PDP-BJP coalition’s another dubious first: CAG report not tabled in House
House Committee reports, annual reports of commissions were also not tabled in House; Cabinet kept 17 important Bills pending
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Feb 3: Cabinet spokesperson and Minister of Education Naeem Akhtar’s claim that the Presiding Officers adjourned the Legislature’s budget session sine die a week before the schedule only after ascertaining that “no more important business was still pending”, appears to be remarkably far from truth.
Sources in the Cabinet disclosed to STATE TIMES that the draft of as many as 17 important Bills was supposed to be approved by the Cabinet on February 1st at 3.00 pm. All these Bills would have come up for consideration and passage in Legislative Assembly, followed by Legislative Council, on the next four days of the Business. Even the Cabinet meeting, of which the agenda had been circulated, could not be convened as Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti diverted to a party function in Jammu and conveyed her reluctance to chair the same at Civil Secretariat in the afternoon on Wednesday.
“Immediately after the Opposition created ruckus in both Houses of Legislature over the Speaker’s announcement that he would examine the records and expunge if there was anything objectionable in the CM’s Monday speech, it was made clear to both the Presiding Officers that the CM was no more interested in continuation of the session”, sources in the Cabinet said. Taking a cue, Speaker of Legislative Assembly and Chairman of Legislative Council adjourned the session sine die, leaving much of the scheduled business unfinished.
The Budget had been already passed but none of the legislative businesses could be conducted. Even the Question Hour on many days of the session remained completely disturbed.
The Bills which failed to pass through legislation include replacement of J&K Panchayat Raj Ordinance of 2016 which authorises Chief Electoral Officer to conduct Panchayat elections in absence of the State Election Commission. The Commission has not been constituted in Jammu and Kashmir till date. “Since the Ordinance has enough time to expire on completion of six months, we will be able to hold the Panchayat elections in March-April as per the powers given to CEO by the Ordinance”, said a Minister.
Sources in the bureaucracy revealed that the 17 Bills which remained pending for legislation included some of the very important laws.
Even as a motion was adopted by so-called voice vote amid bedlam in the Assembly on Wednesday, none of the Financial Committees like Public Accounts Committee, Estimates Committee and Public Undertakings Committee, could be constituted. Secretary Assembly Mohammad Ramzan agrees that these are statutory panels and need to be constituted with all nominations by the Legislature. He, however, added that Assembly went by the practice of last several years whereby respective political parties submit names of their legislators and the Speaker constitutes the committees accordingly.
Even the all-important annual audition reports of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) were not tabled in Assembly or Council this time. Secretary Assembly said that it was second time in his memory that such businesses remained unfinished and the reports, including the CAG report, were not tabled. He said similar situation occurred once when Ghulam Nabi Azad was Chief Minister and due to a pandemonium, the Budget session was adjourned sine die in advance by Speaker Tara Chand in 2007 or 2008.
However, former Secretary of Law and Legislative Council, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, asserted that it was for the first time that the CAG reports, besides other annual reports, were not tabled in the Legislature in Jammu and Kashmir.
Secretary Assembly admitted that none of the Assembly’s own House Committee reports or those of J&K State Public Service Commission, J&K State Vigilance Commission, J&K Accountability Commission, J&K State Human Rights Commissions, annual reports of important PSUs and the CAG reports could not be tabled even as all these were ready and available with the Assembly and the Council Secretariat.
Under Article 148 and 149 of the Constitution of India, all the Central reports of CAG have to be tabled in the Budget session of the Parliament and all the State reports in respective State Legislatures.
While the Principal Auditor General (PAG) of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Huveda Abbas, is currently with a UN audit in United States of America, the Accountant General and incharge PAG, K Subramanium, said that as per the rules and the procedure, he had submitted the CAG reports to Governor several days before the commencement of the Budget session in December 2016.
“Since the State Legislature under rules is the first audience, none of the CAG reports can be made public or published until the same are tabled in the House. Now this has to be done in the next session. Thereafter, these reports will be discussed for remedial actions by the Public Accounts Committee”, Mr Subramaniam told STATE TIMES.
Officials in PAG’s office said that the CAG reports submitted by them had been long back approved by the Governor and forwarded to Assembly and the Council Secretariats through Finance Department. “These could have been tabled any day in the last one month of the session. We fail to understand why the Government waits for the last day of the session”, said an officer.