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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Nothing political in my appointment, says minister Rana Sodhi’s son

“It is Punjab governor who appoints information commissioners. It is not political appointment,” Anumit Sodhi told The Indian Express.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar | October 23, 2020 11:25:50 am
Rana Gurmit Sodhi, Rana Gurmit Sodhi son, Anumit Singh Sodhi, Anumit Singh Sodhi  SIC, punjab newsAnumit Sodhi takes oath as state information commissioner in presence of his father and Minister Rana Gurmit Sodhi, in Chandigarh on Wednesday. Express

Anumit Singh Sodhi alias Hira Sodhi, son of Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Sodhi, who on Wednesday became the youngest person to be appointed as the state information commissioner (SIC), a constitutional post, is facing probe in one attempt to murder case while the complainant in another attempt to murder case has challenged in court the closure filed by the Punjab Police.

Incidentally, the appointment of Anumit Sodhi, and Maninder Singh Patti, an aide of Housing and Urban Development Minster Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, to the Punjab information commission has already ignited the nepotism debate even as questions are being raised on their qualifications for the post.

Anumit Sodhi, however, claimed that his was not a political appointment.

“It is Punjab governor who appoints information commissioners. It is not political appointment,” Anumit Sodhi told The Indian Express.

However, a thanksgiving post on Anumit Sodhi’s Facebook wall was anything but political. “I’m grateful to Captain Amarinder Singh Ji & #INCPunjab for appointing me as State Information Commissioner. Thank u for entrusting ur faith in my ability & I’m confident that i will perform my duties with utmost sincerity. Punjab Da Captain,” reads his post.

His minister father took to Twitter to express gratitude.

I’m grateful to @capt_amarinder Ji @PunjabGovtIndia for appointing Anumit Singh Sodhi @anumitsodhi & Maninder Singh Patti as Members of State Information Commissioner. Thanku 4entrusting faith in my son’s ability & I’m confident that he vl perform his duties with utmost sincerity,” he tweeted.

More than a dozen former bureaucrats and IPS officers had applied against the posts that eventually went to to Anumit Sodhi and Maninder Patti. Sources in the government said that some of them had applied more than a year ago.

Anumit Sodhi, however, said that he applied in July this year when post was republished keeping old applications under consideration.

According to the advertisement issued by the Punjab government for the post: “…Commissioners shall be the 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.” It also adds that the person shall not be connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.

On his FB page, Anumit Sodhi mentions his occupation as politician and that he is a member of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

Asked under which category, mentioned in advertisement, did he qualify, Anumit Sodhi said, “Non-official. There are many people who were correspondents or ex-servicemen and appointed as information commissioners in the past. I come from non-official category. There is no specific category to appoint information commissioner. There are only two categories official and non-official. Officials are those who have taken retirement from the government service.”
According to Supreme Court directions for appointments of SIC: “To ensure transparency in appointments, all necessary information including the advertisement, particulars of the applicants, composition of selection committee and search committee, minutes of meetings of search/selection committee etc. should be put up on the website. The criteria adopted for shortlisting candidates by the search committee should be made public, to ensure that shortlisting is done on the basis of objective and rational criteria.”

However, the Punjab government didn’t upload any such information on the website before making the two fresh appointments.

Anumit Sodhi, meanwhile, said he was confident of justifying his selection. “I am a graduate from Delhi University and a national champion in shooting. I have been with the Congress party for last 23 years. I was vice-president of Youth Congress. People often find problems in getting information from departments. We will try to make it smooth. It happened with me many times that I couldn’t get information under the RTI because my party was in opposition. There should be no such discrimination in giving information on the basis of political party,” he said.

The 45-year-old, meanwhile, is facing a criminal complaint, with the matter having reached the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Complainant Vinay Kumar Bajaj, from Guru Har Sahai, had moved the high court alleging police inaction in a an FIR that he had got registered against Anumit Sodhi in 2018 over a brutal attack on him.

“Petitioners have approached this court for handing over of investigation pursuant to FIR No.2 dated 1.1.2018 registered under Sections 307, 323, 324, 452, 148 and 149 of IPC at police station, Guru Har Sahai, district Ferozepur to CBI. It is contended that since registration of FIR, investigation has made little headway despite constitution of SIT. It is alleged that the petitioner was victim of brutal attack at the behest of henchmen of son of a sitting MLA. Petitioners are still receiving threats from the same quarter. According to them, fair and impartial investigation cannot be expected from the state police in the facts and circumstances of the case. During the course of hearing, case dairy has been perused. A copy of the MLR enclosed therein refers to injuries inflicted… It needs to be considered whether further investigation needs to be handed over to CBI….At this stage, learned state counsel submits that he needs one opportunity to seek instructions from DGP, Punjab,” reads the High court order dated December 17, 2018
The order further stated that “Atul Nanda, Advocate General, Punjab… submits that DGP has constituted SIT, which would proceed ahead with the investigation and take it to its logical end… A status report be submitted on or before the next date of hearing. Further decision shall he taken after perusal of status report.”

The SIT report was filed in court in September 2019 and the case is still pending with next hearing due on November 4.

Earlier, a Ferozepur court had accepted an FIR cancellation report by police earlier this year in an attempt to murder case registered against Anumit Sodhi in February 2015. The complainant in the case, Sukhwant Singh, has moved an application in court against the cancellation report filed by police.

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