The husband of a sitting high court judge who is hearing many cases against the Haryana government, the wife of Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda’s political advisor, and the CM’s advisor (health) — these are the three new state information commissioners selected by the state government on Wednesday. They are likely to be sworn in before Governor Jagannath Pahadia’s term ends on July 26.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the statutory committee on Wednesday, chaired by Hooda and attended by Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal. The third member of the committee, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Om Prakash Chautala, did not attend the meeting. However, Chautala recorded his dissent in a note to Hooda.
Many cases against the state government are pending in the court of Justice Daya Chaudhary, whose husband, Dr Amar Singh, a retired Excise and Taxation department officer, is among those selected for the post. These include the issue of multiple allotments of residential plots by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).
The others who have been picked are: Rekha, the wife of Hooda’s political advisor Professor Virender Singh, and Shiv Raman Gaur, the CM’s retired additional principal secretary who was recently re-employed as his advisor (health).
In his dissent note, Chautala urged the CM to stop the appointments. “It will only result in wrongfully extending the benefits of political patronage to persons like Smt Rekha, Amar Singh and Shiv Raman Gaur, who otherwise are not eligible for appointment as the state information commissioners,” he said.
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“Such appointments should be of persons of eminence in the field of law, administration and management etc., as stipulated in the 2005 Right to Information enactment of the Parliament of India. Is it not correct, for example, that the lady… has no qualification other than being the spouse of your so-called political advisor, and earns her livelihood from the education department of Haryana?”
Justifying the decision, Bhukkal said, “The screening committee scrutinises the applications of interested people who have applied for the post. The screening committee forwarded us the names and we gave our approval. There is nothing wrong in this.”
On the decision to pick Amar Singh and Rekha, Bhukkal said, “Both must have applied for the post in their individual capacity. Many retired judges also want to be appointed state information commissioners. If a judge’s husband has been selected, there is nothing wrong.”
Both Rekha and her husband did not respond to repeated phone calls and text messages. When contacted, Amar Singh refused to comment. Justice Daya Chaudhary was also not available for comment.
The Haryana Information Commission has a chief information commissioner and seven information commissioners at present. According to the rules on selection of information commissioners, the candidates “should be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. The information commissioners should not be a Member of Parliament or Member of Legislature of any state or union territory, or hold any other office of profit, or connected with any political party, or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.”
The information commissioners remain in office for a term of five years or till he/she attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same salary and allowances as that of the state chief secretary.