Sinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court last week dismissed a petition of a woman KAS officer posted in Baramulla district of north Kashmir accusing two officers of Anti Corruption Bureau of sexual harassment.
The woman (name withheld), a Block Development Officer, was being investigated by the ACB sleuths for disproportionate assets when she raised alarm of sexual harassment and went to the Court to have investigations stopped.
In her petition, the woman KAS officer, posted in Singhpora block alleged that the Enquiry officer, one DySP rank officer and SP ACB North Kashmir are harassing her since 2018 and she had prayed that proceeding initiated against her by ACB in verification No. 09/2022 for possessing disproportionate assets are not as per laid down law and may be quashed.
In an interim order on August 28, 2022, the High Court has passed an interim order asking the ACB not to undertake any further verification and in the meanwhile furnish a status report before Court relating to the verification conducted so far.
THE ACB REPORT:
A detail status report was filed by the SP ACB North Kashmir before High Court through AAG Asifa Padroo, in which it was submitted that the women KAS officer has accumulated property worth crores of rupees within short span of her service of 10 years by indulging in corrupt practices in connivance with one class 4th of CAPD Department namely Mohammad Shafi Rather and for indulging in corruption. She was also recently placed under suspension by Government for excess withdrawal of MGNREGA funds when she was posted in District Baramulla. It was further submitted that the preliminary probe conducted so far shows that her bank accounts have huge suspicious cash deposits and huge investments in Benami properties which are being thoroughly probed and instead of explaining source from which she raised these assets of crores of rupees and incurred huge expenditures on different heads that too without having any other legal known source of income except her salary, she resorted to false concocted allegations of sexual harassment against officers of ACB just to impede the investigations. It was conveyed to the Court that no clean chit has been given to the lady KAS officer, neither her disproportionate assets have been enquired by any agency and her statement is false and misleading as there is a set procedure to investigate the assets as per J&K vigilance manual.
SIX COMPLAINTS AGAINST OFFICER
The ACB further conveyed that they had received about six different complaints against petitioner lady KAS officer and other officers/officials of RDD Block Singhpora with different allegations ranging from abuse of official position, embezzlement of the Government funds in MGNREGA, Swatch Bharat Mission, releasing payments without execution of works, taking bribe and commission for releasing payments under MGNREGA, diversion of Govt. funds for intended purpose, working for some specific people, taking bribe through staff VLWs, GRS etc. The complaints pertain to her postings in District Baramulla especially her posting as Assistant Director Food Baramulla, Block Development Officer Singhpora District Baramulla and her tenure as BDO Pattan Baramulla, said in a statement.
ACB conveyed to Court that these complaints contain very serious allegations of corruption and criminal misconduct against the women KAS officer. The brief details of these complaints and action taken by ACB were submitted to court by ACB in its status report. It was also conveyed by ACB that when the reports in rest of the complaints forwarded to District Vigilance Officer for enquiry were awaited from DVO/Director Rural Development Kashmir, and other reports were being examined for taking further course of action, a fresh credible information was received by the ACB on 30-05-2022 from a premier intelligence agency against the said officer, again with serious and multiple allegations of abuse of official position, indulging in corruption/bribery, allegations of misappropriation of Govt. funds in the garb of execution of developmental works, causing loss to state exchequer and accumulation of disproportionate assets.
ON THE SAME POST FOR 6 YEARS
There are allegations of malpractices against the woman KAS officer and her activities have caused considerable loss to the exchequer. The said officer remained posted as Block Development Officer, Block Singhpora from 15 March, 2015 to 15 Oct, 2021 during her tenure she is alleged to have misappropriated government funds in the name of executing developmental works in her area of jurisdiction and this way earned huge sums of money. While being posted in the Block, she came in contact with one Mohammad Shafi Rather son Mohammad Sultan, resident of Wanigam Payeen, Pattan who is working as a salesman in CAPD Department. He is considered to be very close to the officer and his services were utilized by her in sale and purchase of land in the area. This way huge profits were made by the officer. As per reports, thirty kanals of land from one Sant Singh have been purchased by the officer through property dealer at Hartrath Singhpora (mutation of this land has not been done so far). Besides, the officer has purchased one more kanal of land at Singhpora. The officer has reportedly constructed an approach road to this land under MGNREGA scheme and approximately rupees 2.80 Lakhs have been expended for the purpose out of government funds.
Reports further reveal that for the construction of a ground in the state land at Bhat Colony an amount of Rs. 46.00 Lakhs (government funds) has been earmarked. So far Rs.26.00 Lakhs have been shown expended on earth filling of the ground, however, no major work is discernible at this place.
The work was executed through Shabir Ahmad (Sarpanch Halqa Hartrath) and a major percentage of the amount has been allegedly shared by both the BDO and the Sarpanch. There is no significance of the ground for the locals and it would only help a property dealer who runs a Private School adjacent to the ground in partnership with the said BDO.
The officer has also constructed a shopping complex near Degree college Baramulla. The corrupt practices by the officer and apparent patronage she is providing to her conduits is detrimental to government functioning.”
In its status report ACB submitted that there are Allegations of the huge Benami property in form of investments in plots, real estate and other business by the lady officer and her conduit Mohd Shafi Rather which are being thoroughly probed and the lady has resorted to false allegations of sexual harassment to shield Mohd Shafi also who is involved in two FIRs already registered against him at Anti corruption Bureau and Crime branch J & K and a separate probe for possessing assets disproportionate to his legal source of income in Verification No. 06/2022.
It was further submitted that the procedure for conducting assets probe has been laid down in the J&K Vigilance Manual 2008 approved by Govt of the J&K vide No. GAD/Vig/22-Adm/2008 dated 20-06-2008 and various circulars issued by ACB Hqrs from time to time and the law laid down by Supreme Court of India in various judgments delivered on DA probes conducted by various agencies CBI/ACB of different states is strictly being followed in the instant case and submissions of the lady officer are not only false but concocted and misleading to escape from investigations.
NO EVIDENCE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
During the course of hearing AAG Asifa Padroo strongly pleaded that the petitioner has no evidence of whatsoever she is alleging as she had never ever been called to ACB office nor any officer visited her or called her through any medium and allegations are totally false, baseless and made with intent to sensationalise the case and to evade the investigation process launched against her. Meanwhile during the hearing of the case the counsel for the petitioner failed to present any credible evidence in support of allegations levelled by his client petitioner lady KAS officer before the court.
PronouncING its order on November 17, the High Court has the following in its concluding Para’s of the order:
“… Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, preserves the inherent powers of the High Court to prevent an abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice. The provision does not confer new powers. It only recognises and preserves powers which inhere in the High Court. The High Court, while forming an opinion whether a criminal proceeding or complaint or FIR should be quashed in exercise of its jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr. P.C., must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent power. While inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude, it has to be exercised to secure ends of justice or to prevent an abuse of the process of any court.”
The court further observed that;- “…The instant petition, when looked from all angles, requires and demands full dress trial and examination of facts by this Court as if it is in appeal and acting as an appellate court and to draw its own conclusion vis-à-vis impugned FIR, complaint and proceedings emanating therefrom. This is not the aim and objective of provisions of Section 482 Cr. P.C. more particularly when petition on hand does not unveil any ground much less cogent or material one, to indicate that the inherent powers are to be exercised to prevent abuse of process of law and to secure ends of justice. In that view of matter, impugned FIR does not call for any interference qua petitioner and as a consequence of which, petition on hand is liable to be dismissed.”
And finally the Court observed that; “For the reasons discussed above, the instant petition is without any merit and is, accordingly, dismissed with connected CM(s). Interim direction, if any, shall stand vacated.”
The judgement was pronounced by Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul and case on behalf of Anti Corruption Bureau was pleaded by senior AAG Asifa Padroo.
ACB TO CONTINUE PROBE AGAINST OFFICER
With the High Court final judgement, Anti corruption Bureau is free to conduct investigations into all 07 number of complaints received against women KAS officer including allegations of disproportionate assets/Benami assets with her conduit Mohd Shafi Rather and will accordingly take appropriate legal action as envisaged under law.
It is pertinent to mention here that Anti corruption Bureau J&K has already shared a detailed factual report before General Administration Department Govt of J &K wherein it has been conveyed that there are many corruption related complaints against the women KAS officer Sheeba Inayat and in order to obstruct the probe into these allegations she filed a false and concocted case against the officers of ACB.
The ACB has already shared factual report with GAD, wherein it has been conveyed that there are many corruption related complaints against Sheeba Inayat and in order to obstruct the probe into these allegations she filed a false and concocted case against the officers of ACB.