All eyes on SAC selection panel meet
Litmus Test For Omar, Mehbooba
Srinagar, July 14: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti are once again heading for a litmus test on July 18, when the selection committee to constitute the State Accountability Commission (SAC) meets after years of inordinate delay. And there are literally all eyes on the two politicians, especially in the backdrop of their continued drum beating on stemming the rot of corruption from the state.
According to observers, the much-awaited meeting also assumes significance as its outcome would indicate the level of seriousness that the National Conference and PDP have with regard to bringing about transparency and accountability in government departments, which are otherwise deemed to be infested with corruption and inaction. “A strong State Accountability Commission would be in the best interests of the state, which has been ranked at No.2 in the list of most corrupt states by the Transparency International, an international watchdog,” says a former bureaucrat, insisting not to be named. “Both Omar and Mehbooba should give a serious thought to the names being considered for the posts of chairman and members of the SAC. This is an important anti-graft institution which must comprise of men of impeccable integrity to curb the menace of corruption in an effective manner.”
The SAC selection panel is headed by the Chief Minister, with Chief Justice, Law Minister, Speaker of Legislative Assembly ad Leader of Opposition as its members.
While the Government is unlikely to reveal the names under consideration for the coveted posts, speculations are rife that Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, Justice Nisar Ahmad Kakroo is in the consideration zone for the SAC Chairman while Justice (retd) Yash Paul Nargotra and Justice Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain are being considered as members of the Commission—something which the state is yet to formally comment upon. A Jammu-based daily has also recently made a mention of these names.
Recently the clamour for the revival of SAC got louder in the wake of Anna Hazare’s recent “fast unto death” to press for the passage of Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill ) to fight corruption at high places. While it is understood that the Lokpal bill won’t be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of Article 370, as has been the case with Central Right to Information Act 2005, there are voices favouring SAC revival—and amendments if required—to have the strong anti-graft legislation. Since 2006, the Government has been making recurring claims on re-constituting the SAC after its first chairman Justice RP Sethi resigned in protest against alleged interference by the state government in its functioning. Since then Justice GL Raina who was member of the commission served as its acting chairman till his retirement in 2008 while Justice Muzaffar Jan, the only left over member of the commission, retired in October 2009. A bill to establish the SAC was introduced in 2002, with the then Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig announcing that the Commission would help to bring to book the politicians involved in corrupt practices. Later, the bill was passed and it became an Act, thus forming the SAC.
Recently the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission Act of 2003 was amended under the banner of J&K State Accountability Commission (Amendment) Act, 2011. The latter is now being referred to as the “Principal Act.”
At one point in time, the Committee had recommended names of Justice (retd) Yash Paul Nargotra and Justice (retd) Basheer Ahmad Kirmani as SAC members. However, the recommendations were not accepted by the Governor NN Vohra on the grounds that the opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti was not part of the selection committee meeting. Mehbooba had reportedly objected to the recommendations of the selection committee. Then the state had decided to convene the meeting on July 15 last year. But, according to officials, it couldn’t happen in the wake of then unrest in the Valley.
Pertinently, in October 2010 the Chief Minister informed the Legislative Assembly that a former minister, a chief secretary, a divisional commissioner, a principal secretary, a vice-chancellor (all retired), two deputy commissioners and more than 10 directors were among the nearly 600 J&K government servants who are facing trial or were under investigation for corruption.
This came up as a written reply to a question by a CPM MLA in the Assembly. The Chief Minister informed the House that 152 cases against 435 officers are pending trial, while 72 cases against 122 officers, including a former divisional commissioner are under investigation. The CM also said the government was examining cases against 51 persons for sanction to prosecute them. It was also informed that in three cases involving three top officials of the government, the challan was pending or a stay has been issued by the High Court. What was further revealed is that in 12 cases of accumulation of assets, illegal appointments and misappropriation of government money, the “proposal for sanction to prosecute is being considered.”
In January this year, the Chief Minster Omar Abdullah pulled up the state bureaucrats asking them not to act as Gandhi’s monkeys while dealing with corruption. However, the tough talk, according to observers, would really mean something if the SAC is re-constituted and given adequate teeth to fight the menace of corruption which has allegedly infested many a government departments.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Jul 2011 00:00:00 IST
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