Srinagar: The state government has ordered a fresh “exhaustive” inquiry by a one-member committee into the claims of a Public Interest Litigation that certificates were issued “fraudulently” to Dawasazs (pharmacists) by the directorate of Indian System of Medicine (ISM) in 2008.
“The committee constituted (on July 22 this year) for the conduct of inquiry in the subject case is hereby withdrawn ab initio,” reads an order (No. 345-HME of 2015) issued by the Secretary to government Health and Medical Education Department, produced by advocate general Jahangir Iqbal Ganie before a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Masoodi.
“Consequent upon (this), Rajinder Singh Tara, Special Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department, is hereby appointed as Inquiry Officer to enquire into and to submit a factual report of the case forming the subject matter of the PIL—Abdul Rashid Tantray Vs State & Others,” the order said, adding that the inquiry officer shall conduct an “exhaustive enquiry” into the facts and submit his report within a period of 15 days, enabling the health department to file a detailed reply in the PIL.
Advocate BA Bashir, representing the petitioner, questioned the appointment of the one-man panel, claiming that it was an indirect route to scuttle the report by the previous panel. “To make it more transparent, the committee appointed earlier comprised three members. Could we assign this inquiry to a single person unless there are sinister designs?” Bashir said that as per his per sources, referred to as ‘guptcharans’ (informers) by him, a meeting was held in the health minister’s chamber till 9:30 pm “with a particular design. Probably, the report made by the previous committee was not favourable to them,” Bashir said.
The division bench asked “whether the (three member) committee had prepared the report”. To which Bashir responded, “It has been withheld. When the committee was about to submit the report, the process was stopped.”
“A one-member committee would be better served as in a two or three member panel, availability of member(s) etc is to be seen,” the bench said. “The court may kindly record my apprehension that this person has been particularly brought so that he pleases a particular class,” Bashir replied.
At this point, the advocate general said that one of the respondents (read alleged beneficiaries) was claimed to have not passed the matric examination but the crime branch, after an inquiry, found it otherwise. “Let him preserve the argument, I will show to this court in five minutes how it is a fraud. The same Board (JKSBOSE) has given two documents which include a gazette (to sustain my claim),” Bashir said.
Subsequently, the bench allowed the government to go ahead with the one-member panel of inquiry but at the same directed it to keep intact the proceedings of the earlier (three-member) committee for perusal of the court.
Meanwhile, senior counsel ZA Shah, representing one of the alleged beneficiaries, demanded the court to “stop” the press from reporting the case, claiming that it is being done ‘negatively.”
“There is negative reporting in the press about this case. And they should be stopped. They are writing that a probe has been ordered into fraudulent selections etc but who says they are fraud selections?” he said.
“It is the right of the media. We cannot ask press to report in this manner or that manner,” the bench said. “Even though I am not holding their brief, the press has freedom of expression,” advocate BA Bashir also said.
According to the PIL filed last year by “RTI activist” Abdul Rashid Tantray of Kupwara, the Director ISM, in connivance with top officials of the Directorate, in 2008 allegedly issued fake pharmacist’s diploma certificates to about 400 persons, who later got jobs under the NRHM scheme.
“The issue with regard to the issuance of certificates by (Director ISM) on malafide considerations for his vested interests being a blatant fraud and providing public employment subsequently under NRHM scheme is serious misconduct covered by Sec 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, for which FIR should have immediately been lodged against the director,” Tantray said.