DB directs SAC to hear ex-Minister before proceeding in complaint

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Division Bench of the State High Court comprising Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Justice Tashi Rabstan  directed the State Accountability Commission (SAC) to afford an opportunity of hearing to former PWD Minister/SFC contractor Abdul Majid Wani before proceeding in a complaint wherein serious allegations of siphoning off several crores of SFC funds have been leveled against him.
After hearing Senior Advocate K S Johal with Advocate Ashray Choudhary appearing for the ex-Minister/petitioner, Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed for complainant Bal Krishan and Advocate Rahul Pant appearing for State Accountability Commission, the Division Bench directed the State Accountability Commission that at the time of hearing about the jurisdiction and competence of the Commission against the petitioner (ex-Minister), the status report submitted by the Designating Officer may not be looked into by the Commission.
These directions were passed in a writ petition filed by Abdul Majid Wani (ex PWD Minister) challenging the provisions of Sections 9, 11, 20, 21, 23, 28, 30 and 31 of the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission Act, 2002 and also the orders passed by the Commission whereby the SAC had directed the then DIG Police Gulzar Singh Slathia to investigate the complaint lodged by whistleblower Bal Krishan leveling serious allegations against the former Minister and his father Ghulam Ahmed Wani (now dead).
At the very outset, Senior Advocate K S Johal submitted that petitioner Ghulam Ahmed Wani, father of the co-petitioner Abdul Majid Wani passed away during the pendency of the writ petition and the proceedings in respect of Ghulam Ahmed Wani have thus abated and the petition now survives only for petitioner Abdul Majid Wani.
He referred to order passed by SAC on June 1st, 2006 to indicate that the petitioners had raised objection about the jurisdiction and competence of the Commission to proceed against the petitioners. He further submitted that the SAC had recorded his submission, however, the issue raised by him was not decided for the reason that the counsel for the petitioners was not present on that day and therefore the issue about the jurisdiction and competence of the SAC to proceed against the petitioners was not dealt with by the Commission.
He further argued that Commission should not have proceeded further in the matter without first deciding the issue of jurisdiction and competence and all the orders passed in the complaint are required to be set aside as also the status report submitted by the former DIG.
On the other hand, Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed appearing for the complainant submitted that the whistleblower has leveled serious allegations of siphoning of SFC funds against the former Minister and his father. He further submitted that the SFC authorities from time to time conferred undue benefits upon the petitioners in view of the political clout enjoyed by them and with the result the State Forest Corporation suffered huge losses.
He further submitted that this finding in the status report of the then DIG was just a tip of the iceberg as the Enquiry Officer in his status report also referred to various instances where undue favour was accorded to the petitioners thereby resulting in huge loss to the Corporation. He further submitted that the Enquiry Officer had sought extension from the State Accountability Commission in submitting his final report and in the meanwhile the petitioners in order to thwart the entire exercise filed the writ petition in the year 2009 and obtained the interim directions which stalled the entire proceedings before the SAC. He prayed for the dismissal of the writ petition.
Advocate Rahul Pant appearing for the State Accountability Commission submitted that the SAC will afford opportunity of hearing to the surviving petitioner Abdul Majid Wani to project his objections about the jurisdiction and competence of the Commission to take cognizance of the complaint and to proceed in the matter under the provisions of J&K Accountability Commission Act, 2002. He further submitted that the Commission has not till date initiated regular enquiry/investigation in the complaint.
After hearing the rival contentions from both the sides, the Division Bench directed that the State Accountability Commission will afford an opportunity of hearing to the surviving petitioner Abdul Majid Wani about its jurisdiction and competence to proceed with the complaint. The DB further directed that the further proceedings by the Commission will depend upon the finding recorded by the Commission.
With these observations, the Division Bench disposed of the writ petition filed by the Ex-Minister and his late father Ghulam Ahmed Wani.

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