Row over Odisha Information panel reaches Raj Bhavan

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 18:

A delegation of members of civil society organisations (CSOs) today met Odisha Governor SC Jamir and submitted a memorandum seeking his intervention in the spate of appointments made by the state government in the recent past to quasi-judicial commissions, which they alleged were marked by a complete lack of transparency and accountability.

odisha information commission

“We would like your esteemed office to review with immediate effect the appointments already effected to such posts as that of State Disability Commissioner, State Women’s Commission and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR). We hold the latest appointment of two persons as Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner, Odisha as ultra vires to the parent law itself,” said the memorandum.

“As per section 4 (1) C of the Right to Information Act (RTI) qualifications, the details of those who had applied and those who have been selected for the posts of Information Commissioners should be put in the public domain. Without doing that, the state government on its own has recommended names of persons for the appointments. Since the government has not maintained transparency in the matter, we have submitted a memorandum to the Governor. The Governor has promised to consider it,” Sudhir Mohanty, a member of the delegation, told reporters.

“They have been repeatedly appointing persons who have no knowledge of the law and we have been protesting against it. We have been demanding transparency in such appointments. No transparency has been maintained; neither has it been made public which procedure was adopted by the government in recommending these names for appointments. The government has not made it clear on what basis it has selected them and on what basis it has rejected others. Nothing on this is formally available in the public domain,” said Pradip Pradhan, State Convener, Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhiyaan.

On the other hand, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh has pooh poohed the allegations and said all procedures had been followed while recommending the names for appointment of Information Commissioners.

“Two names were recommended to the Governor for approval after following all rules and procedures applicable for appointment of commissioners. I believe and hope His Excellency the Governor will give his approval and the two will be given appointment,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh.

It may be noted here that the state government has claimed to have received 44 applications for the two vacant posts of commissioners in Odisha Information Commission (OIC). Six applications were short listed out of the 44 applications by a committee consisting of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh, Leader of the Opposition in the Odisha Assembly Narasingha Mishra and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as the chairman of the committee.

A meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on May 16 zeroed in on Laxmi Narayan Patnaik and Sashiprava Bindhani as the two new Commissioners to be appointed to the OIC. The meeting could not arrive at consensus on the selection of the appointees; the names of Patnaik and Bindhani were finalized on the basis of a 2:1 vote in their favour.

“The selection didn’t have my approval, the reason being the decision goes against the decision of the Supreme Court in this connection,” Narasingha Mishra, LoP Odisha Assembly had said speaking to reporters after the meeting on May 16.

While Jagadananda retired from the post of Information Commissioner in 2013, Chief Information Commissioner Tarun Kanti Mishra resigned from his post on February 12 this year.  The OIC currently has one Information Commissioner Pramod Mohanty whose term will end in July this year.

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