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Why no records of Padma awards meetings prepared, CIC asks home ministry

An RTI applicant sought to know the minutes of the meeting after he got two different responses from the Union home ministry on D Veerendra Heggade, a Padma Vibhushan awardee in 2015.

india Updated: May 02, 2018 18:28 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India, New Delhi
Padma Award,Padma Award Committee,Central Information Commission
The Padma awards--Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibushan--are presented for “exceptional and distinguished service”. (PTI File Photo)

Expressing surprise that no minutes of the Padma Award Committee meetings to finalise awardees are prepared, the Central Information Commission has asked the Union home ministry to explain how does it present the list of finalists before the Prime Minister and the President in such a scenario.

The case pertains to RTI applicant Ranjan Rao Yerdoor who got two different responses from the ministry on his query seeking to know about D Veerendra Heggade, a Padma Vibhushan awardee in 2015.

Heggade, a noted philanthropist, is also the ‘Dharmadhikari’ of the Dharmasthala Temple in Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka.

He had asked for the copy of minutes of the committee meetings for the awards given in 2015 and the nomination letter and the biodata of Heggade.

“No separate minutes of the meetings of the Padma Awards Committee are maintained,” the ministry told him in RTI response on June 15, 2016.

It also said the copies of nominations and recommendations are kept for only one year according to the approved Record Retention Schedule for Padma awards and hence records sought by him were not available.

A year before the 2016 reply, the home ministry had told Yerdoor “no nomination/recommendation for D Veerendra Heggade was received and the Padma Committee itself made the recommendations”.

After hearing both sides, information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad noted that the reply stating that no minutes are prepared for the committee meetings is “hard to believe”.

“...Such an important meeting whereby conferring of national honour is decided cannot be an informal affair, nor can the proposed list of candidates be put up for approval of the Prime Minister and President without a complete proceeding being drawn out formally,” Azad, a former IPS officer and secretary (security), said.

He directed the ministry to come up with a “more uniform and consistent response” detailing if no minutes of meeting of the committee are prepared, how are the names of the finalists submitted by the committee before the Prime Minister and President for approval.

Azad also directed the ministry to furnish details of recommendation received by the awards committee for considering the name of Heggade and the Record Retention Policy of the ministry with respect to the Padma awards.

He noted that the issue raised by Yerdoor is one of “national interest” and “transparency in these aspects is of utmost importance”, considering that such national awards seek to recognise achievements of the recipients in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.

“Moreover, as the official website of the Padma awards itself states that the nomination is open to public there should be no reason to guard such information from the public at large,” he said, directing the ministry to furnish a revised reply to the commission.

The Padma awards--Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibushan--are presented for “exceptional and distinguished service”.

The awards committee is constituted by the Prime Minister every year. It is headed by the Cabinet Secretary and includes the Home Secretary, the Secretary to the President and four to six eminent persons as members.

The recommendations of the committee are submitted to the Prime Minister and the President for approval.

First Published: May 02, 2018 18:28 IST