Accountability Commission charges Taj with contempt

SAC Begins Proceedings Against Minister For Making ‘False Statement’

UMER MAQBOOL

Srinagar, Dec 24: Heralding more trouble for senior Congress leader and Minister for PHE Taj Mohiuddin, the State Accountability Commission (SAC) Monday initiated contempt proceedings against him for making false claims that the anti-graft body had given clean chit to him in alleged forest land grab case. This is for the first time that SAC has slapped contempt charges against any public functionary.
A notice has been served to the minister asking him why he can not be punished for committing the contempt.
In a detailed order passed today, the Commission issued directions for initiation of contempt proceedings against Taj. “A case for initiating contempt proceedings under the Jammu and Kashmir Contempt of Courts Act 1997 is made out against the respondent,” the order passed by two-member Bench of the Commission comprising of Justice (retd) Y P Nargotra and Justice (retd) Hakim Imtiyaz Hussain reads.
“We, therefore, put the respondent on notice for committing contempt of the Accountability Commission,” the order states. The Minister has been directed by the Commission to file his statement of defense, if any, by the next date of hearing scheduled for January 4, 2013.
The Commission also asked the Advocate General, Jammu and Kashmir, to appear in this case on behalf of the State for assisting the Commission in the prosecution. Pertinently, media had quoted Taj that he had been given clean chit by SAC and Vigilance Organization, prompting the Commission to issue contempt notice to the Minister.
Last week, Taj along with his lawyer Shah Muhammad Chaudhary had appeared before the Commission to respond to the contempt notice. The Commission had asked him to show cause as to why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against him for making false clams.
Taj, according to the order passed by the anti-graft body today, had claimed on that day before the Commission that he had assumed that complaint against him was looked into by the Commission and he had communicated the same to Forest Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad in his letter on this assumption.
Besides, Taj had also submitted that he has not issued any handout to press vis-a-vis getting clean chit from the SAC. The Minister had also produced reports carried by two newspapers stating that “protesting people from Shopian visited the Accountability Commission (AC) office in Sonawar Srinagar and registered complaints against the Minister there. KNS, quoting sources, said that Chairman SAC, Justice R.P. Sethi, gave a patient audience to the people and received the details in full.”
The Commission, however, was unimpressed by the theory of assumption put forth by the Minister and termed it as ‘false and misleading.’
“We are not impressed by the reply of the respondent. Simply because some newspapers carried a news item mentioning that audience was given to the residents of Shopian by the then Chairperson of the Commission, Justice R P Sethi, coupled with some inquiry conducted by the Tehsildar, Shopian, the respondent could not have validly and legally assumed that a complaint had been in fact entertained by the Commission and dismissed,” the order reads.
“Before arriving at such a conclusion, the respondent ought to have verified the facts from the records of the Commission. The statement made by him thus on the face of it appears to be false and misleading,” the SAC said.
The Commission said that the report on which it had taken suo-moto cognizance was based on facts as the same was communicated to the Minister for Forests Mian Altaf Ahmad.
“From the afore-said averment made in the letter, it is apparent and abundantly clear that the contents of the news item appearing in a daily newspaper to that extent are not factually incorrect. The respondent in the letter addressed to the Forest Minister of the J&K Government had categorically made the statement referred to above,” the order further reads.
Taj is mired in controversies since October this year after Legislative Council (LC) Chairman Amrit Malhotra constituted a House Panel to inquire into the allegations of forest land grab against him. The Panel was disbanded on November 12 following the pullout of two NC legislators and pressure from Congress. Three days before, two legislators- Murtaza Khan and Syed Rafiq Shah- had moved breach of privilege motion against Taj for allegedly using derogatory remarks against Legislative Council chairman.

Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 25 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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