Taj Probe

A comedy of errors in the theatre of absurd

LIMELIGHT

DR. JAVID IQBAL

Taj probe—the probe ordered by chairman of legislative council into Taj Mohi-ud-Din’s alleged acquisition of forest land exhibits highly absorbing comedy of errors in the theatre of the absurd. In the ensuing melee of the probe making headlines, what was lost is an interesting line in Chairman Malhotra’s explanatory note vis-à-vis constituting the probe. Amrit Malhotra in his communication to RS Chib [minister of medical education] notes, “I want to make it clear that 1 am supposed to take decisions on the basis of record and evidence brought before me and on being satisfied about the need and necessity of taking a particular decision. I, while constituting the House Committee, had no doubt about my incompetence or illegality of my action. There was, and there is, no reason for seeking any body's advice in the matter. Suggestions for seeking legal advice in the matter are unsolicited and unwelcome.” Mark, what stands underlined, the chairman notes that he has no doubt about his incompetence or illegality of his action, and think of the windfall it makes for Taj. The chairman is so sure of the constitutional propriety of his action that he considers seeking legal advice as unsolicited and unwelcome.
It is in fact the constitutional propriety that Taj bases his contention on, and in a contentious issue, a legal opinion from a constitutional expert might have the proper option to exercise. However, the comedy of errors in the theater of the absurd does not end here. In his order dissolving the query that news agency KNS reported on evening of 12th Nov. and the news that made the headlines in the print media on Nov. the 13th Chairman Malhotra notes, “Since the members belonging to the National Conference have withdrawn from the House Committee that I had constituted to investigate the allegations leveled against Taj Mohi-ud-Din, Minister for Irrigation, PHE and Flood Control by Member Legislative Council, Syed Muhammad Rafiq Shah through a deferred CQ No. 220 which was listed for 11th of October 2012, asserting the involvement of the Minister in the case of illegal possession of forest land in Sedow, Shopian, the said Committee has become practically infructuous.” While as fructuous means productive of much fruit or full of fruit, infructuous could be taken to mean devoid of fruit.
Malhotra goes on to add; “The Committee does not seem to be in a position to serve any purpose without the participation of the largest political party in the House i.e. National Conference. Against this background, I am convinced that the continuance of the Committee would not serve any purpose. I, therefore, dissolve the committee with immediate effect.” Ajay Sadhotra of NC fielded his disclaimer immediately broadly making out that NC as a party had nothing to do with it.
Taj might continue to contend the constitutional propriety of Malhotra’s order; however the legal opinions quoted by various newspapers seem to be challenging the legality of withdrawing it. Ajay Sadhotra added his voice to legal opinion, making out that committee constituted could have continued, even without NC members being in it. Malhotra seems to be caught between Taj claiming ministerial privilege and legalists challenging the quashing of the probe, holding that committee appointed to probe cannot be called infructuous on the basis of some members resigning. In the melee, what remains unanswered is whether chairman Malhotra was constitutionally right in ordering a probe, at the very outset? And in quashing the probe, how could the chairman base it on the majority party—NC’s withdrawal of its legislator’s from the probe? On the merit of case, they were not party nominees but in their individual capacity as legislators. More over in his constitutional capacity as chairman of legislative council, Malhotra has to stay above the interplay of political parties.   
Taj has taken his contention to a higher ground of safeguarding constitution rather than stalling the enquiry. He quotes three instances of being cleared of any wrong doing. Forest department officials clearing him in 1985, by declaring that the land acquired does not belong to forest department, subsequently he was cleared by State Accountability Commission [SAC] in 2005 and state vigilance commission [SVO] in 2011. With all these clearances in his defence kitty, constitutionally and legally he could be right. However Taj’s constitutional plea of ministerial privilege might be half the answer on moral grounds, though he has left the door open by willingness to submit to a constitutionally validated probe.  Legislative probe against any government department being constitutionally valid and against a minister invalid sounds bizarre. It cold be asked…does it serve natural justice…your guess could be as good as mine!
Yaar Zinda Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

(Feedback on: Iqbal.javid46@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 13 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 13 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 14 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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