Extend the powers of Lokpal Act to J&K: Justice Khan

JAMMU: Chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC) Justice B A Khan on Wednesday demanded that the Lokpal Act must be extended to the state to empower the Commission to investigate and prosecute graft cases.
“The State Accountability Commission was founded in 2002 with an aim to eliminate corruption from the system but gradually the successive governments eroded its jurisdiction. We demand that the Lokpal Act be extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Khan, also a former Chief Justice of J&K High Court, said during an interaction with media persons here today.
He said when the SAC was founded, it had all the government departments, bureaucracy, universities under its purview but successive state governments eroded its authority and left only the political class within its ambit.
“Only the political class which includes the Chief Minister, other ministers and political appointees are left under the purview of SAC. It could only give its recommendation and has no control over the action taken,” he said.
Khan said most of the recommendations given by the Commission were gathering dust in the cupboards of the secretariat.
“We are not ashamed to say that for the past six months we have not received a single complaint against anybody”, he said.
Maintaining that parliamentarians and legislators framed laws and carried out amendments as a “routine exercise” without “application of mind”, he said because of that many laws failed to meet their intended objectives.
He said there is a “casual approach” to framing laws as bureaucrats do not hold discussions with the legal fraternity and the concerned minister before taking a bill to the legislature.
“Be it the Parliament or state legislature, there is a tendency of giving approval to laws without much debate and discussion. This casual approach results in casualty of law as on one side no seriousness is adopted in framing the same and then inherent lacuna creates hurdle in its implementation,” Justice Khan said.
Khan highlighted the amendments to the J&K SAC Act in 2011 which took bureaucrats out of jurisdiction of the Accountability Commission to drive home his point.
“How can this amendment be justified when at the stage of enactment of the Act in 2002, it was stated that Accountability Commission would be a watch dog for ensuring accountability, checking nepotism, favourtism, corruption and maladministration involving bureaucrats and public functionaries,” he said.
Demanding more powers to the SAC for investigating and taking action against the public functionaries involved in corruption, Khan said the panel should be given prosecuting powers.
“We hope that the upcoming elected government would take a decision to provide more powers to the SAC so that it can perform the basic function for which it was founded, otherwise there is no fun in continuation of a toothless Commission whose recommendations gather dust in the office files,” he said.