Sexual Harassment Case: HC Junks JKAS Officer’s Petition Against SP, DySP

J&K High Court | File Photo

Srinagar- The High Court J&K and Ladakh has dismissed a petition by a woman JKAS officer wherein she had sought direction for quashing a verification by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) regarding a “pseudonymous” complaint against her.

A petition was filed by woman KAS officer the then BDO Singhpora Pattan District Baramulla before High Court at Srinagar on 28-08-2022 alleging therein 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 etc.

On 28-08-2022 High Court had initially passed following interim order that the respondents are directed not to undertake any further verification in respect of the complaint which is the subject matter of the this petition and they shall also furnish the status report before this Court relating to the verification conducted so far, the case listed on 30.09.2022.

Accordingly a detail status report was filed by the superintendent of police ACB North Kashmir before High Court through Ld AAG Miss Asifa Padroo, in which it was submitted that the woman KAS officer has accumulated property worth crores of rupees within short span of her service of 10 years (check period) by indulging in corrupt practices in connivance with one class 4th of CAPD Department namely Mohd Shafi Rather and for indulging in corruption she was also recently placed under suspension by Govt 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.

In their status report 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, Swachh 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 bribes 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.

ACB conveyed to the Court that these complaints contain very serious allegations of corruption and criminal misconduct against the woman 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 primer intelligence agency against KAS 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 & accumulation of disproportionate assets.

There are allegations of malpractices against woman KAS officer, BDO Pattan and her activities have caused considerable loss to the exchequer. The said officer remained posted as Block Development Officer, Block Singhpora from 15 Mar, 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 S/O Mohammad Sultan R/O 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.

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.

During the course of hearing Ld 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.

On the very first hearing the court after listening to the arguments of both sides reserved its judgement on 30-09-2022 and finally pronounced its order on 17-11-2022. In its concluding Para’s of the order the court according to news agency Kashmir Dot Com (KDC) observed that “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 are inherent 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 the case on behalf of Anti-Corruption Bureau was pleaded by senior Ld AAG Asifa Padroo.

With the High Court final judgement, Anti-corruption Bureau is free to conduct investigations into all 07 number of complaints received against woman 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 report before General Administration Department Govt of J&K wherein it has been conveyed that there are many corruption related complaints against the woman KAS officer and in order to obstruct the probe into these allegations she filed a false and concocted case against the officers of Anti Corruption Bureau. (KDC)

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