State Accountability Commission starts inquiry based on The Hindu report

Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC) has initiated an inquiry to learn how a 26-year-long corruption-related matter against State Minister of Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir, had been closed and sanction to his prosecution declined by the Omar Abdullah government.

Taking suo motu cognisance, SAC chairman, Y.P. Nargotra, and member, Hakim Imtiyaz Hussain, have asked Vigilance Commissioner, P.L. Gupta, to submit his report to the Commission within a week. A story in this newspaper on December 9 had referred to the disputed closure of a matter of alleged corruption and misuse of official position against former Minister of Law and the incumbent Minister of Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir. It was reported that the FIR of 1987 had been withdrawn in 2010 on Chief Minister’s refusal to accord sanction to the prosecution.

While quoting The Hindu report, the Commission ordered: “In our considered view, the facts mentioned above deserve cognizance and for verification in terms of section 12 of J&K Accountability Commission Act, the office is directed to seek a status report from the Commissioner State Vigilance organisation, Jammu. The report should reach the Commission within a period of seven days.” SAC directed its own office to register this order as a complaint for conducting a preliminary verification and desired that a copy be delivered on the Vigilance Commissioner.

State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) sources confirmed that the notice had been received and compilation of a detailed report was currently underway. They said that the case had been “closed” in an anti-corruption court following a communication from General Administration Department [GAD]. Both GAD and SVO are functioning directly under Chief Minister’s control.

“It was a fully established case,” a senior SVO official told The Hindu, “but we are functioning in a chain of command and control.” “We had no option but to close the matter after the competent authority declined sanction to the accused Minister’s prosecution.” He claimed that Vigilance Commissioners, from Veerana Aivalli in 1990 to P.L. Gupta in 2010, put up “maximum possible resistance” but gave in when the demand of prosecution sanction was rejected by the government.

Case history

On a Cabinet direction, the Jammu wing of SVO had lodged FIR No: 37/87 on 22-07-1988 in the matter of about 50 illegal appointments in Legal Aid Board besides irregularities in disbursement of legal aid in the year 1984. Former Secretaries of Law, Abdul Qadir Parray and Ghulam Mohammad Thakur, and then Minister of Law G.H. Mir, faced charges of involvement and criminal conspiracy. SVO established the charges and submitted the case to GAD for sanction to prosecute the accused officials and Minister.

Then Governor, Girish Chander Saxena, rejected the demand on the plea that sufficient evidence was not available against the two officials. Then Vigilance Commissioner, Mr. Aivalli resisted the move in his communication No: COV-2071-72/FIR-37/87 dated 07-08-1990, addressed to then Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Vigilance). He wrote: “…these cases were discussed with Advisor [P] to Governor and he has desired that a de novo application of mind should be there for these withdrawals”.

While successive governments kept the matter pending for 20 years, in March 2010 Mr. Abdullah’s government directed Vigilance Commissioner “to close this case once for all”. It was recorded that the matter was being dropped on the opinion of Law Secretary who primarily relied on a former Governor’s judgment and interpreted Mr. Aivalli’s note of protest as his approval to withdrawal of the case.

Deputy Secretary GAD (Vigilance) wrote to Vigilance Commissioner vide No: GAD (Vig) 48-SP/88-II on March 3, 2010: “Since the Government has closed the case so far as the Government servants involved in the case was concerned, it is quite unnecessary to keep the matter alive in respect of other accused including Sh G.H. Mir as it puts the Government of the time in embarrassing situation each time the issue is raised in the State Legislature regarding pending corruption cases against Ministers.”