Srinagar: In a landmark judgment, the high court on Monday declared that the State Accountability Commission (SAC) possesses the power, authority and jurisdiction to initiate suo moto proceedings.
Former Chief Justice Bashir Ahmad Khan heads the anti-graft body while Justices Bashir Ahmad Kirmani and J P Singh are its members.
They were appointed last year by the governor on the recommendations of a high-level committee comprising late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former assembly speaker K Gupta, chief justice N Paul Vasathakumar, law minister Basharat Bukhari and leader of legislative assembly Omar Abdullah.
“This high-ranking constitutional body is reposing trust in making recommendations for their appointment of the persons who have held the constitutional posts. In view of the composition of the selection committee and the positions held by the appointing authority as also the constitutional position held by the chairperson and members, the position of the commission does not become that of a mere statutory commission but its position is heightened and enhanced to a different and distinct level than that of a statutory body,” a division bench of the court comprising Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and B S Walia said in the judgment announced by Justice Bansi Lal Bhat in Jammu wing of the court.
“The SAC in the aforesaid position, though created by the statue, is more than a statutory body and in this factual and legal situation, the SAC would be deemed, in law, to possess the power, authority and jurisdiction to initiate suo-moto proceedings,” the court said, observing that SAC Act 2002 is not an ordinary legislation but a one to “accomplish and fullfil the dream of millions of people to have a corrupt free society.”
In a judgment on January 7, 2013, the high court had ruled that SAC cannot take the suo-moto action and direct investigation, inquiry or proceedings against a public functionary on the basis of an “anonymous or as good as anonymous complaint.”
The single bench had also struck down Regulation 9 of the legislation, holding it ultra vires the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission and “beyond power given to the Commission under Section 31 of the Act”.
The SAC had filed the appeal against the judgment and its counsel and Senior Supreme lawyer, Colin Gonslaves, had argued the single bench verdict has narrowed down the scope of the special legislation. He had said that the provisions of the Act were required to be given a purposive interpretation and not snatching its suo moto powers.
In the 40-page judgment, the division bench agreed with the SAC contentions and rejected the state’s apprehension about its misuse by sending anonymous, pseudonymous complaints or initiating proceedings on the basis of press reports. “It cannot be a ground to deny the power of initiation of suo moto proceedings to the SAC. The chairperson/ members of the commission are those persons, who have held the highest constitutional posts and in their appointment, confidence has been reposed in them by constitutional authorities of the state, who constitute the selection committee and by not less than the governor, who is the highest constitutional authority in the state,” the court said
On December 2 last year, former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had said: “While the focus is to address the concerns of graft, we also have to ensure that there is no witch hunt.”