Prominent Congress leader says he was singled out by Accountability Commission at the behest of fellow Congress leader

Close on the heels of the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission [SAC] initiating proceedings against Irrigation Minister Taj Mohiuddin, who is from the Congress, in a matter of forest land-grab, another party leader and former minister has received notice seeking his comments on a recent complaint against him.

In his reply, accessed by The Hindu, the respondent has not only clarified his position on his continued occupancy of government accommodation in Srinagar and Jammu but also complained that he was “singled out” at the behest of Mr. Mohiuddin. Claiming that he had cleared the rentals outstanding till February 2012, he said the complainant had ignored the mention of over two dozen former ministers and legislators who were still holding possession of the official premises — years after their retirement.

The fact that Shopian, at the foothills of the Pir Panjal mountain range, is the place of Mr. Mohiuddin’s estate as well as the complainant’s residence, has prompted the politician to allege that a minister from his own party was the hand behind all of this. Previously, this maverick from Baramulla earned the distinction of being the only politician whose prosecution was ordered, at Mr. Mohiuddin’s insistence, by Omar Abdullah’s coalition government. Mr. Mohiuddin had charged his party colleague with “levelling unfounded accusations and resorting to character assassination through speeches and press statements”. The government subsequently filed a criminal complaint against the former Minister and also appointed a special prosecutor to pursue the matter assiduously. He is now under trial, but out on bail.

Defamation proceedings against the former Minister were sanctioned at a time when the hullabaloo over delay in the prosecution of “corrupt” ministers and legislators was at its peak. It was in the wake of Public Interest Litigation in the J&K High Court that the government last month sanctioned the prosecution of former Minister Jagjivan Lal. All other cases are pending with the Civil Secretariat in Jammu.

Ironically, the government has refused sanction to the prosecution of Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, who faced charges of making 49 illegal appointments when he was Law Minister in 1984. The State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) pressed its case, claiming that the charges were established “with full evidence.” After its demand was rejected by the Chief Minister, the SVO archived a 26-year-long investigation and withdrew the FIR.

Mr. Mohiuddin and his bete noire in the Congress are not the only the key politicians in the dock at the SAC. Earlier this year, it initiated a suo motu inquiry against the high profile Minister of Finance, Abdul Rahim Rather, on a complaint that he was connected with a J&K Bank hardware allotment in favour of his son. Mr. Rather is the only politician, in addition to the two Congress leaders, who decided to contest the allegation and did not seek shelter behind a stay order.

All others have got the SAC proceedings against them, including preliminary verifications, stayed by the High Court. Most of the respondents have challenged the SAC action on the plea that it was not competent to act on anonymous and deficient complaints or initiate suo motu inquiries.

Sources in the High Court revealed to The Hindu that Justice Hasnain Masoodi had completed the hearing of a bunch of petitions and reserved judgment.

Earlier this year, the SAC initiated proceedings against Minister for Cooperation Manohar Lal Sharma on a complaint that he was involved in a “Rs. 5000-crore cooperative housing scam,” besides in illegal appointments. Minister for Public Enterprises Pirzada Mohammad Sayeed too received notice from the SAC, asking him to clarify his position on newspaper reports that he facilitated his foster son to indulge in copying during his matriculation exam. He was stripped of his key portfolio of Education but was retained in the Cabinet.

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