehbooba triggered her gun. She asserted that Mr Khoda was facing serious charges of killing in the infamous Bhaderwah triple murder case that, according to her, had been established by Crime Branch and even brought before judicial courts as well as National Human Rights Commission. She also held Mr Khoda responsible for 120 killings in the street violence of 2010 summer during his headship of Jammu and Kashmir Police. “How can such a person be appointed as head of State Vigilance Commission? How do you expect him to fight corruption?” Mehbooba asked Omar and Sagar. When both resisted, she bluntly leveled allegation that the retiring DGP was being “rewarded for giving clean chit to Abdullah family in Haji Yousuf murder case”.

An indignant Chief Minister asked her why PDP had supported Khoda’s appointment as DGP in July 2007 when Ghulam Nabi Azad was Chief Minister and PDP was a partner in the coalition government. Mehbooba, according to sources, pleaded that Mr Khoda’s involvement in Bhaderwah killings had become public only last year. She pointed out that 120 civilians in Kashmir were killed in Police firing in 2010, not in 2007. Within 20 minutes of the deliberations, Mehbooba walked out of the meeting in protest. Within minutes, Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister too drove back towards their residences.

Government hurriedly organised a news conference at Hari Niwas. Speaking to mediapersons, Sagar said that the Chief Minister made an effort to evolve consensus as was done earlier in the case of appointment to State Information Commission and State Accountability Commission. He further informed that a panel of six persons each for CVC and two Vigilance Commissioners was deliberated upon in the meeting. However, he said, there was no consensus on the name of CVC as the same was not agreed to by the leader of opposition.

Sagar said that the institutions such as State Vigilance Commission should be kept above politics but unfortunately some persons were politicizing the appointments to these institutions. He further stated that the recommendations would be submitted to the Governor for his approval and the Government would duly mention in its communication that “one particular party had dissent on one particular name”.

Even as Sagar did not identify the men being recommended for appointment to Governor, sources said that the committee, notwithstanding Ms Mufti’s strong note of dissent against Khoda, favoured the retiring DGP as CVC and Messers Ravi Kulbhushan Jeerath and Mohammad Sayeed Khan as the two Commissioners. Sources said that General Administration Department (GAD) was being asked to draft the letter and send it to Raj Bhawan later tonight.

PDP too quickly called media to Mufti’s residence. Speaking to media late this evening, Ms Mufti revealed that she had opposed Khoda’s appointment as CVC. According to her, she walked out of the meeting in protest when Chief Minister and Law Minister remained hell bent that none other than Khoda be recommended for the post of CVC. She claimed that Deputy Chief Minister remained silent and only Omar and Sagar threw their weight behind Khoda.

“I argued that it was a matter of law. I pointed out that in PJ Thomas case, Supreme Court of India had issued strict guidelines to all state governments that integrity watchdogs should be not essentially public servants but also eminent social activists. I told them that I had written a letter, wishing Chief Minister to assert and make necessary amendment in the law as per the Supreme Court guidelines. But, till date, I even did not get a reply”, Mehbooba said. She said that she further raised her objection, asking Omar and Sagar how a Police officer facing charges of murder in Bhaderwah case and responsible for 120 killings in Police firing could be appointed as CVC. “I told them that Mr Khoda was being rewarded for giving clean chit to Abdullah family in Haji Yousuf murder case”, she added. Mehbooba said that she could not become part of deliberations aimed at rewarding killers with statutory positions.

The PDP chief said that Bhaderwah killings had surfaced in 1997 but then Chief Minister of NC, Dr Farooq Abdullah, had “hushed up the case”. She said it was during Khoda’s headship of J&K Police that Police and Crime Brach investigation in “Cricket Association Scam” and other matters had been bungled. She said that there was no discussion in the meeting on the panels for two Vigilance Commissioners. “I made it clear to them that when there was no consensus on the name of the CVC, what was the fun of discussing VCs”, she said.

Asked what would be PDP’s future course of action in this particular matter, Mehbooba said: “I have done my job. Now this is for Governor to see how he could accord to assent to the controversial names and appoint men who are involved in murders”.