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Thursday, December 22, 2016

What was J&K Law Minister, Advocate General doing in Delhi on December 5-7?

J&K Govt’s connivance is more evident than ‘non-seriousness’ in SARFAESI episode

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 21: With virtually everybody in the opposition, from Hurriyat Conference to National Conference, blaming the Mehbooba Mufti Government for “non-seriousness” while dealing with the SARFAESI petitions in Supreme Court of India, it appears that the coalition in Jammu and Kashmir was actually in connivance with New Delhi to ensure defeat to so-called ‘Kashmir sentiment’.

Investigating the reasons behind the State government’s lackadaisical attitude vis-à-vis the petitions seeking enforcement of the Central law titled Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, (SARFAESI) in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, STATE TIMES has learned that both, Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan and Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai, were very much present in New Delhi during arguments of the case in Supreme Court.

According to the official records in possession of this newspaper, Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan camped in New Delhi for about four days when the arguments were underway on the petition before Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R.F. Nariman. Mr Khan arrived in New Delhi on December 4 and returned to Jammu by the morning flight on December 7. After staying in Jammu for three days, he flew to Srinagar with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in the State government’s aircraft on December 10 and returned to the winter capital on December 13.

Advocate General arrived in New Delhi on December 5. He stayed there for two days and returned to Jammu on December 7. Before his departure, he was spotted in company of Justice (retired) Bilal Nazki’s son and a Kashmiri Pandit Mr Raina.

During the same time, when Law Minister and Advocate General were camping in the Union Capital, the Supreme Court bench heard counsels of the petitioners and respondents on December 6 and 7. The Bench announced the judgment on December 16. This makes clear that there was no “non-seriousness” towards the SARAESI petition on the part of the Mehbooba Mufti government but raises question as to why Law Minister and the Advocate General left entire job to a junior counsel, the advocate on record Sunil Fernandes.

In certain crucial matters, previous State governments are known to have specially engaged the country’s top lawyers like Fali Nariman, father of one of the judges who adjudicated on SARFAESI Act’s applicability to Jammu and Kashmir. In recent times, Omar Abdullah’s government had engaged eminent Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve for a hefty fee when it wanted to ensure that the detained Superintendent of Police Javed Iqbal Matoo does not bail in so-called twin rape-and-murder case of Shopian in 2009.

Even in the recent matter of a Dy SP’s alleged hand in the death of a civilian protester, the State government is known to have engaged a senior lawyer for the officer’s defence.

Even as a barrage of criticism is pouring in from the Valley, raising questions and presuming quid pro quo of the Law Ministry functionaries with the Centre, STATE TIMES is still investigating as to why a senior lawyer or the Advocate General himself did not appear in defence of the State’s stated position. Mr Khan did not respond to phone calls. Officials in Law Department maintained that he was currently in Mumbai.

Mr Ganai said through WhatsApp that he would respond to questions after returning to Jammu from Srinagar. Sources in the Law Department confirmed his presence in New Delhi on December 5, 6 and 7 and claimed that on December 6 he “briefly appeared” before the Supreme Court Bench. “He contended that Government of Jammu and Kashmir would soon bring its own SARFAESI legislation in the next session of the Legislature. But neither his attendance nor his argument was recorded. He immediately left the court”, said an official, claiming that nobody knew why the State government’s contention had gone unheard.

This newspaper is investigating whether the Law Minister and the Advocate General were under pressure from Government of India to remain mute to the proceedings in Supreme Court or there was some other consideration. Remarkably, after the Opposition began raking up this issue, Mr Khan publicly approved of the judgment and called it “an achievement” for J&K State.

Author of at least one book on law and a legal practitioner himself for over three decades, Mr Khan lately co-hosted an official function for Chief Justice of India Justice T.S. Thakur in Jammu.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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