At least 12 of the 22 additional advocate generals, deputy advocate generals and law officers appointed last month by the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in Jammu and Kashmir are relatives of either ministers or ruling PDP leaders, or of sitting and retired judges, bureaucrats, and even separatist leaders.
The government has also announced more than 300 per cent increase in the remuneration of these officers besides increasing their other perks.
Five of the other law officers have political links.
J&K Advocate General Jehangir Ganai said he “knew nothing of the matter”. Before being appointed A-G, Ganai was legal advisor at the newspaper owned by Bukhari’s father.
Mehraj ud din Bhat: The additional advocate general dealing with cases of departments of Social Welfare, Urban Engineering and Environment, Hospitality and Protocol is the son of PDP general secretary and ex-MLA Nizam-ud-din Bhat.
Shahbaz Sikandar: Appointed as additional J&K’s law officers are relatives of politicians, babus and judges advocate general, he looks after cases of Housing and Urban Development department, Srinagar Development Authority and Agro Industries Corporation. Sikandar is the son of Himachal Pradesh Chief Justice Mansoor Mir.
Syed Sajjad Geelani: A deputy advocate general, Geelani is the cousin of Animal Husbandry and Science and Technology Minister Sajad Lone. In fact, he is also representing the government in departments headed by his cousin Lone.
Nisar Hussain Shah: A relative of Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Basharat Bukhari, Shah has been appointed additional advocate general. Shah’s father and the father of Basharat’s wife are cousins. Shah is appearing for cases of Vigilance, Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation departments besides the State Board of School Education and Service Selection Board. The Relief and Rehabilitation department is headed by Bukhari himself.
Shah Amir: Appointed deputy advocate general, Amir is a relative of senior PDP leader and former minister Dilawar Mir, whose wife is Amir’s aunt. Mir’s son Yawar Mir is an MLA from Rafiabad. Amir is representing Health and Family Welfare and SIDCO departments.
Asif Ahmad Bhat: Nephew of former J&K chief justice Bashir Ahmad Khan, Asif has been appointed additional advocate general and is pleading cases of Power Development, Planning and Development, and Ladakh Affairs departments.
Shahvar Gowhar: Gowhar, an additional advocate general, is pursuing cases of Tourism department and development authorities. He is son of a retired sessions judge, Ghulam Nabi Gowhar.
Shabir Ahmad Naik: An additional advocate general, he is representing School Education and Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution departments. Naik’s father-in-law A Q Parray is a former chief justice. Naik’s father Ghulam Hassan was a senior Congress leader and a close associate of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
Irfan Andleeb: Deputy advocate general Andleeb is looking after cases of Public Health Engineering and Irrigation & Flood Control departments, apart from Handloom Development Corporation. He is the brother-in-law of former J&K advocate general Altaf Naik.
Khalid Hamid: The deputy advocate general is dealing with cases of Technical Education, Youth Services Cultural Academy and Archives. Hamid is the nephew of Director, Tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah.
Owais Geelani: A government advocate, Geelani is handling the cases of State Forest Corporation and Industries. Geelani, a close associate of Bukhari, is also a nephew of Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s wife.
Bashir Ahmad Dar: An additional advocate general, Dar is the brother of separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Dar and also close to PDP MP Muzaffar Hussain Beig. He is representing the cases of Home and Estates departments.
Among those with political links are Nazir Ahmad Baba, Ghulam Mohidin Reshi, Manzoor Ahmad Sheikh, Javid Sathu and Syed Shuja.
Nazir Ahmad Baba, an additional advocate general, was an active member of the ruling PDP before taking up this assignment, while Ghulam Mohidin, Reshi, a deputy advocate general, was associated with the Congress but joined the PDP days before the last Assembly elections. Manzoor Ahmad Sheikh, a deputy advocate general, is an active worker of the PDP in Kupwara district.
Javid Sathu, a government advocate, was the PDP in-charge of Anantnag town and campaigned for CM Sayeed during the last Assembly elections, while Syed Shuja, also a government advocate, was one of the election campaigners of minister Bukhari.
“This is cheating and misuse of tax payers’ money,” says former J&K advocate general Ishaq Qadri. Many of the new officers, he adds, “have never pleaded a case in the high court and don’t have proper legal knowledge to deal with high-profile cases”.
Qadri also questioned the increase in the number of additional advocate generals and deputy advocate generals in the state. “During our tenure, there were only 10 of them,” he said. “Now there are 20. They have tried to accommodate relatives and lawyers affiliated to their party.”