Azad rules out dismissal of Minister

Staff Reporter

JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has refused to remove a Cabinet colleague who, according to the State Accountability Commission, was prima facie involved in a rural electrification scam.

The refusal came on a demand by the National Conference and the Bharatiya Janata Party for the dismissal of Sports, Haj and Auqaf Minister Peerzada Mohammad Syed.

Commission Chairman R.P. Sethi, appointed by the Mufti-led government, publicly said Mr. Syed was prima facie involved. He was then Rural and Panchayati Raj Minister.

Sting operation

The issue took a turn when the son of the Commission Chairman and Additional Advocate-General, Anil Sethi, also appointed during the Mufti regime, was shown, in a sting operation, demanding a bribe of Rs. 20 lakhs from the scam accused and accepting the first instalment of Rs. 5 lakhs. After this, Mr. R.P. Sethi, said he had severed all ties with his son and directed the Director-General of Police Gopal Sharma to file a case against him. The Chairman termed the sting operation a conspiracy hatched by the accused to hush up the case against them. Mr. Anil Sethi resigned as Additional Advocate-General and after several days of silence termed the tapes "doctored."

Mr. Azad said a notice was served on the Minister but that did not mean that he was guilty. "How can we punish him until he is proved guilty by the Commission?"

At the same time Mr. Azad defended the Chairman of the Commission, which enjoys constitutional protection. He said a case stood registered against Mr. Anil Sethi.

Mr. Syed said he got no notice from the Commission to clear his position.