Appointment Sripathy as CIS upheld

Passing orders on a batch of petitions challenging the appointments, First Bench comprising Chief Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanam rejected submissions that the then leader of opposition (Jayalalithaa) had been deliberately sidelined and the CIC chosen to favour the government.

The judges said that though the committee could take a unanimous decision, in the absence of unanimity, it could be decided by majority. Hence the absence of the leader of the opposition would not vitiate the CIC’s appointment, it held.

The Judges pointed out that despite being invited to attend the meeting of the committee, comprising the then Chief Minister, his nominee, then Finance Minister and leader of the opposition, in accordance with the procedure laid down under sec 15(3) of the Right to Information Act, the then leader of the opposition chose not to attend the meeting.

Instead, she sought to know the list of names under consideration. When it was replied that the list would be furnished at the time of meeting, she refused to attend the meet yet again, the Bench said.

On the appointment of P A Ramaiah,C Manoharan and A Arumuga Nainar as Information Commissioners, the court noted that the selection process had begun on February 21, 2011, but ended with the appointment of the three on March 1, after ignoring the suggestion of the then opposition leader that the assembly election was about to be notified.

The judges said though originally only 33 names had been shortlisted for consideration by a three-member committee, as envisaged under the Act, on the day of the meeting the list contained two more names that had not been communicated to Jayalalithaa.

"It is shocking to note that on February 21, when the date for convening the meeting was fixed as March 1, there were only 33 candidates for consideration, but from the minutes of the meeting dated March 1, it transpires that two more candidates –
Manoharan and Arumuga Nainar -- were added."

Their applications had been received on February 28 and their candidatures had not been communicated to the leader of the opposition.

"It is, therefore, clear that there is total lack of transparency in the matter of appointment of the three candidates as state Information Commissioners," the Bench said and set aside their appointments.

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