State Accountability Commission can initiate suo motu proceedings against a public functionary

Jammu and Kashmir High Court– In a landmark judgment empowering the State Accountability Commission (Commission), a division bench of M.H Attar and B.S Walia JJ., set aside the decision given by the learned writ court wherein regulation 9 of Jammu & Kashmir Accountability Commission Regulations, 2005 (Regulations of 2005) was held to be ultra vires the Jammu & Kashmir Accountability Commission Act, 2002 (Act of 2002) and was struck down. The fundamental issue involved in the appeal was whether the Commission possesses the power of initiating suo motu proceedings under the Act of 2002. The Court while stating that the Commission had the power to initiate suo motu proceedings observed that even striking down of regulation 9 by the learned writ court had not denuded the Commission of its power of suo motu initiation of proceedings against a public functionary and that power was still intact.

Pranav Kohli, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the Commission submitted that conjoint reading of the provisions of the Act of 2002 depict that the Commission has suo motu power to proceed against any public functionary in accordance with the mandate contained in the Act of 2002 and regulation 9 prescribes the procedure to be followed when the Commission intends to take suo motu action. Per Contra, learned counsel on behalf of the respondents contended that the power to initiate suo motu proceedings has not been conferred on the Commission to ensure that honest public functionaries do not become victim of any vilification campaign against them launched by any unknown individual and so the Commission has assumed a power which is not vested in it.

Dismissing the contentions of the respondents, the Court held that the Accountability Commission is not a mere statutory body, but is a superior authority and in essence resembles a constitutional authority because persons who have held the highest constitutional posts as Judges of Supreme Court and High Court have been designated to be Chairperson/Members. The Court further observed that though the Commission has to act in accordance with the Statute, but its functioning cannot be circumscribed or limited by the Statute. The Commission cannot be denied the power to initiate suo motu action for achieving the purpose of considerable public importance. [Suman Lata Bhagat v. State, 2016 SCC OnLine J&K 1, decided on 1.2.2016]

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