NC, Cong Unite To Save Taj From House Probe

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Chib Says Probe Will Spark Constitutional Crisis In J&K

SRINAGAR (ONS) – Usually at loggerheads even over petty matters like transfers, partners in Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling coalition have closed ranks to defend cabinet minister Taj Mohiuddin from a House Committee probe on charges of grabbing forest land.

In an astonishing show of cross-party solidarity, two National Conference legislators have already withdrawn from the House Committee, questioning its constitutional validity, and a senior leader and cabinet minister has shot off a strong letter to the legislative council chairman, opposing the probe against his colleague from the Congress.

“The Committee could lead to a constitutional crisis in the state,” NC leader and minister for medical education RS Chib has written to the chairman, claiming that the Panel had grossly exceeded its brief by asking the assembly secretariat to list all Mohiuddin’s assets.   

The letter comes even as eight Congress legislators, believed to be allied to the Azad group in the party, have formally urged the Upper House chairman to dissolve the Committee.

With the future of the panel – set up after PDP legislator Syed Rafiq Shah produced purported documents showing irrigation minister Taj Mohiuddin in illegal possession of state-owned forest land – on shaky ground, the focus has shifted to the Upper House chairman, Amrit Malhotra, now under pressure from both the Congress as well as the National Conference.

Malhotra has yet to decide on the resignations of NC legislators Basheer Ahmad Veeri and Khalid Najeeb Suharwardi, who have withdrawn from the five-member House Committee arguing that it did not meet constitutional parameters and was against the dictates of natural justice.

In what may have come as more hard-needed support for Mohiuddin, Chib has sought to argue that the proposal of a House probe had been immediately opposed by the rural development minister Ali Muhammad
Sagar, forest minister Mian Altaf, Naresh Gupta, Suharwardi and other legislators present on the occasion.

“If at all a House Committee had to be constituted, it should have been done against the department in question, not against a cabinet minister,” Chib has written to the Upper House chairman.

“This is against parliamentary norms,” he has said.

“PDP member Syed Rafiq Shah is the lone voice in support of the House Panel. It (the committee) would therefore be a negation of basic and natural justice,” he has said.

“The question raised in the legislative council session was about the extent of forest land under Taj Mohiuddin, but the House panel has exceeded its brief by directing the assembly secretariat to furnish complete details of the minister’s all assests,” he has written.

“The commissioner secretary for revenue has been directed to furnish details of all land in possession of Mohiuddin, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the present investigation,” he has said.

“It appears that for some unknown reasons, attempts are being made to damage Taj Mohiuddin’s public image,” he has said.

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