‘The procedure followed not in tune with the letter and spirit of the RTI Act as explained by the Apex Court’

In a setback for the State Government, the appointment of four Information Commissioners under the Right to Information Act was set aside by the High Court here on Thursday.

The orders were passed by a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Kalyan Jyothi Sen Gupta and Justice K.C. Bhanu while allowing a writ petition filed by civil society activists K. Padmanabhaiah, Rao, V.B.J. Chelikani and N. Padmanabha Reddy.

The petitioners challenged the appointment of Varre Venkateswarulu, Lam Tantiya Kumari, Imtiaz Ahmed and M. Vijaya Nirmala on the ground that all of them had political links with parties.

The appointment of the four Information Commissioners resulted in a controversy earlier this year following an outcry by RTI activists and NGOs over their political background. Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan had approved only four out of the eight names sent to him by the Kiran Kumar Reddy Government.

Ignoring the Governor’s objections, the Government sent back the file to Mr. Narasimhan, leaving him no option but to approve all the appointments.

The Government sought legal opinion and proceeded with appointing them as RTI Commissioners and this was challenged in the High Court.

The petitioners contended that the appointment was vitiated by non-application of mind and was violative of the letter and spirit of the recent Supreme Court judgment. The Bench had issued notices, called for the response from the four and the records of the Government were perused.

The Bench felt that there was nothing on the record to show that the appointed persons had severed all the political connections which they had prior to the appointment. The procedure followed was not in tune with the letter and spirit of the RTI Act as explained by Apex Court.

These appointments were set aside and the Bench directed the State Government to make fresh appointments with six weeks.