The appointment of retired IAS officer Ranjit Singh Pankaj as Uttar Pradesh's [ Images ] chief information commissioner has come under intense scrutiny.
Governor B L Joshi, who had appointed Pankaj on June 30, 2009, has questioned the appointment on grounds of concealment of material facts by the appointee.
The governor has reportedly taken serious note of a complaint made by RTI activist Lal Bahadur, who alleged that Pankaj was guilty of wilful concealment of the fact that he was fined a sum of Rs 50,000 by the high court and he had to shell out that money from his personal income.
Under the RTI Act, such concealment of information falls under the category of misconduct. Drawing the governor's attention to this fact, Lal Bahadur had sought the quashing of Pankaj's appointment.
While Pankaj claimed that he had already filed an appeal against the high court's order, Bahadur pointed out that the appeal does not absolve him of the guilt of concealment of such a material fact before his appointment.
"Imposition of fine by a court amounts to conviction and therefore disentitles him from any appointment -- that too on a constitutional position," claimed Bahadur.
Meanwhile, responding to Governor Joshi's reference, Principal Secretary of Administrative Reforms Prabhat Sarangi has sought Pankaj's explanation. But the CIC is yet to send a formal reply to him.
When contacted, Pankaj claimed that he was not "aware of any such query from the governor", adding, "well, may be because I have not been attending office for the past few days ."
Asked to comment on the issues raised in the complaint, Pankaj claimed, "The question of concealment does not arise, as the court order imposing that fine was common knowledge. In any case, I had challenged that order before a bigger bench of the same high court."
He also termed the complaint as "frivolous."
As per provisions of the RTI Act 2005, a CIC can be removed by the governor on grounds of "misconduct" or "incompetence". The governor is also authorised to make a reference against a CIC for probe by the Supreme Court.
Pankaj is the second UP CIC to face charges of "misconduct" and "incompetence" His predecessor and the state's first CIC Justice M A Khan (retired) was removed from office by then Governor T V Rajeshwar following a similar complaint.