SAC Chairman Justice Khan says there’s no political will to eradicate corruption in J&K

JAMMU:No less an authority than the Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC) Justice Bashir Ahmad Khan has said that successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir had “no political or bureaucratic will” to eradicate corruption from high offices.
In a special interview with this journalist for ETV Urdu, Justice Khan complained that he had written as many as 10 letters to the State government in the last 28 months, seeking staff for SAC’s Investigation Wing, but there had been no positive response to his communications. Under Regulation 13 of the Accountability Commission Regulations 2005, Government of Jammu and Kashmir is supposed to provide one Additional Director General of Police or one Inspector General of Police, two DIGs, four SPs, four Dy SPs, six Inspectors, 12 Sub Inspectors, 24 head constables, 40 constables, six clerks and seven drivers to SAC.
For SAC’s Technical Wing, Government is supposed to depute one Superintending Engineer and two Executive Engineers.
However, since January 25, 2003, when the Accountability Commission Act 2002, came into force, no such staff has been provided to SAC by successive governments in the last 15 years.
“There’s absolutely no political or bureaucratic will to make the system of governance clean and eradicate corruption. There’s no sincerity of intent in our set up and polity. Had there been a will, the system today would have been fair. It has become a vicious circle. Yeh tou ek gorakh dhanda ban gaya hai. Merit is marred in a brazen manner. The aggrieved goes to the other system (of judiciary) where he is dragged for 10 or 20 years. This makes him frustrated and he loses faith in the State’s democratic institutions”, Justice Khan asserted.
“Whenever we create an institution, we make it a point to fail it in its delivery. We plan how it keep it weak from day one. For this, we keep deficiencies in its law so as to ensure that it fails in its delivery and implementation. We impose such individuals on these institutions who are not even remotely associated with fairness”, Khan added.
Justice Khan, who has held top positions in judiciary and functioned as Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, before his appointment by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government as Chairman SAC in October 2015, said that many of the people in this State had lost faith in everything from executive and legislature to judiciary as the systems had failed to deliver justice within reasonable timeframe to the ordinary citizen. He attributed much of the failure to the absence of political and bureaucratic will to bring about transparency and fairness.
“Our anti-corruption institutions have rusted. Take the example of our Vigilance Organisation. It picks up Patwaris and takes 8 long years to investigate charges of corruption against them. Many of them include junior officials who are arrested for receiving Rs 100 from someone. VO submits a challan to the court after 8 years. Court says eight long years have already elapsed and dumps the matter. There are deficiencies in the system, including in judiciary. Even the Legislature has been tainted. Don’t we know that MPs were paid cash for asking particular questions in the Parliament?”, Khan said.
He said it was mainly because of this loss of faith that nobody was coming forward with sworn complaints of corruption, nepotism and misuse of office against Chief Ministers, Ministers and other public functionaries. When it was pointed out to him that the complainants in general were scared of the penalty provided for the petitioners in case of failing to establish a charge, Khan agreed that the law needed certain amendments. Section 25 of Accountability Commission Act 2002 makes a complainant liable to imprisonment of one to three years besides fine of Rs 50,000 if he/she fails to prove charges against a public functionary.
Asked why the SAC under his leadership had not taken suo moto cognizance of the media reports exposing alleged corruption and nepotism of Ministers and other public functionaries in the matters of allotment of contracts and recruitment in government services and State-controlled organisations, Khan said: “We can’t take cognizance of unsubstantiated newspaper stories and anonymous complaints. When we serve a notice on a Minister, it makes him a suspect”.
When this interviewer attracted Khan’s attention towards the controversial selection of different family members, relatives and party workers of certain Ministers and powerful politicians in the last few months, he sounded reluctant to take cognizance until someone approached his Commission with a written and sworn complaint. He did not comment on the fact that a Division Bench of the J&K High Court had restored SAC’s suo moto cognizance powers on February 1, 2016 and subsequently a three-judge Bench of Supreme Court of India had also upheld the DB’s judgment on July 22, 2017.
Khan maintained that SAC had no jurisdiction over the officers of KVIB, ICDS and NRHM as its powers had been scuttled. When it was pointed out to him that the SAC had jurisdiction over Minister for Industries and Commerce, Minister for Social Welfare and Minister for Health and Medical Education under whom the much tainted KVIB, ICDS and NRHM function, he continued to plead that such irregularities did not essentially originate from a Minister.
“Sometimes we do take cognizance. For example, we have ordered an investigation into the allegedly substandard and poisonous food items being procured and provided to young children at Anganwari Centres by Social Welfare Department. We are hearing this case since last 8 months. Until we are convinced about the concerned Minister’s approval to the irregularities committed by the bureaucrats and officers under him, how can we hang the Minister?” Khan averred.
When it was pointed out to him that the SAC had also ignored complaints and media reports revealing how some highly linked individuals had usurped properties of the J&K Government worth billions of rupees in New Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, West Bengal and other places, Khan said: “This indeed is a tragedy. Prime land in Bombay’s Malabar Hills was gifted away to someone for Rs 1.50 lakh”. He maintained that SAC was “handicapped” in such matters due to limitations of jurisdiction and absence of powers.

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