Srinagar: The high court pulled up the state’s commissioner secretary relief and rehabilitation as well director ministry of home affairs for not complying with Supreme Court directions asking them to assess the damages caused by last year’s flood.
Both the officers were appointed, along with presidents of Kashmir and Jammu Bar Associations, as members of a panel that was tasked by the Supreme Court last year with assessing the damages and filing a report before the court by September 30.
The panel, with registrar vigilance of the J&K high court, was to make a comprehensive on-the-spot assessment of the situation. However, in August, the apex court referred to the high court a batch of PILs filed last year, seeking directions to the government of India and the state government on relief and rehabilitation of the 2014 flood victims.
In compliance to the directions by the high court, the registrar vigilance filed the report and Bar Association Jammu was a signatory to it.
The registrar also informed the court that the commissioner secretary declined to subscribe the report because he wants to visit the 22 districts in the state (for on-the-spot assessment after 14 months of floods) while the director MHA did not respond at all to his communications.
“The director was appointed by SC as a member of the committee and he is not responding,” a division bench of the Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey told assistant solicitor general of India SA Makroo.
“This is for the first time that one of our officers has not cooperated. The primary duty casted upon the officer is to implement the orders of the court in letter and spirit and we have to see why he did not respond,” Makroo responded, and urged the court to grant a week’s time to file the response to the statement by the registrar vigilance.
“Who is representing commissioner secretary relief and rehabilitation?” the bench said.
“I,” replied additional advocate general Tasaduq Khawaja.
“He is also not a signatory to the report (filed by the registrar vigilance). He has rather submitted a report (to the registrar) based on the feedback from divisional commissioner. You should apprise your secretary that he is here in the capacity of a member of the court committee and not government officer,” the bench said.
“I have received communication from the commissioner secretary which party contradicts the statement by registrar judicial,” Khawaja replied.
“Was the secretary part of the team which visited various areas immediately after the floods last year? After 14 months what will be there? Visiting the flood areas immediately after floods would have helped. The panel visited earlier and submitted preliminary report and without going through the file, you are making the statement. The IAS officer must know how to honour the Supreme Court directions. Even if he is a new entrant, his predecessor visited the area earlier,” the bench responded and directed the commissioner secretary to appear before the court at 2pm after lunch break.
As the commissioner secretary, Dheeraj Gupta, appeared before it, the bench asked him: “Why you want to visit 22 districts now. What will see there if you visit now after 14 months of floods?”
“I joined only four months back and on August 28, I submitted a report to registrar judicial about what the government has done,” he said.
“Earlier, your predecessor visited and filed the preliminary report. Have you gone through the report? You are now saying that you want to visit 22 districts, what will you see after 14 months. Earlier committee visited all the areas and submitted the preliminary report. You are ignoring all this and have taken a different stand.. you are a court appointed officer and not in your official capacity,” the bench said and asked him to respond to the court.
“If you are not subscribing to the views of the court committee, you should file an independent report,” the bench added.
Subsequently, the court asked him to file the report by October 15. It also directed the director MHA to file a response to the report by registrar vigilance and also allowed the request by president Kashmir high court Bar Association president Mian Qayoom to file his own report on damage assessment.