Mushtaq Peer was not arrested allegedly thanks to pressure from a senior Congress leader

The Jammu and Kashmir government has terminated the post-retirement service of the former Board of Professional Entrance Examinations [BOPEE] chairman Mushtaq Ahmed Peer on account of his prima-facie involvement in the multi-crore question-paper-leakage scam and acquisition of properties worth over Rs.10 crore in the last three years.

General Administration Department’s order No: 1551, issued on November 14 and confirmed by the Cabinet on November 19, did not mention the reason of Mr. Peer’s abrupt dismissal as ‘Consultant to the State government’ [on fast-track class-4 recruitment]. “The contractual appointment of Prof. Mushtaq Ahmad Peer, as Consultant, ordered vide Government Order No.1326-GAD of 2012 dated 13.12.2012 read with Government Order No. 833-GAD of 2013 dated 31.5.2013, is hereby terminated with immediate effect,” said the order.

Following his retirement as BOPEE chairman, Mr. Peer had been engaged on a two-year contract in December 2012 for to provide consultancy to the government on the proposed fast-track recruitment of class-4 employees.

Well-placed sources in the Omar Abdullah government revealed to The Hindu on Monday that the top corridors of power decided to terminate the consultant’s service weeks after the High Court entertained a Public Interest Litigation petition and directed the Crime Branch to hold a transparent inquiry into the allegations of manipulating the MBBS selections against him. As Mr. Peer’s involvement was established and FIR registered, the State government dismissed the consultant “to stave off a huge embarrassment”.

The sources revealed that the Crime Branch decided to arrest and interrogate Mr. Peer but a political intervention foiled the move. “A senior Congress leader, who has been instrumental in Mr. Peer’s out-of-turn and backdoor promotion, exerted a lot of pressure and warned the officials against his arrest. It was then decided that he would be simply summoned and questioned,” said an official.

Inspector-General of Crime Javaid Gillani, however, said: “He [the Congress leader] actually turned up voluntarily to face questions when we summoned him the other day. We have asked him to return for further interrogation on Thursday,” Mr. Gillani said. He confirmed that the Crime Branch conducted raids on Mr. Peer’s acquisitions and land holdings and seized “a lot of incriminating material”.

The IGP said Mr. Peer had “sold off question papers to some brokers for Rs.65 lakh and they, in turn, earned Rs.5 crore by way of collecting money from their clients” in just the 2012 session. “These candidates were provided the mass copying facility as they secretly wrote their exams at a private hotel on the Boulevard. We have found 12 of their clients among the top 30 candidates in the order of merit. Money has been paid by cheques,” Mr. Gillani said.

The accused has been found to have purchased over 10 kanals of land in Ganderbal, a built-up house in the posh Tawi Vihar area of Sidhra in Jammu, some properties at Pahalgam, besides three flats in Jammu and New Delhi — all in the last three years.

The Estates Department has allotted an independent house to Mr. Peer in Jammu, and the Department of Evacuees’ Properties has transferred ownership of another house in the former BOPEE chairman’s name. He and his wife have been granted several service extensions after their retirement. Sources said that a senior Congress leader had put the government under tremendous pressure to appoint Mr. Peer as Vice-Chancellor of Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipore, upon the retirement of Dr. Abdul Rashid Trag in February 2014.

Mr. Peer and his family remained inaccessible on phone on Wednesday.