On the appointed date of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, and the State’s transition and split into two Union Territories (UTs) on 31 October, Jammu and Kashmir would retain three Commissions but lose six key Commissions to the Centre.
The Commissions being terminated include the J&K State Accountability Commission (SAC), the J&K State Information Commission (SIC) and the J&K State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights (SCPWCR).
J&K State Accountability Commission
SAC had been created by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-Congress coalition in 2002 to exclusively hold the politicians, like chief minister, ministers, members of Legislative Assembly and members of Legislative Council accountable.
However, mainly due to the lack of political will all through the successive regimes, it was reduced to a toothless tiger. It failed to penalise the politicians who made it weak by keeping it headless for years, by appointing their own friends as its heads and members, and by getting all of its orders stayed by the J&K High Court.
Mufti raised the age of eligibility of the SAC’s head and members to 70 years, and appointed his friend, Bashir Ahmad Khan, as its chairman when he became chief minister for his second term in 2015.
Mr Khan, believed to be a close compatriot of Mufti, had been appointed as a judge of the J&K High Court at the fag-end of then Prime Minister V P Singh’s government at the Centre in 1990. Mufti was the Union Home Minister in V P Singh’s government.
Justice (retd) Khan himself had called the SAC “a toothless tiger” when its power of suo motu cognisance was contested in the Supreme Court.
Now, the State laws repealed by the Reorganisation Act, 2019, include the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act 2002.
Even as it’s not officially clear as to who would deal with corruption of politicians in the UT, bureaucratic sources revealed to The Quint that Lok Ayukta could be created on the pattern of some other UTs and States.
J&K State Information Commission
Appointment of then Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Khursheed Ahmad Ganai as Advisor to Governor in June 2018 made the SIC headless. It was thereafter single-handedly operated by the retired bureaucrat Mohammad Ashraf Mir.
Close to retirement, senior IPS officer and Additional Director General of Police, Security and Law and Order Munir Ahmad Khan had been appointed as the second member of SIC. However, he did not join. He was subsequently given special extension of one year to his service in the police by Government of India. Nobody has been appointed CIC in the last 16 months.
Terminating the SIC, the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019 has also repealed the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009.
J&K State Human Rights Commission
The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), headed by retired judge of J&K High Court Bilal Ahmad Nazki, is also being shut on 31 October as the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Human Rights Act, 1997 has also been repealed by the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019.
It had been created by Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference government in 1997 to address complaints of human rights abuse against the police and security forces.
The headless Jammu and Kashmir State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission will also cease to exist after creation of the UT on 31 October as the Jammu and Kashmir Consumer Protection Act 1987 has also been repealed.
Commission for Protection of the Rights of Women and Children
The Jammu and Kashmir Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights, headed by eminent lawyer and Supreme Court advocate Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi will also cease to function after 31 October.
Combining two separate commissions for protection of the rights of women and children at the Centre, it was a creation of the Governor’s Act, namely The Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights Act, 2018. This too has been repealed by the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019.
In addition to the five key statutory commissions, the J&K Law Commission, which had been created by way of an executive order earlier this year, will also lose its existence. Even this commission remained defunct as the Governor’s administration did not provide it with staff and other infrastructure. A former judge of the J&K High Court, M K Hanjura, was appointed as its chairman.
Fresh Appointments, Fresh Oath of Office
“The UT Government will decide if any of these six commissions would be created afresh. As of now, it’s clear enough that all of these commissions would cease to exist after 31st October,” said a top-ranking bureaucrat.
“The UT Government can either create a commission afresh or assign its job to an existing commission (like National Human Rights Commission, Central Information Commission and two separate commissions for women and children) at the Centre or even decide not have one,” he added.
The highly placed bureaucrat made it clear that even the commissions, boards, and authorities which would continue, would have to be constituted afresh under the Central rules.
“Their previous terms and conditions have ended. Incumbents of fixed tenure could continue till end or retirement but others could be appointed afresh.” He said that all the chairpersons and members, including those of J&K Public Service Commission (J&K PSC) and J&K Commission for Backward Classes (J&K CBC) would have to take fresh oath of office under the provisions of the Constitution of India.
3 Commissions to Continue in UT Government
Created under J&K Constitution in 1957, the J&K PSC, which is currently headed by former IAS officer Lateef-uz-Zamaan Deva, will survive, along with its chairman, all seven members and other staff.
It will, however, lose its jurisdiction over the UT of Ladakh. From 31 October onwards, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) will make selections to fill up all the gazetted vacancies in the UT of Ladakh.
The J&K PSC will also undergo a major change with regard to tenure and retirement of its chairman and its members.
Under the J&K Constitution, the J&K PSC chairman and members would retire at completion of five years of tenure or superannuation at completing the age of 65 years, whichever comes first.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Vigilance Commission (SVC), headed by the retired IPS officer P L Gupta, will survive along with its chairman, members and other staff. The Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Backward Classes, headed by P L Gupta’s brother and retired IAS officer Jeet Lal Gupta will also continue to function.
The Reorganisation Act 2019 also provides for continuation of the Jammu and Kashmir State Finance Commission Act, 2006. However, the Commission has not been constituted in over 10 years.
Final Burial to House of Elders
Meanwhile consequent upon abolition of Legislative Council, the J&K Government on Thursday, 17 October, issued an order through General Administration Department giving final burial to the ‘House of Elders’ 62 years after it was created in 1957.
The Council Secretary has been directed to absorb the staff in GAD and hand over the records to the Government’s Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department. The building would be handed over to Department of Estates and the vehicles to State Motor Garages.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)
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