The Supreme Court has barred Justice B A Khan, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC) and former Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, from practising as arbitrator.
According to Section 5 of the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act, 2002, the chairperson and members of the SAC “shall not hold any office of trust or profit… or be connected with any political party or carry on any business or practise any profession”.
On May 30 last year, The Indian Express reported that Justice Khan continued to serve as arbitrator and charge fee even after his appointment as chairman of the SAC, the state’s top anti-corruption body “comparable to Lokpal”.
Following The Indian Express report, one Kartik Enterprise approached the Supreme Court for removal of Justice Khan as arbitrator in its arbitration case with Delhi Jal Board.
On December 8, the Supreme Court ruled: “Section 5 (e) of the Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Commission Act, 2002 makes it clear that such Chairman cannot practise any profession and if he is practising any profession, he must cease to practise such profession.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court appointed a new sole arbitrator “in the place of Hon’ble Justice B A Khan.”
Brijesh Kumar Singh, owner of Kartik Enterprise, said: “We had earlier approached the Delhi High Court for termination of the arbitrator as no progress had been made in the case since 2015 but he was given another six months. Then we came across the news report about his ineligibility and went to the Supreme Court.”
Justice Khan was arbitrating in at least four other cases when the Supreme Court ruled against him on December 8.
When his comments were sought, Justice Khan, in an email, said: “I have been advised by my lawyers to say that an observation related to provisions of section 5 (e) of the Accountability Commission Act saying that “such chairman can’t practice any profession & if he is practising any profession he must cease to practice such profession” is only obiter & not any final determination of the issue whether conduct of an arbitration by the chairperson amounts to carrying on of a “profession” within the meaning of the provision which can only decided on hearing me & the maker of this provision.”
“It also appears that the court was not informed that I was completing surviving arbitration matters with the sanction of the State Govt & that there were other judges also who were conducting arbitration alongside their assignments. Consequently, I will be seeking a clarification from the Hon’ble Court to that effect & my lawyers are in the process of filing an application in this regard shortly,” he said.