RTI activists have urged the Andhra Governor to stop the appointment of two persons considered close to the ruling TDP. 

TDP govt politicising AP Information Commission RTI activists write to Governor
news Controversy Friday, May 03, 2019 - 19:09

The persons nominated for the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission are political appointees, allege Right to Information (RTI) activists who have written to the Andhra and Telangana Governor ESL Narasimhan on Thursday seeking his intervention in the matter. 

The activists allege that the post of the Information Commissioner is being used as a political rehabilitation for disgruntled TDP loyalists by the Andhra Pradesh state government. They also question if an interim government has the right to make crucial appointments in the state.

The state government has proposed the names of Ilapuram Raja and Eerla Sriramamurthy, two people considered close to the ruling TDP in Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra Pradesh Information Commission presently has three Information Commissioners; two are civil servants and one is a lawyer.

Illapuram Raja is the son of former MLC Illapuram Venkiah of the TDP and is a hotelier. He is also the president of the Vijayawada Hotels Association. Eerla Sriramamurthy, on the other hand, was a former personal secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development, Ganta Srinivasa Rao. Sriramamurthy is also a leader of the Village Revenue Officer Association.

“How can a hotelier become an Information Commissioner? Also, Sriramamurthy's name has been proposed after he threatened to quit the TDP and join YSRCP,” alleged Chakradhar Buddha, co-convenor, United Forum For Right to Information Campaign-AP(UFRTI-AP), who is of the view that these appointments violate section 15, sub-sections 5 and 6 of the RTI Act 2005.

Section 15 of the Act deals with the constitution of the Information Commission. 

Sub-section 5 of the Act states, “The State Chief Information Commissioner and the state Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.”

Sub-section 6 of the Act states, “The State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union territory, as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or be connected with any political party or carry on any business or pursue any profession.”

The RTI activists also point towards various Supreme Court orders that have nullified political appointments to the State Information Commission. In 2017, six appointments made to the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Information Commission were rejected by the Supreme Court. 

The Andhra Pradesh government has gone ahead with political appointees despite there being a fair chance that these appointments may get cancelled. The activists allege that political appointments are deliberately done so as to keep the RTI Act in the state weak, and have pointed out the same to the Governor.

“Once these two get appointed, it would take time for the Supreme Court to hear the case and then remove them. In the meantime, whatever judgements are delivered by the two political appointees will be valid. This helps keep the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission weak and get favourable judgements,” opined Chakradhar.

Under the Act, appointments are to be done by the chief minister, the senior cabinet minister and Leader of the opposition. However, the activists allege that YSRCP Chief Jagan Mohan Reddy never took part in the decision-making process. “He was carrying out his padayatra and wanted to send a replacement to attend the high power committee meeting, but law doesn't have the provision that allows anyone to send someone else on their behalf,” Chakradhar added. 

The activists point out that the file containing the proposal was shielded from public view. "The nomination details for the Central Information Commissioner’s post are put up on the CIC website, but in Andhra, the state government has not been transparent with the appointments.” 

TNM spoke to two TDP leaders and asked them if the two names proposed by the state government are TDP loyalists. However, both leaders did not confirm or deny the allegations made by the RTI activists. 

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