Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission on Monday observed that the charge of committing contempt to the commission had been established against senior Congress leader and Minister of Irrigation and Public Health Engineering Taj Mohiuddin.
While pronouncing the judgment reserved last week, the commission comprising Chairman Justice (retired) Y.P. Nargotra, and Member, Justice (retired) Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, said that the charge of contempt against Mr. Mohiuddin had been established. On December 17, Mr. Mohiuddin had personally appeared before the commission and claimed that he had not committed contempt by telling media in a statement or interview that he had been granted a “clean chit” by the SAC in the forest land grab case.
The commission had reserved pronouncement of its ruling for December 24th.
The SAC has now asked the Minister to explain as to why he should not be awarded punishment for the contempt he is established to have committed. By law, SAC enjoys the status of a judicial court.
On 10 October this year, opposition member, Syed Mohammad Rafeeq Shah, had levelled charges of land grabbing on Mr. Mohiuddin on the floor of J&K Legislative Council when the autumn session was in progress. Even as Mr. Mohiuddin disputed the allegations and claimed to be “victim of a vilification campaign”, Chairman of Upper House, Amrit Malhotra, who also belongs to Congress party, set up a House Committee for detailed investigation.
In the next few weeks, both the members of the ruling National Conference, namely Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy and Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri, withdrew from the committee, leading to speculations that someone in top echelons of the coalition government wanted to shield the Minister. Soon the lonely member of Congress, Bashir Ahmad Magray, too announced his resignation.
Rather than going for replacement of the three members of NC and Congress, Chairman Mr. Malhotra summarily dissolved the House Committee. He maintained that remaining two members -- Murtaza Khan of PDP and Rafeeq Shah of Panthers Party, could not form the quorum.
Meanwhile, newspapers and television channels quoted Mr. Mohiuddin to have claimed that SAC as well as State Vigilance Organisation and Department of Revenue had already cleared him of the charges of forest land grabbing in Shopian area. He called it “clean chit”.
The SAC took suo motu cognisance of Mr. Mohiuddin’s media statements and slapped on him a notice of contempt. Being the first Minister to appear before the SAC on Monday last, Mr. Mohiuddin disowned all the interviews and statements attributed to him and claimed that he had not committed contempt of the commission.
The commission finally declared that the charge of contempt had been established against the Minister. In a separate petition before the SAC, Mr. Mohiuddin is facing charges of having illegally grabbed 14 Kanals of forest land in Sedov-Aharbal picturesque area in foothills of Pir Panjal mountain range in South Kashmir.