HYDERABAD: In what has come as a major embarrassment to the Kiran Kumar Reddy government, governor ESL Narasimhan returned the file on appointment of eight information commissioners under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The government sent the file to the governor on February 17 for his assent to the appointments but the governor returned the file in a sealed cover, reportedly raising objections to the appointment of “political nominees” as information commissioners and asked the government to take a fresh look at the appointments. Those whose appointments came under question are Varre Venkateswarlu, Lam Tantiya Kumari, Imtiaz Ahmed and M Vijaya Nirmala, who are believed to have links with the Congress.
Narasimhan seemed to have taken into consideration the “dissent note” written by leader of the Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu as well as the widespread opposition to the “political appointments”. Naidu said: “In view of the feedback and public perception on the proposed list of nominees for the posts of information commissioners, I suggest that a search committee be formed to scrutinise applicants’ eligibility as per provisions of the RTI Act and place it before the next meeting of the selection committee.” For the last few weeks, RTI activists, under the banner of United Forum for RTI Campaign, and civil society members, have been up in arms over the selection of the commissioners.
In a poll conducted by the forum, in 22 districts, the question posed to the participants was: “Do you believe w h e t h e r the way informat ion c o m m i s - sioners were posted was in accordance with the spirit of the act? Of the total 72,106 people who took part in voting, 3,934 said yes (5.46 per cent), while 67,106 said no (93.1 per cent) and 1,038 votes were invalid (1.44 per cent). V Lakshman Reddy, state president of Jana Chaitanya Vedika, which is part of the Forum said, “There was a feeling among those who took part in the polling that those selected as commissioners should not have any political background and should have left a mark in social service.” The forum has urged the governor to reject the names recommended by a panel, contenting that these people actively participated in politics.The forum also wants the government to formulate guidelines for appointment of information commissioners.
Lakshman Reddy added, “The government should invite applications from the public and a machinery has to be created to shortlist them.” Moreover, there is a bar under the law that people to be considered (for the post) should not be connected with politics. Till recently, four of them were in politics. They contested elections and lost.
The panel which selected the information commissioners comprised the chief minister, deputy chief minister D Raja Narasimhan and Chandrababu Naidu.
B R Raju, convener of United Forum for RTI said that if the file returned, indeed mentioned objection to the four above nominees, it was a good step. “But we have received nothing conclusive or in detail about the contents in the file as yet.
Only after that can we comment on the issue.”