Annual property returns

State Government employees are required under rules to submit their annual property returns to the Administrative Secretary. This rule was introduced long back.  State employees are governed by Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971. The purpose of making submission of annual return mandatory was to curb the growing corruption among Government employees. Usually money earned through unauthorized sources is not put in bank accounts because these can be checked at any time but is invested in raising immovable or moveable properties. The Government believed that it was easy for it to monitor accumulation of these properties and hence the rule of submission of annual property returns.
The rule states that every Government employee shall submit a return of his/her assets and liabilities giving full particulars regarding the immovable property inherited by him/her either in his/her own name or in the name of any member of family or in the name of any other person and details of shares, debentures, cash including bank deposits. There is no ambiguity in this rule. In all, there are about 4.5 lakh State employees in J&K. They are divisible into two categories, the gazetted and non-gazetted. Among the former, again there are two categories viz.  All India Service like IAS, IPS, IFS, etc. and J&K Civil Service like KAS and non-KAS gazette officers. Most of these cadres are of senior rank and they do send in their annual returns in accordance with the rules cited above. Under revised rules, the returns have to be sent in by 31 March each year. But the majority of employees is of non-gazetted ranks whether at secretariat, division, or district levels. The problem of non submission of annual returns is mostly with this segment of State employees.
It is revealed that in maximum cases of these employees, they neither fill in the prescribed property return nor do their superiors ask them to comply with the rules.  This kind of violation of rules has been going on for many years and the Heads of the Departments have never taken any action against the defaulters. Why is it so, remains a mystery? Although, the Government has been repeatedly saying that it is committed to eradication of corruption from the administrative structure but this one step which is meant to keep check on amassing property disproportionate to the normal and legal income has not been taken. It speaks a lot about the intentions of the authorities to implement the rule of law and good governance in letter and spirit.
The matter had came up during a recent meeting of the Vigilance Chiefs with the Governor. Among other matters of how to streamline the administrative structure in the State, the question of controlling corruption in the State also figured. The fact is that during the heyday of Kashmir militancy, administration had caved in many areas and the Heads of the Departments or Secretaries were found loath to implement the service rules in letter and in spirit. But that phase has passed and normalcy in administration has been restored to large extent. There is no reason for any senior officer to compromise with the rules and regulations of the Government. The Governor wants clean administration and on the basis of various weaknesses and discrepancies that had crept into the administration need to be identified and removed.  It is true that many Government functionaries have, during the past two decades, raised moveable and immovable property totally disproportionate to their normal means of income. The simple question is wherefrom did they get the money to raise the properties? Obviously, he or she has found sources that are not legal and authorized. It is to check this aberration that the annual property report is required to be sent in. The latest form on which immovable and moveable property is to be entered is comprehensive but mandatory. This is the situation and the simple logic is that the responsibility is also of the Administrative Secretary/ Head of the Department to ensure that every employee under them has sent in duly filled annual property return. There is no gainsaying that had the responsible officers ensured filing of annual property returns of their subordinate much of the corruptions would have been either averted or controlled.
Finally, this debate ends up with the fact that absence of accountability in this or in other cases of administrative aberrations lies at the root of the situation. People know that the Government is not going to take any serious action against the defaulters, so they do not care to show respect to the law of the land. This having been said, we also feel it necessary to remind the Government employees that they have to work with a strong sense of service to the people and to their conscience. There is unwritten moral code which every functionary needs to apply to self voluntarily.


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