File- PTI PHOTO/ KAMAL SINGH
Hooda Govt Attacked Over Administering Commissioners' Oath

After a controversy erupted over Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda administering the oath of office to new information commissioners, the state government said the appointments were "legal".

The Opposition raked up the issue, terming the step as "unconstitutional", claiming that Hooda had administered the oath barely an hour after the new Governor had taken charge. The opposition had also alleged that the rules and procedures in making the appointments were not followed.

Even as BJP nominee Kaptan Singh Solanki took oath as new Governor of Haryana yesterday, the Chief Minister went ahead and administered the oath of office to two as Commissioners of the SIC and three others as the Right to Service Commission.

Meanwhile, senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka too appeared to take a dig at the appointments in his tweet today.

"Lure for post retirement sinecures harming institutions," Khemka said in a tweet, but did not detail the background or context of it.

"New agencies are created to dangle crumbs before pliable bureaucrats and judges," he said in his tweet.

However, Chief Secretary, S C Choudhary told reporters, that all the appointments of State Information Commissioners and Commissioners of Haryana Right to Service Commission made by the state Government "are legal and no irregularity has been committed in the issue".

Reacting to the media reports concerning observations raised by Haryana's Secretary, Administrative Reforms, Pradeep Kasni, on appointments, the chief secretary said all members have fulfilled the requisite qualifications and not a single member was holding any post of profit during the appointment.

He made it clear that all officers who have been administered oath of office were either retirees or they have taken voluntary retirement prior to joining their new assignment.

"Resignation of all members have been accepted before their joining new assignment," Choudhary said.

In the past, the Information Commissioners were administered the oath by the Governor.

Opposition parties including INLD and BJP attacked the Hooda government for showing "haste" in making the appointments and pointed out that even Pradeep Kasni, has red-flagged the appointments on the grounds that rules had allegedly not been followed. 

"The Hooda government, which has been going out of its way to re-employ its favourites, showed tremendous haste yesterday. The Chief Minister invited to his home those who had to take oath and administered the oath on a holiday. He did not even wait for the new Governor's nod," BJP's legislature party leader and Ambala MLA, Anil Vij charged.

"Moreover, a state's own officer had red-flagged the appointments. Therefore, this action of the government is illegal and unconstitutional," he charged.

Main opposition INLD, too, slammed the government over making the appointments.

INLD's state unit chief, Ashok Arora said the Congress government, whose term is nearing its end, "is in a tearing hurry to appoint its favourites at key constitutional posts by not following laid down rules thus violating constitutional and democratic norms".

He said the "haste" in making the appointments to these statutory posts was evident from the fact that the proposal for making the appointments was sent to the then Governor, Jagannath Pahadia, on July 23 seeking an authorisation from him so that the Chief Minister could administer the oath to the new members.

The names of the new appointees were cleared by Pahadia on July 25, on the last day of his tenure.

The two members of SIC who were administered oath by Hooda include Shiv Raman Gaur, a retired IAS officer of Haryana cadre, who has been re-employed by the state government as Adviser (Health) and Rekha Rani, a government school teacher and wife of Hooda's political adviser Prof Virender Singh.

Those who have been administered Oath of Commissioners of Right to Service Commission, Haryana, include Sarban Singh, Dr Amar Singh and Sunil Katyal.

Dr Amar Singh, who was an excise and taxation department officer, is husband of a judge in Punjab and Haryana High court here while Sarban Singh, an IAS officer, took voluntary retirement shortly before the swearing-in.

Katyal was posted in the Haryana's Advocate General's office.

In the file notings, Kasni wrote that no appointment letters could be issued as the persons recommended, including the two SICs, were holding an office of profit.

Kasni declined to make any comment on the issue.

Chief Secretary Chaudhary, who himself has been selected as Chairman of Right to Services Commission, a post which he is expected to take charge on August 1 following his retirement a day earlier, while replying to a query, said that the Governor is appointing authority who had authorised the Chief Minister to administer oath to the newly selected members.

"Once (then) Governor has authorised the Chief Minister, he can administer oath to any member," he said.

In reply to another question about some "overwriting or additions" made by him on the file forwarded by Kasni, he said everything is on record and objection raised by an officer is not based on facts.

"Before writing observations, he should check the facts with me," Choudhary added.

On being asked to comment on reports that appointment letters of new members had not been issued, he said that resignation of all members has been accepted and appointment letters too have been issued to them.

"All the selections have been made on the basis of merit. Applications were invited to appoint State Information Commissioners and Commissioners of Haryana Right to Service Commission," he said.

On being asked to comment on why Kasni had raised such observation on appointment, he said that the IAS officer can himself well inform about this.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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