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Naya J&K defeats corruption; anti-graft agencies get teeth, take big fishes head on

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Srinagar/New Delhi, Aug 27 (IANS): Anti-graft agencies in Jammu and Kashmir till 2019 were nothing more than toothless tigers. The State Vigilance Organization (SVO) was unable to act against “big boys” as they enjoyed the patronage of the ruling class. The scenario changed after dispensation led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi “bit the bullet” and abrogated J&Ks so-called special status on August 5, 2019.

The move paved the way for implementation of central laws in the Himalayan region for the first time in 70 years and ended many such practices that had turned J&K hollow.

The process to revamp the SVO in J&K commenced soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled out from the coalition government led by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in June 2018.

After the end of Mehbooba Mufti’s rule, then J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik in October 2018 amended Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006 and Jammu and Kashmir State Vigilance Commission Act, 2011. He rechristened the SVO as Anti-Corruption Bureau to do away with the shortcomings and multiplicity of roles in the anti-corruption mechanism. In the same month the State Administrative Council (SAC) gave its nod to setting up the first ever Anti-Corruption Bureau in J&K to tackle corruption in a more effective and meaningful manner.

Malik’s decision to empower ACB proved to be a turning point in J&K’s history as it led to the government launching a decisive war against corruption in the Himalayan region.

Drive against big fishes

From 2018 to 2020 the ACB registered 219 cases against corrupt officials in J&K. The bureau also blew the lid off Rs 223 crore loan scam in State Cooperative Bank. The case was also filed against the former J&K Bank chairman, its executives, some chief engineers, superintendent and executive engineers, a few Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) officers, deputy excise commissioner and senior officers of Forest, Health Rural Development and other departments.

From January to July this year the ACB registered 94 graft cases in J&K.

The ACB police station in Srinagar, which also covers graft cases in Ganderbal and Budgam districts, registered 32 cases. Baramulla ACB police station, which also covers Bandipora and Kupwara districts, reported 23 cases while the Anantnag police station covering four south Kashmir districts had 13 cases.

In the Jammu province, 19 cases were registered in 10 districts. The ACB’s Jammu police station reported 11 cases in the first seven months while Doda police station reported five cases and the ACB’s central police station registered five graft cases.

ACB acts swiftly

After J&K’s transition into a Union Territory in October 2019, stringent provisions became applicable in J&K and the noose around corrupt officers was tightened further.

Officers from Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) were sent to the ACB on deputation to intensify the crackdown against the corrupt officials. The fresh cases were registered against the influential officers, who used to consider themselves above the law due to them being close to the ruling class in the erstwhile state.

The ACB during the last three years has acted tough against the government servants demanding illegal grafts, misusing their official positions, allowing illegal constructions by obtaining monetary benefits, possessing disproportionate assets, tampering official records, facilitating encroachment of government land, allowing use of sub-standard construction material, vesting of ownership rights of land illegally and forgery etc.

Anyone can approach CBI

The implementation of J&K Reorganization Act 2019 extended the jurisdiction of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to “Naya Jammu and Kashmir.” It provided a common man with an opportunity to approach the premiere investigating agency directly.

After 2019, the CBI has taken cognizance of the complaints without and caught many officials red handed demanding and accepting the bribes.

The anti-graft agencies becoming active changed the work culture in the government offices and officials were made accountable.

They no longer keep files pending as they do not want to come under any scanner as they are aware that it can put them in trouble.

War against corruption intensifies

During the past few months the war against corruption has become more intense in “Naya J&K”. On July 20, ACB sleuths arrested an Assistant Engineer, Mushtaq Ahmad Najar, of Rural Development Department (RDD) for demanding and accepting Rs 2,000/ as bribe to release Call Deposit Receipt amount of Rs 7,000 in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

In June this year, the J&K government ordered the premature retirement of eight employees of the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) on corruption charges under Article 226(2) of the J&K Civil services Regulations, Departmental Committees Act.

The charges against the sacked officers were confirmed by the departmental committees and were upheld by the designated review committee under Article 226(2), which included misappropriation of funds, falsification of records and raising fake bills, allowing illegal constructions, committing financial irregularities and making illegal appointments during their tenure in various Urban Local Bodies (ULBS).

The ACB on July 18 this year arrested Tehsildar Shalteng and Naib-tehsildar Batamaloo in Srinagar district on charges of bribery. The action was taken after the ACB received a written complaint alleging therein that Mohammad Younis, Tehsildar and Ghulam Rasool Hajam, Naib-Tehsildarof Tehsil Office Shalteng were demanding Rs 5 lakh as bribe for allowing the complaints to run their business on Nazool land transferred in their favour under RoshniAct at Rampur, Chattabal Srinagar.

The ACB acting quickly has led to more and more people coming forward to register their complaints. The administration during the past three years has become responsive and the system has turned transparent. The corrupt no more enjoy the political patronage and the blessings of their political bosses, who always used to come for the rescue of their yes-men.

Govt maintaining strict vigil

In July, the Jammu and Kashmir government took a serious note of inquiries into corruption cases getting delayed. It directed departments to dispose of all the matters quickly.

The investigating agencies had written to the government that many departments were not following the directives of anti-graft bodies, following which the J&K administration issued clear cut directions to all the heads of departments to expedite the pending probes against the corrupt officials.

The officers of the inquiry committees were directed to follow the standard procedure while preparing the reports so that the required decisions in such cases are taken without any delay.

Till 2019, the anti-graft agencies existed only on papers in J&K as the Centre’s Prevention of Corruption Act was inapplicable in the Himalayan region due to Article 370 being in vogue. Change in J&K’s status-quo led to all the Central laws, including the anti-corruption law, getting extended to the Himalayan region.

The extension of the central laws has changed many things in the erstwhile state, which was among top five corrupt places in the country till 2019. The complaints of the common man are being heard and acted upon. The ones who are not mending their ways are being caught and dealt with sternly. Welcome to “NayaJ&K”.

 




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Man faces underage sex crime charges | News, Sports, Jobs

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A Tyrone man facing dozens of charges involving child pornography and human trafficking has been denied bail.

Paul Robert Holpit, 24, was arraigned Wednesday morning before Magisterial District Judge Fred B. Miller on 15 felony charges each of photographing, filming, or depicting a sex act involving a child and of disseminating explicit sexual material to a minor; eight felony counts each of trafficking in individuals-recruit/entice/solicit, of corruption of minors, of unlawful contact with a minor-sexual offenses and of drug possession with intent to deliver; three felony counts of criminal solicitation; two felony counts each of trafficking in individuals for financial benefit, of child pornography and of criminal solitication-sexual exploitation of children; one felony count each of criminal soliticiation-involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a person less than 16 years of age and of criminal solicitation-involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child; and 10 felony counts of criminal use of a communication facility.

He also faces two misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors and a misdemeanor count of indecent assault of a person less than 16 years old.

According to the court docket, Holpit was denied bail due to the threat to the community and safety of the victims, his flight risk and the nature of the charges.

Holpit was remanded to the Blair County Prison awaiting a Sept. 20 preliminary hearing in front of Miller.

Pot for sex alleged

The charges stem from an five-month investigation by the Tyrone Borough Police Department after a minor female told police that Holpit provided numerous minors with marijuana in exchange for sexual acts.

On the police department’s Facebook page, police said 11 minor victims were identified and forensic interviews were conducted. The victims ranged from 12 to 17 years old, police said.

On May 6, borough police executed a search warrant on Holpit’s West 14th Street home and seized three iPhones, a Playstation, two HP laptops, an iWatch, cable modem, related charging cords, 297 grams of marijuana, clear sandwich bags, a silver scale and a glass pipe with residue.

Officers also received permission from parents and guardians to review the contents of cellphones belonging to the minors, court documents state.

During subsequent interviews, police said the minors reported talking to Holpit on Snapchat and meeting him in person. Holpit allegedly sent nude photos of himself to one 15-year-old, who said he sent photos at least once a day starting in December 2021 and continued for about two months. He also offered her free marijuana, alcohol and money in exchange for a sex act, the teen told police.

A 17-year-old told police she received marijuana from Holpit for about two years. In October 2021, Holpit began asking the girl for nude photos and she provided him with pictures a couple of times in exchange for marijuana. At least once, Holpit requested sex and he would send random pictures and videos of his genitals, she said. He also talked about her 12-year-old sister, asking the girl to talk the youngster into having sex with him for money.

The 12-year-old said she began talking to Holpit through Snapchat and then he began asking for photos of her body. He offered money, marijuana and tobacco for the pictures, she told police. He continued to ask, even though she said no, she said, and he sent photos of his genitals. He allegedly offered her money for oral sex.

Another 15-year-old said Holpit added her to Snapchat when she was 12 or 13 years old and conversations became sexual in nature, with Holpit asking for sex and sex acts in exchange for marijuana. She bought marijuana from him, the teen told police, and received nude photos of him on multiple occasions.

The interviews with the teens continued into June and July, according to court documents, and police talked to a 17-year-old, who also said she communicated with Holpit via Snapchat. Holpit allegedly sent her photos multiple times that included his genitals. He also asked for sexual favors in exchange for marijuana. The teen told police she did buy marijuana from Holpit in the past.

A 16-year-old said she purchased marijuana from Holpit and he used Snapchat to set up the purchases. She told police she then blocked him because she knew he sent nude photos to minors and requested sexual favors.

Marijuana bought

Four other minors, ranging in age from 15 to 17, told police that Holpit was their marijuana dealer. They also reported using Snapchat and that Holpit sent nude photos, asked for sex, sex acts and nude photos in exchange for the drug and in one case, asked a girl to have sex with him and another male in exchange for marijuana.

One 17-year-old said she began purchasing marijuana from Holpit, but the exchanges turned sexual, with Holpit giving her marijuana for sex acts and nude photos. He also sent her nude photos of himself via Snapchat and she received images about three times a week from November 2021 until April of this year, when she contacted police. Police said a majority of the in-person contacts with Holpit occurred at a Tyrone Borough church. At least one incident occurred in the parking lot of Penn Highlands Tyrone Hospital, police stated.

All victims reported receiving unsolicited photos of Holpit’s genitals and the photos appeared to have been taken in his bedroom, according to court documents.

Images of girls found

A search of Holpit’s cellphone turned up photos of the girls as well as images of large amounts of marijuana and cash. In addition, police said several conversations indicated Holpit was dealing marijuana. Videos, including of a minor girl giving oral sex to a minor boy, were found on the phone.

Police said 20 images and/or videos depicting child pornography were found and that Holpit provided eight minors with photos of his genitals.

He also provided seven of the juveniles with marijuana and arranged drug sales or disseminated pornographic images to nine individuals, court documents state. Holpit would meet individuals at various spots in Tyrone Borough to make drug deliveries, police reported.



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After 6 years, Karnataka government orders abolition of ACB, revival of Lokayukta

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The Karnataka government on Friday issued an order abolishing the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), saying all its cases will be transferred to the Lokayukta.

The government order said that as per the orders of the Karnataka High Court, the ACB will be abolished and police station powers reordered to Lokayukta police. All the cases which are pending/under inquiry/other disciplinary actions will be transferred to Lokayukta, it added.

In mid-August, a division bench of the Karnataka High Court had ordered the abolishing of ACB and revival of an anti-corruption police unit attached to the Karnataka Lokayukta, a quasi-judicial institution that works independent of the state.

The high court order quashed a notification issued by the then Congress government in the state on March 14, 2016, to create the ACB and also subsequent notifications transferring power to probe corruption cases under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, from Karnataka Lokayukta police to the ACB.

“All inquiries, investigations and other disciplinary proceedings pending before ACB will get transferred to the Lokayukta. However, all inquiries, investigations, disciplinary proceedings, orders of convictions/acquittals and all other proceedings held by ACB till today are hereby saved and the police wing of Karnataka Lokayukta shall proceed from the stage at which they are pending as on today, in accordance with law,” the bench said in its order.

Stating that it was “high time” the state government strengthened the institution of Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta and got back their “glory”, the court observed that the institution of Lokayukta has been reduced to being “paper tigers” by the March 14, 2016 executive order to transfer police powers to ACB.

The order for abolishing the ACB relates to cases filed in 2016 by the Advocates Association of Bengaluru, the Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, and advocate Chidananda Urs over Lokayukta powers being given to ACB.

The high court had stated that “there was no necessity for the state government to constitute ACB parallel to the institution of Lokayukta, that too when a person to be appointed as Lokayukta shall be a person who has held the office of a judge of Supreme Court, or that of the Chief Justice of a high court, or a person who has held the office of a judge of a high court for not less than ten years; and a person to be appointed a Upa-Lokayukta shall be a person who has held the office of a judge of a high court for not less than five years.”

The high court acknowledged that Lokayukta had become a powerful institution and was plagued by internal corruption but observed that the solution to the problem was in cleaning the institution and not withdrawing its powers to probe.




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Latest Updates: Deepak Mundi sent to 7-day police remand in Sidhu Moosewala case

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THE TIMES OF INDIA | Sep 11, 2022, 10:55:02 IST

Daily City News Updates

Union home and cooperation minister Amit Shah will take part in a cooperative conference in Gujarat’s Amreli district on Sunday and unveil a 16-feet tall statue of Lord Hanuman in Somnath town. Stay with TOI for all the latest updates:Read Less




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