Days of terrorists doubling up as J & K employee might be over soon

5th August 2020

5th August 2020

(This is the eighth and final piece in the special series on Jammu and Kashmir. Here are the first seven pieces I , II , III , IV ,  V  VI and VII)

The loss of so-called "Special Status" by the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is causing tremors left, right and centre. This loss was caused by abrogation of Article 35-A and defanging Article 370. A good number of J&K employees too, were "special" as they participated in secessionist and separatist activities blatantly.

The UT government has now decided to deal with such employees with a heavy hand. Many such employees may be summarily dismissed and sent home if a GAD (General Administrative Department) order is any indication. The number of such employees was put between 500 to 1,000 by a local newspaper on Tuesday.

Incidentally, it bears mention here that the employees of the UT are a highly politicised lot. Numbering about 4,50,000, majority among them are Kashmiris and often succumb to separatist and secessionist ideologies.

It can be recalled here that Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, a senior Hurriyat Conference leader today, was in government service once. He was dismissed by then Governor Jagmohan in February 1986 in his first stint.

Incidentally, Professor Bhat remained one of the most recognised Hurriyat faces on TV channels for a long time. Suave and articulate, he was the man to go to for TV reporters for a "byte or two" whenever something newsworthy happened in J&K.

For some people, it may be shocking to know that some government employees joined terrorism, and remained commanders of proscribed terror outfits even. Sometimes, governments tried to weed them out but these efforts failed on most occasions.

Why did that happen? The answer is very simple and no rocket science. The fact is that politicians of all hues, be it Saifuddin Soz of the Congress, or Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference or those affiliated to PDP, they all helped the employees.

In 2016, around 100 such employees were dismissed from the service when PDP-BJP coalition government ruled the state. This was apparently done under pressure from the BJP even as PDP demurred initially. However, most of the dismissed employees got "relief from various courts". In other words, they were given back their jobs on technical grounds.

The Union Territory government is hopeful that it will be able to plug the loopholes better. This is mainly due to the fact that the GAD plans to be more thorough in its approach. It also plans to use powers given by the Indian Constitution under Article 311(2)(c).

This will basically mean dispensing with the need for any inquiry as elaborated by the Supreme Court in Union of India versus Tulsiram Patel case (AIR 1985 SC 1416 at 1437-38). This can help the government in using wider powers and the dismissed government employee can't complain that "he is deprived of his livelihood".

By invoking powers vested in them, President or Governor (LG in case of JK) can impose a penalty of removal, dismissal and reductions in rank on delinquent employees. This is done by powers vested in laws made under Article 309.

There are certain protections available to employees under Article 311(2). However, inquiry can be dispensed with (c) if the President or the Governor, as the case may be, is satisfied that it is expedient to impose the penalty, but it is not expedient in the interest of the security of the state, to hold an inquiry.

This is a more stringent application of the "pleasure doctrine" which is designed for ensuring the security of tenure of employees. It can also be used as a "displeasure invoked" to punish any employee or employees who are "dishonest, corrupt or otherwise undesirable, or have become a security risk". A high-powered six-member committee comprising Chief Secretary, Secretary GAD, Secretary Law, Secretary Home, DGP and ADG of CID will vet the cases of employees whose cases are recommended for dismissal. The GAD order says that the recommending authorities should take care to include "relevant records" so that the cases can be processed fast.

As such, dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities in the UT of J&K on genuine grounds may begin soon. If that happens, it can clear the muck comprising over ground workers (OGWs) of terrorists, separatist sympathisers and those misusing various social media platforms to spread discontent against the government.

The bell may have begun to toll and may succeed as politicians may not be able to play any mischief. The LG, Mr Girish Murmu, has remained an ace bureaucrat who worked with PM Narendra Modi in Gujarat at one time. His skills are likely to be tested in the coming days.

Sant Kumar Sharma, a seasoned journalist, is an authority on Jammu and Kashmir. Two of his books on Article 370 and Delimitation are already out. The third one on Indus Waters Treaty is with the publishers. 

Sant began as a teacher but after six years, joined the Indian Express, Chandigarh in 1990, the year when terrorism was taking its first step in J & K and soon there would be exodus of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. He subsequently worked for The Statesman, The Times of India and Star News among others. He is based in Jammu since May 2000.

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