When Punjab govt bypassed CLP leader in picking 7 RTS panel commissioners | punjab | Hindustan Times
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When Punjab govt bypassed CLP leader in picking 7 RTS panel commissioners

Punjab government didn’t consult the leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha before selecting seven commissioners to the Right to Service Commission (RTS) — a move that violates the Punjab Right to Service Act, 2011.

punjab Updated: Sep 19, 2016 11:13 IST
Pawan Sharma
“These appointments were made without sending the file to me and without taking my consent. The government has violated the Act wilfully and with impunity,” Channi told Hindustan Times.
“These appointments were made without sending the file to me and without taking my consent. The government has violated the Act wilfully and with impunity,” Channi told Hindustan Times.(HT File )

Punjab government didn’t consult the leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha before selecting seven commissioners to the Right to Service Commission (RTS) — a move that violates the Punjab Right to Service Act, 2011.

Also read | Cash-strapped Badal govt to park 7 more commissioners on RTS panel

The seven persons, who were picked out of the shortlisted 21 candidates, include former IPS officer Rajinder Parshad Mittal, besides Jagdeep Singh Cheema, Lakhwinder Singh Lakhi, Jagmeet Kaur Sandhu, Kamaldeep Bhandari, Nimrit Kaur and Pankaj Kumar, who owe allegiance to the ruling Alaki Dal-BJP combine.

The two-member “in-house” committee of the father-son duo – chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal — neither recorded the approval nor dissent of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi, who is the leader of opposition in the 117-member Vidhan Sabha.

As per Punjab Right to Service Act, 2011, the chief commissioner and commissioners are to be appointed by the government in consultation with the leader of opposition.

Though consulting the leader of opposition before making appointments is a must, the dissent note does not stop the government from sticking to its decision, according to rules.

“These appointments were made without sending the file to me and without taking my consent. The government has violated the Act wilfully and with impunity,” Channi, told Hindustan Times.

It was during the last sitting of the recently concluded Vidhan Sabha session that the CM and deputy finalised the seven names. “Around midnight on September 8, the day assembly session began, I received a letter from the government inviting me for a meeting on September 9 to finalise names for some commission. The next morning, I sent a letter to the government seeking details of the shortlisted candidates. But I didn’t get any response,” Channi said.

As the Congress disrupted the proceedings of the House, Channi said, he was invited for a meeting over phone during the last two sittings of the Vidhan Sabha. “It was a mere formality... the government didn’t send the file to me fearing that I will give a dissent note. This selection is undemocratic and illegal,” he said.

Earlier too, Channi had given a dissent note in the recent appointment of two members of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) and two information commissioners of the Right to Information Commission.

Channi’s predecessor Sunil Jakhar had also given a dissent note in the appointment of a Punjab Public Service Commission member, but the government overlooked it.

Right to Service Commission was set up by the Akali-BJP government in 2011-12 to provide an effective framework for time-bound delivery of services and to promote transparency and accountability. Recently, the government increased the strength of commission members from four to 10, a move to rehabilitate the ruling alliance workers or “pliable” bureaucrats and “loyal” police officers after retirement.

The commissioners are appointed for five years or till they attain the age of 65. This post fetches fat salary and perks for what is described as “full-time salary for a part-time job”.

To justify its decision of increasing the commission’s strength, the government’s reason recorded in the official file reads: “In order to tackle the workload, increase in number of commissioners from four to 10 is urgently required.”

Over 40 candidates, including retired IPS and IAS officers, had applied for the plump post and were lobbying. The search committee headed by chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal and comprising Jagpal Singh Sandhu (additional chief secretary-Home), Lt Gen BS Dhaliwal (technical adviser to CM), and RK Verma (secretary, governance reforms) had shortlisted the applicants and prepared a panel of three candidates against one post.

Salary of commissioners

Basic salary: Rs 80,000

Dearness allowance: 125% of basic salary

House rent allowance: 20% of basic salary

Besides this, they are also entitled a government house, staff car, phone and peon.