Legal experts hope Guv will pay due attention towards vital body
Challenge to suo-moto powers, inaction on directions play spoilsport
JAMMU, Oct 29: Though Governor’s administration has given enough indications about fighting the menace of corruption with tooth and nail yet there is no focus on strengthening State Accountability Commission, which otherwise has failed to meet the objectives behind its creation 13 years back mainly due to the lack of cooperation from the successive Governments.
Instead of getting more powers to inquire into the allegations against the public and Government functionaries and make them accountable, this Commission was divested of one after another power and has presently been rendered as ‘toothless tiger’.
The Commission was constituted under J&K State Accountability Commission Act, 2002 to enquire into grievances and allegations against the public and Government functionaries and for matter connected therewith. However, it was made functional on June 2, 2015 when former Judge of the Supreme Court Justice R P Sethi was appointed as its first Chairperson.
Within short span of its proper functioning, the then Government carried out amendments in the J&K State Accountability Commission Act, 2002 and divested the Commission of the powers to enquire into allegations against the Government functionaries.
However, the growing assertiveness of the Commission perturbed the public functionaries too, who challenged the powers of the Commission to initiate suo-moto proceedings before the High Court, which held Regulation 9 of the Commission’s Regulations, 2005 as ultra vires the Act of 2002 and accordingly struck down the same.
But the Commission heaved a sigh of relief when the Division Bench of the State High Court comprising the then Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice B S Walia in the month of February 2016 set aside the judgment of Single Judge and held that Accountability Commission has the powers to initiate suo-moto proceedings against the Chief Minister, Ministers and Legislators.
Again in the month of November last year the then PDP-BJP Coalition Government entered into legal battle with the Commission by challenging its powers to initiate suo-moto proceedings in the Supreme Court, which in the month of April this year stayed the same. Due to this not only the Commission has virtually been rendered ‘toothless tiger’ but has also failed to achieve the objectives behind its creation 13 years back.
It is a matter of concern that while Governor’s administration has started showing its intentions to fight the menace of corruption, nepotism and mal-administration in the State by establishing Anti Corruption Bureau, it has not paid any attention towards the Accountability Commission whose very existence without sufficient powers is being questioned by the public and legal experts.
“Ever since its establishment, the Accountability Commission has received very few formal complaints as people generally fear harassment and victimization at the hands of public functionaries by disclosing their names and due to this suo-moto cognizance was the only tool in its hands to act against the erring public functionaries”, legal experts said, adding “by repeatedly questioning the suo-moto powers the Government has virtually rendered this Commission without any weapon to fight corruption, mal-administration and nepotism”.
Moreover, judgments or directions delivered by the Accountability Commission in formal complaints have largely remained unimplemented due to lack of cooperation from the successive Governments, they further said, adding even majority of the orders passed in the formal complaints have been stayed by the High Court in Jammu as well as Srinagar wings. Due to this proceedings in formal complaints have also failed to yield the desirable results.
“Keeping in view the fate of directions passed by the Accountability Commission so far even those people who are desirous of approaching it with the formal complaints are finding it as unfruitful exercise”, legal experts said.
Commenting on the fate of the Accountability Commission, Justice (Retd) G D Sharma said, “the politicians and bureaucrats never felt comfortable with the functioning of this Commission and present status of the Commission is the outcome of their designs”, adding “since the present Governor has started initiating steps to fight deep rooted menace of corruption adequate attention should also be paid towards Accountability Commission”.
“Since the Governor is enjoying the powers of legislature he should amend the J&K State Accountability Commission Act and bring it at par with the similar laws at the Central level or in other States of the country”, he said, adding “unless sufficient powers are not given to Accountability Commission objectives behind its establishment cannot be achieved”.
Former Additional Advocate General Rohit Kapoor too expressed serious concern over the way the Accountability Commission has been divested of its original powers and said, “at the instance of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats this Commission has been rendered as toothless tiger and it has failed to serve any purpose till date”.
“On one side the successive Governments always claimed at various forums that Accountability Commission was set up as part of initiatives against the menace of corruption and on the other side no attention was ever paid to strengthen it”, he regretted and hoped that present Governor would undo the wrong committed in the past by giving sufficient powers to this Commission.
Advocate S S Ahmed, who has filed numerous Public Interest Litigations in the High Court highlighting menace of corruption, said, “it is really shameful act on the part of the Government to challenge the suo-moto powers of SAC in the Supreme Court”, adding “whenever this Commission started asserting steps were initiated to snatch its powers”.
“Actually there are several bureaucrats in the State administration who always tried to protect the corrupt elements by creating hurdles in the functioning of the Commission”, he further said, adding “the real test for the present Governor is to break this nexus and tighten noose around the corrupt elements by strengthening anti-graft bodies like Accountability Commission”.