*Govt yet to start formulating policy to regulate operations
JAMMU, Dec 30: State Accountability Commission (SAC) has granted time to the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Commissioner Civil Aviation Department for filing replies vis-à-vis steps taken to regulate use of State helicopters and aircraft by the Ministers and other public functionaries. However, even after being put in the dock the Government has yet not initiated exercise for formulating a comprehensive policy in this regard and it is to be seen what stance the Government is going to take before the Commission on next date of hearing.
Reliable sources told EXCELSIOR that Advocate Adarsh Sharma appeared before the Full Commission on behalf of respondents—Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Commissioner Civil Aviation Department and prayed for grant of time for filing of replies to the scrutiny proceedings initiated by the Accountability Commission.
“Instead of coming up with the information sought by the Commission in its earlier notices, the respondents chose to seek time, which otherwise has become a tendency not before this vital body but even before the State High Court particularly in the important matters”, sources said, adding “this was also noticed by the Accountability Commission while making it clear to the counsel appearing for the respondents that concrete information shall be placed before it by or before February 15”.
However, official sources told EXCELSIOR that even after being put in the dock by the State Accountability Commission, the concerned officers have yet not taken any step towards formulation of a comprehensive policy to ensure that flying machines of the State are used only in emergent situations and they don’t become tool for ‘joy rides’ under the garb of official or political purposes.
“The non-serious approach towards formulating a policy is notwithstanding the fact that the Accountability Commission had issued notice to Principal Secretary to Chief Minister only after the Commissioner Civil Aviation Department in his earlier reply had admitted that State aircraft and helicopters are allowed to be used on the permission of Chief Minister and no record is maintained about the persons accompanying the public functionaries”, sources regretted, adding “the Commissioner Civil Aviation had also admitted that there is no proper policy on use of flying machines in Jammu and Kashmir”.
“There should not be any problem for the Government in formulating policy especially when huge money is spent every year on operation of flying machines thereby putting burden on the State exchequer”, they stressed.
It is pertinent to mention here that Civil Aviation Department of the State headed by Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, who also happens to be Administrative Secretary of this department, has one fixed wing Aircraft, one single engine helicopter and one twin engine helicopter and these flying machines are primarily meant for mobility of VVIPs besides carrying out important tasks like evacuation of stranded persons/patients and transfer of cash from one treasury to another situated at remote and inaccessible areas during winter.
However, it has been seen that these flying machines are used by the Ministers and other public functionaries even on unjustified grounds. This aspect was exclusively highlighted by EXCELSIOR in its edition dated June 24, 2016 and the Accountability Commission took suo moto cognizance of these revelations by EXCELSIOR.
The Accountability Commission comprising Justice B A Khan (Chairperson) and Justice J P Singh and Justice B A Kirmani (Members) is in the possession of official details, which early establish that these flying machines were put to use by the Ministers of present PDP-BJP Coalition Government even on unreasonable grounds. Some of them along with their spouses had even used the flying machine to attend marriage ceremony of their colleague in Kishtwar.