Two of Haryana’s top bureaucrats have made the state’s Right to Service Commission somewhat like a private club, each recommending the appointment of the other to the body, which has four members in all.
Chief Secretary S C Choudhary has recommended that Additional Chief Secretary Sarban Singh be appointed Member of the Commission. And a committee headed by Singh has recommended that Choudhary be made the Commission’s Chairperson.
The Right to Service Commission was set up by an ordinance promulgated by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in December 2013 to ensure timely delivery of services to citizens. The Chairperson and Members of the Commission will have five-year terms and salaries and allowances similar to the state Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners.
Sarban Singh and two others took oath as Commissioners of the Commission on Sunday. Chief Secretary S C Choudhary retires on July 31, and will be sworn in after that.
Earlier this year, the Haryana government invited applications for appointment to the Right to Service Commission. A three-member panel headed by Choudhary and including Roshan Lal, then principal secretary to the Government of Haryana, and DDS Sandhu, vice-chancellor of Kurukshetra University, was to scrutinise applications and “recommend names of suitable persons”.
On June 25, the search committee met to shortlist candidates and forward the names to the statutory committee made up of the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition Om Prakash Chautala and Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal.
The search committee recommended the name of its chief, Chief Secretary Choudhary, as Chairperson of the Commission.
On the very next day, however, Choudhary had a rethink on the appropriateness of the recommendation — and “humbly” asked for the search committee to be reconstituted “with some senior officer in the rank of Additional Chief Secretary as Chairperson”.
He wrote on the file on June 26: “Since no quorum has been prescribed for the meeting of the Search Committee, I have signed the proceedings as Chairman but I have recorded — It will not be appropriate for me to be the part of the proceedings which recommended my name. In my humble opinion, it would be appropriate to reconstitute the Committee with some senior officer in the rank of Additional Chief Secretary as Chairperson. However, the Search Committee for recommending the names for Commissioners will remain the same.”
On June 27, S S Dhillon, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, wrote on the file, “CM has seen. He has ordered the reconstitution of the Search Committee for making recommendations for the post of Chief Commissioner of RTS as follows, Sarban Singh, Additional Chief Secretary as Chairman of the Search Committee and Roshan Lal and DDS Sandhu as its Members. He has further desired that recommendation of the Search Committee be put up expeditiously.”
In the same note, Dhillon also said that “The Search Committee for making recommendations to the post of Commissioners of RTS will be as per the earlier constitution.” This meant that Choudhary remained chief of the search committee for the purpose of recommending candidates for RTS Commissioner.
The new chief of the panel to search for the Chief Commissioner, Sarban Singh, held a meeting on July 1, in which Choudhary’s name was reconfirmed as RTS Chairperson. On the same day, Choudhary selected Singh as Member of the Right to Service Commission.
The proceedings of the July 1 meeting, chaired by Singh, were sent to the Chief Secretary, that is Choudhary. He forwarded it to the Chief Minister for further action.
While the government has defended the appointments, BJP state president Ram Bilas Sharma on Tuesday said he would lead a delegation to the new Haryana Governor, Kaptan Singh Solanki, challenging the appointments.
“We shall be submitting a memorandum to the Governor asking him to intervene in the illegal appointments made by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government,” Sharma said.