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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Search begins for new Adv General, AAGs, DAGs

Jehangir Iqbal, 40 other government advocates tender resignation

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Feb 12: Search has begun for appointment of the new Advocate General and replacement of 40-odd other government advocates who submitted their resignations on Friday to the Government through Commissioner-Secretary of the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs.

On Thursday, Government had sought resignation from Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai and other members of his team in the top rungs. By telephone, it had been communicated to them that Governor’s administration wanted them to furnish resignation letters by Friday.

In his official vehicle, Advocate General, with routine Police escort drove to his office at Jammu and Kashmir High Court complex in Janipura where he submitted his resignation to the Government. He also abandoned his vehicle and escort and returned in the private car of one of his colleagues. Official sources said that in all 42 government advocates including Advocate General, appointed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Government, tendered their resignation.

Commissioner-Secretary Law Mohammad Ashraf Mir and his colleagues in Law Department called them with the request that they should continue to pursue the Government business in different courts till acceptance or rejection of their resignation. According to well-placed sources, less than a dozen incumbents appeared on behalf of the Government in some courts while as others either left for home or pursued private cases.

Jammu wing of the High Court suspended work for second half of the day on Thursday and for the full day Friday as a mark of respect to the senior civil and criminal lawyer advocate Janak Raj Arora who had passed away yesterday.

Even as the Advocate General and all the senior Additional Advocates General (Sr AAGs), AAGs, Deputy AGs and Government Advocates (GAS) deployed in High Court tendered their resignations, the Governor’s administration did not seek disengagement of over 400 advocates who are working as Standing Counsels (SCs) Public Prosecutors (PPs) and Additional Public Prosecutors in different courts, including special and designated courts, of the subordinate judiciary.

Officials and bureaucrats did not elaborate on why the resignation had been sought from Advocate General and 40-odd other advocates. However, well-placed sources revealed to STATE TIMES that the bureaucracy was indignant after Mr Ganai said before a Division Bench earlier this week that around a dozen administrative Secretaries were not cooperating and coordinating with him with regard to the direction of completing around 150 departmental inquiries against different officials and bureaucrats. The DB had taken strong note and impleaded as many as 13 administrative secretaries as a respondent party in the PIL and issued notices to them.

Adverse directions and judgments in some other cases had already turned an influential section of the bureaucracy against Advocate General and his team.

Governor Narendra Nath Vohra, who was scheduled to return to Jammu from New Delhi on Friday, extended his visit by two days. He is now expected to return to the winter capital on Sunday. Sources said that the Governor and his advisors, besides Chief Secretary and Commissioner-Secretary Law, would finalise the new list of the appointees in the next two days. Orders of appointment in favour of the new Advocate General and other senior members of his team could be issued on Sunday night or Monday.

According to sources, senior advocate and former Advocate General D.C. Raina, senior advocate and former representative of the State government in Supreme Court of India, Gaurav Pachnanda, who happens to be a close relative of the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and the outgoing Senior AAG Seema Shekhar, are in the top zone of consideration for appointment of the new Advocate General.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Governor seeks resignation from Adv Gen, 40 AAGs/DAGs, other political appointees

Law Department’s call: ‘Tender your resignations by tomorrow’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Feb 11: In yet another significant development, which could not be ordinarily without consultation with the Government of India, the State bureaucracy on Thursday directed all the political appointees of the erstwhile Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government in Jammu and Kashmir to tender their resignations within 24 hours.

Highly placed authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that officials of the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs called almost all the government advocates in Srinagar as well as Jammu to furnish their resignation letters by Friday. They have been, however, asked to continue to pursue the government business in different courts till acceptance or rejection of their resignation by the Governor’s administration.

Around 40 political appointees of the Law Department who were asked to vacate include Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai besides all the Additional AGs, Deputy AGs and Government Advocates. In Srinagar, four AAGs, who had been appointed days before Mufti’s death on January 7 during the court’s winter vacations and started work only on February 1st, had not received the telephonic call till the evening. They include Mohammad Amin Rathore, Nazir Ahmad Baba, former Chief Justice Bilal Nazki’s son Mehfooz Nazki and former Rural Development Minister Abdul Haq Khan’s son Vikar Khan.

Governor Narendra Nath Vohra’s decision to relieve the government advocates, and possibly to engage a fresh team of the lawyers, came days after the appointment of the retired IAS officers, Parvez Dewan and Khursheed Ahmad Ganai, as his Advisors. Both the developments indicate that Governor was not seeing formation of the PDP-BJP coalition in near future. His decision to disengage the government advocates is also significant in the sense that most of these political appointees are the close relatives and promotees of the BJP and the PDP leaders besides some High Court judges including two former Chief Justices and a sitting Chief Justice.

Senior PDP leader and former Rural Development Minister Abdul Haq Khan’s son Vikar Khan, BJP’s Kashmir Provincial President Ghulam Mohammad Mir’s daughter Shazia Mir and PDP leader Nizam-ud-din Bhat’s son Meraj Bhat are being relieved in Srinagar. Similarly in Jammu, relatives and promotees of senior BJP leaders and former Ministers have been asked to quit. Those being relieved in Jammu include the daughter of a retired Director General of Police and the wife of an Inspector General of Police.

Sources said that Governor also directed General Administration Department to ask the other political appointees, including the heads of several autonomous bodies, boards, PSUs and corporation to tender their resignations. However, it was not immediately clear if any deadline had been set for them. Heads of the autonomous bodies and corporations appointed by the Mufti government had been all recommended either by PDP or by BJP. Of them, Chairperson of State Women’s Commission Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor and head of the Wakf body Peer Mohammad Hussain had also attended PDP’s Core Group meeting in Srinagar after the Chief Minister’s death.

Reports awaiting confirmation said that Governor’s administration was likely to engage a fresh team of the government advocates. One among the former AG, D.C. Raina, and the State Government’s former representative in Supreme Court of India, Gaurav Pachnanda, is likely to be appointed as the new Advocate General.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

PDP-BJP government likely in March beginning

Centre may commit to return one power project, announce more in Budget

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Feb 9: Following certain developments---including the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s meeting with Governor Narendra Nath Vohra in Jammu and Tuesday’s meeting between Governor and union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi---the PDP-BJP government headed by Mehbooba Mufti may become a reality in the first week of March.

Knowledgeable sources disclosed to STATE TIMES on Tuesday that a senior PDP leader on behalf of Ms Mufti was currently holding negotiations directly with Prime Minister’s Office. After a series of deliberations, the BJP Government at the Centre is understood to have agreed to announce some crucial developmental projects for J&K, including some financial package over and above the PM’s Rs 80,000 crore package, in the Union Budget in the Parliament on February 27.

Even before that, Centre has agreed to announce return of one of the NHPC projects to the State for which a bureaucratic procedure would be adopted. After deduction of the depreciation of cost, its value could be determined and deducted from the financial package to be announced for J&K.

“However, there is no question of the Centre agreeing to PDP’s demand of addressing the internal dimension of the Kashmir problem (initiating dialogue with the Kashmiri separatists), revocation of AFSPA, relocation of the troops, withdrawal of the petitions filed by BJP members and affiliate groups against State flag and Article 35-A of the Constitution of India and such other demands”, said a source claiming to be privy to the negotiations.

According to sources, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked the BJP President Amit Shah to send General Secretary Ram Madhav to Srinagar on February 17. Madhav could attend Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s 40th day after death and also fine tune things with the PDP President who had previously, according to some reports, refused to interact with anybody below the BJP President and the Prime Minister.

“If everything progresses smoothly, the Centre would commit on return of one NHPC power project and subsequently made certain announcements in the Union Budget that should reasonably satisfy Ms Mufti. We can expect her to take oath in the first week of March”, said a political source in the top level of the BJP. He admitted that BJP had suffered some serious reverses in Jammu in the last 11 months but asserted that the PDP’s position in Valley had turned equally worse. According to him, neither of the two parties was prepared to face interim elections and formation of the government was yet again their “compulsion”.

Jostling over ‘return of mortal remains’ in 2015, PDP, Cong mute on Afzal Guru’s hanging anniversary

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Feb 9: In February and March 2015, Jammu and Kashmir’s mainstream political theatre was plush with histrionics over the Valley’s populist demand of return of Afzal Guru’s mortal remains to his family. A year later, on Guru’s third execution anniversary on Tuesday, history made it clear that the PDP’s and the Congress party’s jostling was nothing beyond an act of hypocrisy and competitive appeasement aimed at winning election for two seats in the J&K Legislative Council and a seat in Rajya Sabha.

Omar Abdullah’s National Conference chose to remain silent on the demand around the elections as it was at the receiving end of a deluge of criticism. Both, the separatist as well as the mainstream parties and leaders castigated Omar for “collaboration” in Guru’s execution and raised questions why the Chief Minister had not arranged the Sopore family’s travelling to New Delhi and meeting with the Parliament attack convict before he was sent to the gallows on February 9, 2013.

Omar pleaded his helplessness and clarified that he was not in the loop until the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had ordered Guru’s hanging. But he had few takers to his claim of innocence. Among the mainstream political parties, PDP was in the forefront of the demand of returning Guru’s mortal remains to his family.

Even after the PDP formed the government in an alliance with the BJP on March 1, 2015, it sought an independent MLA Engineer Rashid’s vote to ensure victory of the party nominees’ for two seats of Legislative Council. Rashid publicly insisted on the hard bargaining complaining that it was none other than PDP that had failed his resolution in Assembly when in he in 2011 he sought to mount pressure on the Government of India for granting clemency to Guru.

On March 3, 2015, nine of the PDP MLAs, obviously on the direction of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti, signed and issued a statement to the best of the independent MLA’s satisfaction. It read: “PDP has always maintained that late Afzal Guru’s hanging was travesty of justice and constitutional requirements and process was not followed in hanging him out of turn. The statement added: “PDP stands by the demand for return of his (Guru’s) mortal remains, and the party promises to follow vigorously for the return of the mortal remains”.

“We believe that the resolution brought by Er. Rashid to seek clemency for late Afzal Guru was justified and should have been adopted by the House at that time,” the legislators admitted to please the MLA. Those who signed the statement included the PDP MLAs Mohammad Khalil Bandh, Zahoor Ahmed Mir, Raja Manzoor Ahmad, Mohammad Abbas Wani, Yawar Dilawar Mir, Advocate Mohammad Yosuf, Aijaz Ahmad Mir and Noor Mohammad Sheikh.

However, in a stage-managed show, PDP’s coalition partner BJP claimed to have taken strong note of the PDP MLAs’ statement. It sternly asked the PDP to “shun this kind of politics”. The BJP Secretary Shrikant Sharma said in a reaction: "Terror has no religion. We condemn this type of politics. Terrorism is an enemy of humanity and the whole country should unite to root this out. BJP believes in zero tolerance to terrorism”.

In the previous month, when Ghulam Nabi Azad contested on a Rajya Sabha seat from his home State of J&K  to retain his prestigious position as Leader of Opposition in the Upper House, Congress too decided to rope in Engineer Rashid. The independent MLA, who held key to Azad’s victory and defeat in case the BJP would manage another independent MLA Hakeem Yasin’s absence, insisted on Shylock’s pound of flesh. He made it clear that he would not vote for Azad until the Congress admitted its guilt and offered apology for Guru’s execution. He asked Congress to endorse his demand on return of Guru’s mortal remains.

Consequently, on February 8, 2015, five of the Congress MLAs signed and issued a joint statement to placate Engineer Rashid. They included Vikar Rasool Wani, Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Haji Abdul Rasheed and Gulzar Ahmad Wani. They admitted that not allowing Guru’s family to meet him before his hanging was a “mistake” and return of his mortal remains a “humanitarian issue”.

"The group of legislators also said that his (Rasheed) demand about the return of the mortal remains of Afzal Guru is a humanitarian issue and his resolution in this regard could have been looked into from a humanitarian angle….The views of Engineer Rasheed regarding allowing the last meeting to the kith and kin of Afzal Guru are genuine and based on humanitarian values and that same was a mistake", said the five Congress MLAs’ statement.
Contrary to the two statements, neither PDP nor Congress issued any statement on the demand of the return of Guru’s mortal remains on Tuesday.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Ex-Ministers’ entitlement of retaining bungalows expires

Estates Department to evict 215 unauthorised occupants in Jammu

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Feb 7: Even as all the members of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Council of Ministers have lost their entitlement of retaining their Ministerial bungalows and vehicles on Sunday, Governor’s administration is still undecided whether to order their eviction or otherwise.

“Under rules, the ministers are entitled to retain their accommodations for a month after ceasing to be the members of the Council of Ministers. That entitlement has expired today. However, we have no further direction in this matter as any decision with regard to such matters will be taken from the top”, said an officer of the Estates Department. Twenty-four legislators of PDP and BJP besides their independent allies like Sajjad Gani Lone and Pawan Gupta, have ceased to be Ministers after the death of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7.

Only the Mufti family have vacated the Chief Minister’s official residence at Wazarat Road in Jammu. Senior PDP leader and former Minister of Education Naeem Akhtar had remarked that the Mufti family vacated the house in keeping with the “high moral standards” Mufti Sahab maintained throughout his political career. However, none of the Ministers has followed the suit and vacated the rent-free accommodation either in Jammu or in Srinagar.

“Since all of them are also MLAs or MLCs and thus entitled to the government accommodation, we have to provide them alternative residences. We will undertake that exercise only if we get such a direction from the top”, the Estates Department official said.

The Estates official revealed to STATE TIMES that his department had completed the exercise of the identification of unauthorised occupants in different colonies in Jammu and their eviction drive would start in a couple of days. He said that a specially constituted team identified 215 unauthorised occupants. “They include the government employees who have retired from service, or have been transferred to distant locations including Kashmir valley, or have sublet the allotted premises or have constructed or acquired their own houses in Jammu. They also include tenants who have lost their entitlement in the last few years”, said the official.

The department had last week reprimanded different departments for failing to inform about transfer, retirement or death of the employees in possession of the government accommodation.

Financial Commissioner Estates, B B Vyas had in an order on Thursday directed the departments to furnish a copy of the retirement notification or transfer orders to the Estates department to bring about greater transparency and efficiency in its working.

“It is necessary that Estates Department is kept informed of subsequent transfers and postings of the allottee employees so that concomitant changes could be made in the allotted accommodation,” he had said. Non-availability of such information, he had pointed out, resulted in delay in the eviction process and allotment to the applicants in waiting. “This creates unnecessary information gaps and delays in the process relating to eviction, allotment and any changes in allotment,” he had said.

[Published in today's STATE TIMES]