STATE TIMES NEWS JAMMU: A Special Division Bench of the State High Court comprising Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Sanjeev Kumar on Friday issued notices to Secretary Ministry of Home Affairs, Secretary Department of Personnel and Trainings, Chief Secretary J&K, Commissioner/Secretary General Administration Department, Commissioner of Vigilance J&K State Vigilance Organisation (now Anti-Corruption Bureau) in an application filed by co-petitioner Prof. S.K. Bhalla in Public Interest Litigation titled Sheikh Mohammad Shafi and another versus Union of India and others, challenging order No.26014/1/2019-AIS-II dated June 30, 2019 issued by the Central Government (DoPT) whereby one year extension in service was given to Baseer Ahmed Khan (IAS) Divisional Commissioner Kashmir beyond the date of his superannuation as a special case. Assistant Solicitor General of India (ASGI) Vishal Sharma accepted notices on behalf of Secretaries MHA and DoPT Government of India whereas Senior Additional Advocate General H.A Siddiqui accepted notices on behalf of J&K CS, Commissioner/Secretary GAD and Anti-Corruption Bureau. After hearing Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed with Advocates Rahul Raina, Supriya Chouhan and Mohammad Zulkarnain Chowdhary appearing for the petitioners in the aforesaid PIL, the Division Bench in the open court impleaded Baseer Ahmed Khan (IAS) as party respondent in the PIL and issued notice to him which was accepted in the open court by Advocate Uday Bhaskar. Senior Advocate R.K. Gupta with Advocate Uday Bhaskar caused appearance on behalf of Baseer Ahmed Khan and they were allowed three weeks time for filing response in the matter. Heated arguments were advanced at the Bar by both the sides and the Division Bench observed in the open court that matter shall be further considered when the response is filed by the Union of India and State respondents.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that there is no change in the situation since 2013 when a Division Bench of this High Court had directed the State Government to shift then Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Baseer Ahmed Khan from the coveted post in view of his facing serious corruption charges in FIR No.08/2009 P/S VOK (infamous Gulmarg land scam) and he further submitted that arguments on framing of charges before the trial court at Baramulla have been concluded on June 15, 2019 and the 1st Additional Sessions Judge (Special Judge Anti-Corruption), Baramulla has fixed July 20, 2019 for pronouncement of orders on the question of framing of charges in Gulmarg land scam.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that the State Government did not obtain Vigilance Clearance from Anti-Corruption Bureau and with oblique motive sought extension in service of tainted IAS officer when the DoPT in the year 2013 had granted sanction for prosecution of Baseer Ahmed Khan in the much publicized Gulmarg Land Scam.
On the other hand ASGI Vishal Sharma submitted that some findings have come in favour of the aforesaid officer by a Bench of Srinagar High Court. Further Senior AAG H.A. Siddiqui submitted that the instant petition is not maintainable as no service matter can be considered in a PIL.
While rebutting the submissions, Advocate S.S. Ahmed submitted that no clean chit yet has been given by any Court in favour of Baseer Ahmed Khan and further the instant PIL is maintainable. He further submitted that trial court is yet to pronounce its orders on framing of charges on July 20, 2019.
In the application throwing challenge to the extension of Baseer Ahmed Khan it has been submitted that he along with the then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) was booked by State Vigilance Organization in case FIR No.08/2009 P/S VOK (infamous Gulmarg land scam) along with 19 other accused comprising middle rung revenue officials and top hoteliers of Kashmir. It is further stated in the application that on August 28, 2012, a Division Bench of the State High Court had directed the SVO to produce Challan against Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir in Gulmarg land scam who by then had retired from service within two weeks and with regard to Baseer Ahmed Khan the then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla the Division Bench had directed the State Government to forward his papers for prosecution sanction to the Union Government within a period of two weeks.
In the application it is further stated that vide No.107/26/ 2012-AVDJ dated August 21, 2013 the DoPT, Govt. of India accorded prosecution sanction against Baseer Ahmed Khan in case FIR No.08/2009 (Gulmarg land scam) on the proposal sent by J&K Govt. It is further stated that after the receipt of the prosecution sanction the SVO presented Supplementary Challan against Baseer Ahmed Khan on September 23, 2013 in the Court of 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Baramulla and the same was clubbed with the earlier Challan presented against Mehboob Iqbal and 19 other accused.
In the application it is further stated that Baseer Ahmed Khan was to superannuate from All India Service on June 30, 2019 but the Chief Secretary J&K flashed D.O. letter No.GAD(Ser) IAS/20/2001 dated June 12, 2019 recommending extension in service of incumbent Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmed Khan and the Central Government accorded approval to the aforesaid recommendation for a period of one year overlooking the fact that Baseer Ahmed Khan is facing serious corruption allegations in Gulmarg land scam and the matter is sub-judice before the trial court at Baramulla.
It is further stated in the application that the Central Government ignored the directions of the Apex Court in case titled Centre for Public Interest Litigation and another versus Union of India and others wherein the Apex Court had directed the UP Government to transfer its Chief Secretary in view of her facing corruption allegations in order to instill people’s confidence in rule of law and good governance. The petitioners have also referred a Judgment passed by the Division Bench on December 11, 2014 in CMA No.135/2014 in PIL titled Sheikh Mohammad Shafi and another versus Union of India and others wherein the Division Bench had directed the State Government to pass appropriate orders regarding the removal of then Chairman J&K Board of School Education who had been appointed vide SRO 452 dated October 22, 2014 despite pendency of departmental enquiries against him.
In the application the petitioners have quoted that the Division Bench then headed by Chief Justice M.M. Kumar (since retired) had ruled, “A Public Servant who is to hold such sensitive position must be above the needle of suspicion, like Caesar’s wife” and finally the petitioners have sought the quashment of the order dated June 30, 2019 whereby one year extension was given in favour of Baseer Ahmed Khan.
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