Punjab: Information officer wants guv to ‘stem rot’ in state panel

  • Manpreet Randhawa, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Aug 28, 2015 11:04 IST
(L-R): Swaran Singh Channi (Punjab chief information commissioner); Surinder Awasthi (state information commissioner)

The controversy over recent differences of opinion between Punjab chief information commissioner (CIC) SS Channy and state information commissioner (SIC) Surinder Awasthi has taken a new turn with Awasthi seeking the intervention of Punjab governor Kaptan Singh Solanki to ‘stem the rot in the state information commission before it is too late’.

In a communiqué to the Punjab governor, Awasthi has said that he ventured to keep him (Solanki) abreast with the unsavoury trends in the functioning of the commission which would result in sudden, steep and fast erosion of its credibility. The copy of the communiqué is with HT. Solanki has not yet responded, and Channy has refused to comment.

Channy, a retired Punjab home secretary, and Awasthi, a former journalist, have been at loggerheads after the latter issued a show-cause notice to SAS Nagar SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar (also the public information officer) for ‘concealing’ information.

“The functions of the CIC were limited to allocation of cases or fixing of the rooster, assigning the cases to double or full bench. Once this is done, the role of the CIC is over. This was the perception and the commission had been running smoothly,” he says in the letter, adding that since the present CIC took charge, he had started taking unilateral decisions, but resorted to intervention in judicial functions of the SICs.

He claims the flashpoint came when the CIC started intervening in the adjudicating functions of the commissioners, summoning files without revealing reasons and allocating cases to his own bench without communication to the bench concerned.

The CIC entertained the requests of transfer of cases from PIOs even at the penultimate stage of cases, he has claimed, claiming that this could result in miscarriage of justice, he adds. “I seek your intervention ...before it is too late,” Awasthi’s letter adds.

Former CIC Ramesh Inder Singh’s take

Former CIC Ramesh Inder Singh said it was within the powers of the CIC to allocate or withdraw a case from the SICs besides constituting a bench. He added it was a matter of propriety and interpretation, if a case was withdrawn at the last stage.

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