Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Now that the election hoopla is over, can we get back to Governance issues?

State Accountability Commission (SAC) needs a new life

Headless SAC fails to perform: 250 cases pending but no sitting

Jammu/Srinagar: State Accountability Commission's much purported "Ehtisab" drive has stagnated since state government has failed to nominate its Chairperson from among the available legal luminaries of the state. The figure of pending cases has touched 250 i.e. 179 in Jammu and 71 in Kashmir. Working of commission is presently being looked after by Justice (retd) Muzaffar Jan, a member of the commission. The sole member of the commission, Justice Muzaffar Jan is also retiring in the month of April. Inapt failure of the state government in finding fitting replacements for its first chairperson Late Justice R.P.Sethi and thereafter, of its adhoc chairperson Justice Girdhari Lal Raina has affected credibility of the commission.

It is intriguing to note that the post of chairperson continues to be vacant for more than two years now after late Justice R P Sethi, a Supreme Court judge retired from the post in May 2006. According to the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act 2002, the vacancy occurring in the institution of the commission should be filled in as soon as possible.

Raina retired in June 2008. The state Accountability Commission Act 2002 requires presence of the Chairpersons for holding court proceedings in cases which are brought before it. After Justice Raina's retirement in June 2008, court proceedings have almost come to a complete halt leading to increase in the pendency of the cases.

SAC records bear testimony to the fact that around 1931 complaints have been lodged with the commission since August 2005 to February 2009, out of which commission recommended 20 cases to the government for prosecution. 11 of these cases in which involvement of high profile dignitaries surfaced have been stayed by the state high court.

Out of 1931 complaints, commission dismissed around 1160 on account of errors in the complainant's application. The legal justification used for these dismissed complaints is "dismissed in default." 265 other complaints were dismissed on merit and 191 were disposed off as settled by the commission. 250 cases which have been instituted and where inquires are yet to be ordered, are pending for disposal.

It is noteworthy to mention here that the commission has miserably failed to fulfill its commitment of penalising the "most influential persons" i.e. ministers and powerful bureaucrats. Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, while describing influential but corrupt Babus and Mantris of the state administration in the legislative council during the recently concluded budget session said, "Yeh log court se stay manage kar lete hain."

Going by the figures of pending cases, absence of Chairperson belittles the importance of the commission. After the resignation of Justice Sethi, Justice Raina who until then was a member of the commission was immediately appointed the 'acting chairperson' of the commission amid much resentment from various quarters by the then Governor Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha on May 15, 2006.

Record of the commission bears testimony to the fact that Justice Raina was given the charge despite being ineligible for this coveted post. It has been reliably learnt that a panel was earlier formed during the Governor's rule last year in which some names were recommended for the appointment of the chairperson which were later submitted to the governor but it didn't yield any results.

With no hearing having taken place for such a long period, common people, litigants and lawyers blamed government for not doing anything to make it functional. "The government should have filled the long-pending post of the chairperson to guarantee the effective functioning of the commission. But unfortunately the government doesn't seem to be serious about it despite the growing disappointment among the people regarding the institution," said a litigant on the condition of anonymity.

Sources maintain that the people have also stopped turning to the Commission for filing their complaints deeming it as a "defunct body" and the number of complaints received by it has also come down in the past few months from 40 to 45 complaints per month to less than 20 a month. Amusingly the role of its sole member has also been reduced to giving fresh dates for the cases.

"People have naturally started considering it futile to file any complaint looking at the zero output by the Commission because of it being headless for such a long time. Why should a patient turn to a doctor when he knows there would be no remedy? Similarly merely registering the reports of the people without contesting their cases also amounts to breach of their trust," a legal expert opined.

(Kashmir Times)

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