H&UDD asked to complete exercise for RERA Chairperson, Members
Expresses concern over slackness despite clear provision in law
JAMMU, Sept 27: Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta has directed the Housing and Urban Development and Rural Development Departments to expedite the process for appointment of Ombudsman for Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions as they are prone to corrupt practices especially when huge funds are being provided by the Union Government.
Moreover, directions have been issued for early appointment of Chairperson and Members of Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), the process for which was initiated by the Housing and Urban Development Department in the month of February this year.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that in a recent high-level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, the issue of appointment of Ombudsman for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) came up for discussion.
“In the meeting, the Chief Secretary conveyed serious concern to the Housing and Urban Development and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Departments over slackness in making appointments despite being aware of the fact that these bodies are prone to corrupt practices while utilizing huge funds being given by the Union Government for carrying out developmental activities at the grass root level”, sources said.
Accordingly, he has directed both the departments to expedite the process so that Ombudsmen for ULBs and PRIs are appointed without any further delay.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Legislature of the then State of Jammu and Kashmir had enacted the Municipal Ombudsman Act in the year 2010 in order to establish the mechanism for the purpose of investigating charges of corruption or maladministration in the Urban Local Bodies. Similarly, J&K Ombudsman for Panchayats Act was enacted in the year 2014 with the same objectives.
Both these Acts were amended by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs through Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of State Laws) Order dated March 31, 2020. The main objective behind the amendments was to relax the eligibility criteria for the appointment of Ombudsman for the ULBs and PRIs.
“Earlier, there was provision that a person shall not be qualified to be appointed as Ombudsman unless he has been a Judge of the High Court or eligible to be promoted as Judge of the High Court. However, this provision was amended by the Ministry of Home Affairs and it was mentioned that a Judge of the High Court or is eligible to be appointed as Judge of the High Court as well as the person who has held the post of Commissioner or Secretary to the Government or equivalent rank is eligible for the post of Ombudsman”, sources said.
“How would the Housing and Urban Development and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Departments justify the delay after so much of relaxations given by the Ministry of Home Affairs particularly when ULBs are functioning since 2018 and all the three tiers of the Panchayati Raj System have been put in place”, sources asked.
Further, the Chief Secretary has issued directions for early appointment of Chairperson and Members of Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) without which the objective of providing relief to the buyers of real estate from the malpractices of unfair builders cannot be achieved, sources disclosed, adding “the RERA specifies certain norms for building and development of real estate which will enhance the transparency in transactions in the real estate sector”.
Not only Chairperson and Members of RERA even the Members of the Real Estate Appellate Tribunal are required to be appointed for effective implementation of law.
“In the month of February this year, the Housing and Urban Development Department had initiated the exercise for appointment of Chairperson and Members of RERA by formally seeking the applications from eligible/desirous persons but till date the process has not been taken to the logical conclusion”, sources informed.
Similarly, in the month of April this year, the department had started the process for appointment of members of Real Estate Appellate Tribunal but its fate is still hanging in balance for the reasons best known to those at the helm of affairs.
“Now, it is hoped that with the issuance of explicit directions by the Chief Secretary, the files pertaining to appointment of Ombudsman for ULBs and PRIs, Chairperson and Members of RERA and Members of Appellate Tribunal will start moving in the right direction”, sources said.