JK set to amend SVC Act
Govt Likely To Bring Ordinance On Amendments
Srinagar, Aug 4: In a significant development, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has finally decided to go head with amending the State Vigilance Commission Act of 2011 in a bid to make the legislation stronger. This comes in the wake of demands and feedback from stakeholders on the Act, which would set into motion the process for constitution of the State Vigilance Commission.
Taking to Greater Kashmir, the Commissioner/Secretary, General Administration Department, Muhammad Syed Khan, said: “We are making certain amendments in the Act. The issue is under the active consideration of the state government. We may go for the amendments through an ordinance which is being concretized at the moment or table the bill in the next Assembly session, whichever is found feasible.”
Highly placed sources disclosed that some “major changes” are being made in the legislation after the public feedback on the Act was examined by the General Administration Department. GAD had put SVC Act in public domain on April 28 this year to seek suggestions from the people on it.
The State Legislature during the Budget Session of 2010 passed the J&K SVC Act 2011 following which it constituted the State Vigilance Commission vide notification SRO 59 Dated 15 February 2011. However, many RTI Activists, Non-Governmental Organizations and people from various shades of opinion expressed reservations over some provisions of the Act, primarily with regard to its mode of appointment, qualification and removal of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioner. The Government examined the issue, reportedly after being constantly highlighted by this newspaper, and decided that the provisions related to qualification, mode of appointment and removal of the CVC and VCs may be amended through an ordinance for making the instant legislation more broad-based and harmonize its provisions with the Central Vigilance Commission Act of 2003. The GAD then put the draft ordinance along with the Principal Act amendment in public domain for inviting suggestions from a cross-section of society to carry out suitable changes, wherever necessitated after dispassionately analyzing these suggestions.
FOCUS ON CHANGES
While the GAD is understood to have addressed many of the weaknesses in the planned amendment bill, it remains to be seen how other issues primarily concerning SVC’s ability to convict corrupt officials are taken care of in the proposed ordinance.
An RTI activist from Chicago, Paul-La-Porte had made the assertion that while the planned amendments would restore independence of the Commission to a great extent, the SVC Act does not empower the SVC with sufficient powers to convict officials and that it will still be forced to pursue corruption either via the Anti-Corruption Courts or departmental disciplinary action. “This will result in justice delayed, justice denied,” he had said.
Section 8 of the SVC Act only grants the Commission the authority to (1) give general “directions” to the SVO (2) initiate inquiries (3) “review the progress” on ongoing investigations and (4) “tender advice.” It is also argued that in absence of ability to convict corrupt officials, SVC’s tendency to seek disciplinary action through departments would mar the essence of the legislation.
As per a letter, which was circulated in media by activists of J&K RTI Movement and civil society members in April this year, some 200 cases have been referred to the government with recommendations for disciplinary action since 2005. But, the letter reads, in only five cases the concerned departments have responded by indicating that the process would be initiated. “In none of the 200 cases has the concerned department indicated that the disciplinary action has actually been applied,” it reads.
According to observers, J&K State Vigilance Organization has proved to be quite ineffective on ground, if statistics was any indicator. In the past six years, according to official data, which was released by civil society in Kashmir some months back, there have been on an average seven convictions per year on corruption charges in the Jammu and Srinagar Anti-Corruption Courts (nine in 2005, 8 in 2006, 5 in 2007, 6 in 2008, 11 in 2009 and 3 in 2010—for a total of 42 cases since 2005). The convictions have been often for “small-time corruption cases like forgery in birth certificates, illegal appointment orders or bribe of a few thousand rupees.”
“In all these 42 cases, the convicted have appealed to the High Court to have the corruption cases stayed and are pending there. In fact, in only three cases in the past three decades has the High Court upheld the Lower Court’s judgment, with two trap cases and an illegal appointment case,” reads the letter, which was signed by a number of former police officials and judges.
Earlier, however, it is understood that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of J&K exercised disciplinary powers granted under the J&K Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act of 1962. Some of its sections authorized the imposition of fines and demotions on corrupt officers, subject to the ultimate approval of the Governor.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 4 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 4 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 5 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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