The State Administrative Council headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik has made changes in a number of laws to pave way for appointment of heads and members of prestigious anti-graft and transparency bodies whenever the state is under Governor’s or President’s rule.
In the past one month, the SAC, which is equivalent to the cabinet of an elected government, has approved amendments in the laws governing key appointments in the State Vigilance Commission, State Information Commission and Ombudsmen in local bodies.
These appointments were otherwise not possible during Governor’s rule because the panel that made these selections comprised the chief minister, leader of Opposition and other elected representatives who, after amendments, will be replaced by advisors to the Governor in the selection panels for these prestigious positions in absence of an elected government in the state.
The Governor happens to be appointing authority for all such appointments irrespective of whether an elected government or Governor’s rule is in place in the state The changes have been made in the laws when key positions are lying vacant in the prestigious bodies.
STATE INFORMATION COMMISSION
The amendment approved by the SAC in the Right to Information Act-2009 states that Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be appointed by the Governor on recommendation of a selection committee comprising his advisors (one of whom shall be nominated as chairperson of the committee) and the chief secretary (member secretary).
These amendments are applicable only when the state is under Governor’s rule or President’s rule. As per the original Act, the selection committee consists of the CM, leader of Opposition and a cabinet minister to be nominated by the CM. The latter usually happened to be deputy chief minister. Comprising of the CIC and two ICs, the transparency panel is presently functioning without its head and one of the members. The post of CIC became vacant after Khurshid Ahmad Ganai was picked up by then Governor NN Vohra as part of his team. The other vacancy remained unfilled after Vohra rejected the recommendation seeking appointment of Ashok Kumar Attari, a former DIG of police, as IC.
STATE VIGILANCE COMMISSION
The composition of the selection panel constituted for making appointment of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commissioners in times of Governor’s rule is similar to the panel set-up for recommending appointments in the SIC.
As per original Act, the CVC and VCs were appointed by the Governor on recommendations of a committee comprising the CM, leader of Opposition, law minister and a minister to be nominated by the CM. Currently, one slot of vigilance commissioner is vacant. The previous dispensation had recommended Rajeshwar Singh Jasrotia, a former IFS, against the vacancy. However, Vohra turned down the recommendation.
OMBUDSMEN IN LOCAL BODIES
After completion of panchayat and urban local bodies polls, the Governor’s administration has made amendments in the laws governing appointment of ombudsmen in both institutions of local self-governance. As per original Act, the ombdusmen were to be appointed by the Governor on advice of the CM. But before advising the Governor, the CM was bound to consult the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, chairman Legislative Council and leader of Opposition. According to amendments in the Panchayat and Municipal Ombudsman laws, they shall be appointed on recommendation of a selection committee comprising advisors and the chief secretary.