JKHC judges, heads and members of all Commissions may take fresh oath of office as per Constitution of India
Ahmed Ali FayyazSRINAGAR: Dysfunctional and ‘toothless tiger’, the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC), is likely to be replaced by Lok Ayukta, even as all judges of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court (JKHC), as also all the heads and members of the constitutional and statutory bodies, may have to take fresh oath of office after the State’s transition into the two Union Territories on 31 October. Highly-placed authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that the Centre was mulling administering of fresh oath to all the heads and members of the erstwhile constitutional and statutory bodies, including the judges of JKHC, after 31 October, the appointed date for creation of the UTs of J&K and Ladakh. Even as the transition would in no way affect the validity of the Presidential warrants of appointments, sources said that all the incumbent judges could be administered a fresh oath of office as related provisions of the Constitution of India. Previously, after issuance of the Presidential warrant of appointments, judges of JKHC were required to take oath of office as per the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir State. “This (fresh oath by Constitution of India) may not be a legal and constitutional binding on the incumbent judges but the Centre is believed to bring uniformity as all the heads and members of the existing statutory bodies are likely to be given fresh oath of office as per the new laws and constitution of India”, said a well-placed bureaucratic source. According to him, fresh oath of office could be administered by the new Lieutenant Governor to judges of JKHC and members and Chairman of J&K Public Service Commission. Meanwhile, in a significant development, Centre is believed to be mulling constitution of Lok Ayukta for the UTs of J&K and Ladakh on the pattern of some other UTs, States and the Centre. Its purpose would be to ensure more accountability and transparency in politics and governance. Corruption and lack of transparency and accountability has been flagged as a key reason for abrogation of the State’s special status and split into the two UTs with a Parliamentary legislation and Presidential assent in August this year. If these sources are to be believed, the Centre has, for the appointment of Lok Ayukta, already zeroed in on the name of a retired judge of JKHC, M.K. Hanjura, who was early this appointed as the first Chairman of Jammu and Law Commission. J&K Law Commission was created for the purpose of reviewing old and obsolete laws and proposing fresh legislations as per the modern day requirements.
“Now that much of that job has been already done by the union Ministry of Law and Justice in coordination with union Ministry of Home Affairs while drafting the J&K Reorganisation Bill, it is likely that J&K Law Commission could be abolished”, said an official source. He said that J&K Law Commission had been created by way of an “executive order” of Government of Jammu and Kashmir, not by any state legislation or Governor’s Act. Government was supposed to appoint two permanent and two part-time members, from among senior advocates or retired judges for this commission. None of them was appointed in the last several months.
Justice (retd.) Hanjura functioned as special judge anti-corruption, Jammu, when the founder-director of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) late Radha Vinod Raju was Vigilance Commissioner in J&K. Upon his elevation, he functioned as Registrar General and a judge of JKHC, Principal Secretary to J&K Chief Justice as also Registrar at Supreme Court of India for about five years.
Significantly, the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission stands abolished with the repeal of the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act, 2002 in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill of 5 August, 2019. The Commission had failed to deliver after resignation of Justice (retd.) R.P. Sethi even as it existed over one or two members for some years before it became totally defunct.
After taking over as Chief Minister of the PDP-BJP coalition in 2015, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had got the Act drastically amended apparently to pave the way for the appointment of the former Chief Justice of JKHC, 70-year-old Mr Bashir Ahmad Khan. Justice (retd.) B.A. Kirmani and Justice (retd.) J.P. Singh were appointed as the commission’s members.
While most of the Commission’s orders were stayed by JKHC, its power to take suo moto cognizance and order registration of criminal cases against the public men (incumbent and former ministers and legislators) was challenged and got stayed first in JKHC and then in Supreme Court. In his television interviews, Chairman Khan himself called his Commission a “toothless tiger”.
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