The Punjab government on Tuesday told the high court that leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Saba Charanjit Singh Channi was kept in the loop in appointing seven commissioners of the Right To Service (RTS) panel, notified on September 29.
Special secretary, department of governance reforms, HS Kandhola, in an affidavit told the court that Channi was provided the relevant record as desired by him. “The department can only invite the leader of Opposition to meetings through notices but cannot compel him to attend the same,” Kandhola said, adding that it was on Channi’s request that agenda of the meeting, photocopies of shortlisted applications were delivered at his government residence, along with the notice that the meeting will be held on September 14 (9.30am) at Punjab Bhawan.
The response came on a public interest litigation filed by lawyer Yagyadeep, following an HT report: “Cash-strapped Badal govt to park 7 more commissioners on RTS panel”. The petitioner had sought quashing of these appointments, alleging they were illegal and arbitrary and were made in contravention of the Right To Service Act. It was alleged that Channi was not consulted and appointees were not of “public eminence” and that their only qualification was that they were members of either Akali Dal or the BJP.
The department has also produced records of notices received by staff members of Channi, sent to him on different occasions in the run up to these appointments.
Kandhola claimed that Channi not only had knowledge about the date and time of the meeting, but also of the agenda and requisite documents. Channi chose not to attend the meeting, he said. The matter will now be taken up on December 14.
The appointments of Lakhwinder Singh Lakhi, Jagmeet Kaur Sandhu, Jagdeep Singh Cheema, Nimrit Kaur, Kamaldeep Bhandari, Pankaj Kumar and Rajinder Parsad Mittal as commissioners of the panel were notified on September 29.