A controversy has erupted over Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda administering the oath of office to new members of State Information Commission and the Commissioners of Right to Service Commission barely an hour after the new governor took charge, with the Opposition terming the move as "unconstitutional".
However, chief secretary SC Choudhary maintained that there was no illegality in making the appointments and in administering the oath to them.
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.
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 Haryana's Secretary, Administrative Reforms, 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.
"We are meeting the new Governor and will apprise him that 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," INLD's state unit chief, Ashok Arora said.
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.
Chief secretary Choudhary said, "There is no illegality involved in these appointments." Chaudhary himself has been selected as Chairman of Right to Services Commission, a post which he is expected to take charge on August 1.
He said that all those who had been appointed as SIC and RTS commissioners had either resigned from service or taken voluntary retirement before being sworn-in.
Kasni declined to make any comment on the issue.
According to the BJP and INLD, the applicants should have left their offices of profit at the time of applying itself, the last date of which ended earlier this month.