SAC issues notices to sitting, 2 ex-Directors; also seeks response from Minister, CS, Secy

Nearly 500 transfers ordered arbitrarily for ulterior motives

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Nov 10: Taking serious note of favoritism, nepotism and corruption in the Agriculture Department and frequent wholesale transfers in total disregard to the rules, the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC) has issued notices to sitting and two former Directors of the department for the Kashmir valley seeking their comments before initiating regular enquiry.
Moreover, the Commission has sought response from the Minister for Agriculture, Chief Secretary and Commissioner Secretary to Government, Agriculture Production Department regarding illegalities and irregularities in the department.
The illegalities and irregularities in the Agriculture Department came to the notice of the Accountability Commission in the shape of a formal complaint filed by an employee Fida Iqbal against Minister for Agriculture, Director Agriculture Kashmir and beneficiary of illegal transfers Nazir Ahmad Laway, Incharge Sub-Divisional Agriculture Officer Budgam.
In the complaint light was also thrown on casual approach and inaction on the part of the Minister and officers of the Agriculture Department in framing the rules, non-holding of Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) meetings and inordinate delay in finalization of seniority lists with the sole objective of ordering transfers arbitrarily.
It has specifically been mentioned in the complaint that Director Agriculture Kashmir Altaf Aijaz Andrabi at the behest and clear orders of the Minister for Agriculture showered undue benefits upon Nazir Ahmed Laway by issuing series of orders and assigning him back the charge of the post of Sub-Divisional Agriculture Officer Budgam against all norms and standing instructions of the competent authorities regarding transfers and assignment of additional charge.
The complainant, in support of his allegations, produced an order, which was found endorsed to the Private Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture. “This has in pursuance to Minister’s verbal orders communicated in person in his office chambers on December 14, 2015 and on mobile phone and thereafter reminder communicated through Private Secretary”, read the order.
After going through the complaint and the record produced by the complainant, the Full Commission comprising Justice B A Khan (Chairperson) and Justice J P Singh and Justice B A Kirmani (Members) decided to admit the matter for scrutiny. Accordingly, several instructions were issued to the concerned officers seeking information on various aspects.
From the perusal of records produced by the department, the SAC came to know that on August 22, 2012 the then Agriculture Minister convened a meeting to discuss the scenario in J&K Agriculture (Gazetted Services) and address difficulties being faced in smooth cadre management.
As per the decision taken in the meeting a committee of Secretaries of Agriculture, General Administration, Law, ARI and Trainings Department was constituted to suggest suitable amendments in rules governing recruitment and service of officers pending which the seniority lists and DPCs would be finalized. It was also decided that till then the Agriculture Production Department and Director of Agriculture would make appropriate interim arrangements in transfers, postings and promotions according to the administrative exigencies.
Despite lapse of more than five years neither the rules were amended/updated nor DPCs constituted or seniority lists prepared as a result of which entire department, one of the biggest with as many as 13 sub-departments, continues to be governed and administered under the order issued on August 22, 2012 at unbridled pleasure of concerned Ministers and higher officers of the department unattended by any rule position.
Observing that Agriculture Department is in total disarray and its functioning and administration has been rendered subservient to the whims of higher officers and political bosses, the Accountability Commission has now issued notices to Farooq Ahmed Lone and Peerzada Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, both former Directors of Agriculture Kashmir and Altaf Ajaz Indrabi, present Director of the Department. Moreover, response has also been sought from the Minister for Agriculture, Chief Secretary and Commissioner Secretary, Agriculture Production Department.
“The inordinate delay in holding DPC, amendment in the rules and finalization of seniority lists and continuance of order dated August 22, 2012 has resulted in passing of unaccounted orders of transfers, postings and incharge placements in total disregard to service regulations and without any legal or legislative back up which might even attract constitutional implications for the simple reason that constitutional governance implies on administrative apparatus guided and controlled by definite rules and regulations and not sort of tribal set up controllable by tribal heads only”, said sources in the Agriculture Department, who are privy to the contents of the notices issued by the Commission.
“The department is currently working in violation of settled rules, regulations and administrative practices which automatically lends it to unchecked arbitrariness bound to groom corruption and favoritism of which the present case in view of the otherwise unnecessary endorsement of the complainant’s transfer order to concerned Minister, appears to be an illustrative example”, the SAC said.
The Commission has further observed that the frequency of transfer orders appears to have graduated into an industry, so much so, that the then Director during six months of his tenure from September 14, 2012 to March 11, 2013 passed as many as 63 orders of transfer and incharge placements on purely ‘temporary basis’ with the sole aim of ‘conducting day to day affairs’ with the copies thereof submitted to the concerned Minister with “reference to his verbal order/approval”.
“The orders depict how the interest of administration changes on day to day basis in the Agriculture Department. Next in row after him is the start performer—his successor, who from March 19, 2013 to March 18, 2015 passed as many as 430 orders of transfers and placements sometimes on higher posts”, the SAC has pointed out, adding “sometimes even dozens of transfers and posting orders have been passed on same day separately as if in compliance of minute to minute instructions”.
“The frequency of all these around 500 transfer orders is suspiciously ferocious from the fact that number of similar orders passed by the Directors thereafter from March 25, 2015 to June 22, 2017 is only 69 thus clearly indicating that currency of passing such orders has been doubtful earlier”, the Accountability Commission said.