In a shocking expose by Right to Information (RTI) activists, official documents have revealed that three of the four information commissioners appointed last year did not submit their biodata as required by the law, but instead simply sent in self-recommending letters to the government. One of them even went to the extent of saying he is a staunch supporter of the Congress.
The government had recommended eight persons for appointment as information commissioners last year. Governor E S L Narasimhan cleared four of the names while returning the names of four others - Imtiaz Ahmed, L Tantiya Kumari, M Vijayanirmala and V Venkateshwarlu -- for the government’s reconsideration because they had political affiliations. The government has returned the same four names to the governor, insisting upon their appointment. Their fate presently rests with the governor.
C J Karira, an activist from the United Forum for RTI (UFRTI) said at a press conference here on Tuesday that the norms for appointment of information commissioners bars anyone with political affiliations.
In fact, one of the rejected four, Venkateswarlu, even attached recommendation letters from three minsters to his biodata. In a letter dated Jan 22 2011, a letter by minister for secondary education K Parthasarathy requested the chief minister to appoint Venkateswarlu because he had always been a staunch worker for the Congress party. Similar letters were sent by ministers N Raghuveera Reddy and K Jana Reddy. All three letters also mentioned Venkateswarlu’s caste. Two clearly stated that he was a secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee at that point of time. “It seems that Venkateshwarlu’s recommendation was arbitrary and caste-based,” said Karira.
One of the successful appointees, P Vijaybabu, a senior journalist, wrote three letters to the chief minister, explicitly stating that he was a strong supporter of the Congress.
An excerpt from his letter dated Oct 22, 2010 reads: “I have always been committed to the noble conventions and notable ethical values of journalism in my long journey as a journalist... as an ardent and staunch supporter of the principles and policies of Congress Party, I have been openly supporting Congress even as a political analyst in both the electronic and print media.”
He also very clearly mentioned that before he became a journalist, he served the Congress as president of the Youth Congress and secretary of the City Congress in Vijayawada. “Since he himself said he is pro-Congress, he is politically affiliated. How did the government appoint him?” asked T L Narasimha Rao, an RTI activist.
The documents obtained by the activists also show that no relevant documents containing the biodata of M Vijayanirmala were found.
“We demand that the government appoint the commissioners in accordance with the Supreme Court’s guidelines and a previous directive given by the AP High Court,” said Karira.
He added that two of the current information commissioners M Ratan and S Prabhakar Reddy, both retired IPS officers, also did not submit any biodata, but sent self-recommending letters to the state government.