Right to Information activists have questioned the manner in which the Telangana government last month appointed former secretary of legislative assembly, Soma Raja Sadaram, as chief information commissioner of the state, on the ground that the appointment was in violation of the Supreme Court order in the Namit Sharma case, as no advertisement had been placed for the post before it was made.
RTI activists Lokesh Batra noted that in its order the apex court had clearly stressed on transparency in appointments of commissioners in the Central Information Commission and one of the key aspects pertained to advertising the posts and inviting applications at least three months prior to the completion of tenure of a serving commissioner.
However, Batra pointed out that in the case of appointment of Sadaram as chief information commissioner, and of a senior journalist Budha Murali as an information commissioner, the names were cleared directly by a committee headed by chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, and had deputy chief minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali and leader of the opposition K. Jana Reddy as members.
Though the government had maintained that it considered the candidature of 28 candidates before deciding on the two names, the Forum for Good Governance, which moved the high court demanding that the posts lying vacant for four months be filled up expeditiously, had claimed that the process of inviting applications was not followed.
Its secretary M. Padmanabha Reddy was quoted as saying that though apart from inviting applications, the state government should have ideally appointed a search committee to accept and scrutinise applications after which the names of short-listed candidates should have been sent to the committee, while “many people have been waiting for such a notification”, it never came. Admitting that many desirous of applying for the posts had also sent their applications directly to the general administration department (GAD) and the chief minister’s office, Reddy had stated that even the fate of these applications was not known.
It is also pertinent to note that the local media had reported how some officials in the GAD had maintained that there was no provision in the RTI Act to call for applications.
In this backdrop, Batra said the manner in which the appointments were made without advertising the vacancies and inviting applications, makes it a fit case where “the appointments can be challenged in court for not complying with the Supreme Court’s directions”.
In this context, he said, even the Central Information Commission is to blame for failing in its duty to communicate to or remind the Centre about three months in advance about an information commissioner about to complete his or her tenure.