Saturday , 25 November 2017
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HC directs Government to frame standard criteria for engagement of PROs by Ministers

Strictures passed against then SSP Jammu

Jammu, Nov 20:  Justice Tashi Rabstan of Jammu Kashmir High Court Jammu Wing in an important Judgment, passed in a writ petition filed by Prof. S.K. Bhalla, directed the State Government to frame some standard criteria for engagement of PROs by the Ministers and other higher-ups and directed the State that this entire exercise should be completed within a period of three months. While issuing these significant directions, Justice Tashi Rabstan after expressing his deep concern observed that it is very strange that Ministers take any person, generally their relations without adhering to any criteria as their PROs, otherwise how could a Forest Guard (Kewal Sharma) officially distribute cheques of Rs.20.00 lac in presence of SDM Khour amongst the flood affected people of Palatan and Chahani Divanoo, Khour.

Justice Tashi Rabstan while parting with the Judgment passed severe strictures against the then SSP Jammu Atul Goel (IPS) for providing undue security to Kewal Sharma Forest Guard the then PRO to then Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and observed that it needs to bring on record that it is very strange that merely on the verbal request of the wife of Forest Guard Kewal Sharma, the then Senior Superintendent of Police Jammu deployed four PSOs with Kewal Sharma and also deputed four security guards at his residence without even bothering to ascertain the allegations or investigating the matter in its right perspective. Justice Tashi Rabstan further observed that how could a Police Officer of the rank of SSP provide such a huge security to a mere Forest Guard that too only on the verbal request of his wife, when, besides other allegations, serious charges of corruption etc have been leveled against Kewal Sharma of amassing huge wealth and properties allegedly by indulging in unlawful means and immoral activities while acting as a PRO to then Deputy Chief Minister-Tara Chand.

Justice Tashi Rabstan according to CNS while expressing his displeasure over undue security cover provided to Kewal Sharma further observed that the said security cover cannot be done without the knowledge of higher-ups. Although the security provided to Kewal Sharma has been withdrawn, but the higher police authorities too seem to be under some sort of pressure or were part of the entire episode.

After hearing Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed with Advocate Rahul Raina appearing for the petitioner-Prof. S.K. Bhalla and AAG Vishal Sharma for State, Advocate Ahtsham Bhat for GAD, Senior Advocate K.S. Johal with Advocate Asharya Choudhary for Kewal Sharma and Senior Advocate U.K. Jalali with Advocate Priyanshu Sharma for Former Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand (Intervener), Justice Tashi Rabstan after looking into the prayer of the petitioner for initiation of disciplinary action against Kewal Sharma under J&K CCA Rules, 1956 observed that the matter is stated to have been referred by the GAD to the SVO for investigation as regards amassing huge wealth/properties by Kewal Sharma by unlawful and corrupt means while acting as a PRO to the then Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and looking into the gravity of allegations, Justice Tashi Rabstan directed SVO to investigate the matter and take the investigation to its logical end.

With regard to the allegations leveled by Kewal Sharma against the Former Deputy Chief Minister, Justice Tashi Rabstan observed that this aspect of the matter too cannot be gone into and considered by this Court for the simple reason that it is for the Government to look into the matter, who otherwise is stated to be already seized of the matter.

Justice Tashi Rabstan while referring to various status reports observed that since the illegal security cover provided to Kewal Sharma has been acknowledged by the State as such Court do not find any ground to issue any further direction in the matter.

Prof. S.K. Bhalla a Social Activist had filed a writ petition in September, 2014 seeking appropriate directions to the State Government to withdraw the undue security cover provided to Forest Guard turned PRO and the petitioner had also sought enquiry into the incident of September, 27, 2014 when Kewal Sharma was seen distributing cheques amounting to Rs.20.00 lac in presence of SDM Khour among the flood affected people of Village Palatan and Chahani Divanoo of Sub-Division Khour. Besides this the petitioner had also sought the disclosure of the names of the officers/politicians on whose behest Kewal Sharma was provided security cover in breach of the guidelines/norms governing security.