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‘SAC a failure, need an equivalent of Lokpal Act’

Srinagar, Apr 25: Describing the State Accountability Commission (SAC) a “failure and toothless tiger”, its chairperson Justice Bashir Ahmad Khan claims that government has been “indifferent” towards the Commission.
Former Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Justice Bashir Ahmad Khan took over as the chairperson SAC in October 2015.
In the last two-and-a-half years, the SAC, he believes, could not achieve the “objective” for which it was set up, courtesy “indifference” by the government.
“It has been a failure that we could not succeed in restoring the powers of the Commission as were originally enshrined in Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act-2002. The law has been eroded and made hollow due to multiple amendments. A large chunk of jurisdiction has been taken away,” Khan said in an interview with The Kashmir Monitor.
Since 2015, he said that SAC had submitted several recommendations to the government.
“The government has been totally indifferent towards the Commission. Government is not even considering our proposals to make it an effective instrument for good governance, accountable, and transparent administration,” he regrets.
“The SAC needs an Act at par with the Lokpal Act. We have submitted recommendations to the government, but did not receive any response. Mufti Mohammad Sahab helped us in setting up own investigating agency.”
When the SAC was constituted in 2003, its role was envisaged to undo the damage done to the institutions by rampant corruption in the state.
On papers, the SAC has a mandate to investigate the office of the chief minister, cabinet ministers, legislators, and bureaucrats.
However, since October 2015, the SAC has not received a single complaint against any politician.
“We did not receive any complain of any substance related to corruption or wrongdoing against any politician,” he said, regretting that SAC could not “persuade” people to come forward with their complaints.
“We have been receiving small grievances from people. We forward them to the authorities concerned, and it is not the main function of the SAC.”
“People avoid coming forward with complaints, as they think they may not get worthwhile results from the Commission. People do not want to fight with politicians. There is also a provision in the law that if somebody lodges frivolous complaint, he may face the punishment. For lodging a complaint against chief minister or minister, one has to be supported with proof.”
Terming SAC a “toothless” tiger, he said: “It is because the law under which the commission was set has been rendered redundant by multiple amendments and erosion. A large chunk has been taken away from its jurisdiction that is why I call it a toothless tiger”.
The ruling coalition governing Jammu and Kashmir had promised in their “Agenda of Alliance” that they would impart the body more powers to make it an efficient force to root out the corruption in the state.
Asked whether there had been any political influence into its functioning, he replied, “The SAC works as independently. The Commission has no excessive work to do as no complaints are being lodged against politicians. So the question does not arise for government’s interference.”