By Nabeel A. Khan
New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) The Election Commission of India (ECI) has said that there was no violation of the model code of conduct in appointment of a new information commissioner in the transparency commission on May 13, 2009 - the day votes were cast for the fifth and final phase of general elections.
The ECI said this in a reply sent April 4, 2010, to right to information (RTI) activists Girish Mittal and Krishnaraj Raoon who alleged violation of the code that was in force from March 2 to May 28, 2009, in view of the general elections.
The Election Commission reply, signed by Under Secretary K.N. Bhar, said: "I am directed to state that there was no violation of the model code of conduct on appointment of Omita Paul as central information commissioner as appointment of central information commissioner or information commissioner is governed by the statutory provisions of the RTI Act, 2005."
Constitutional expert and Supreme Court advocate M.L. Lahoty disagrees with the stand taken by the ECI in the matter. "I entirely disagree with this, and there is no question of such appointment being ousted from the model code of conduct," Lahoty told IANS.
"It is well known that during the enforcement of model code of conduct, no appointment, that too for a senior and sensitive post like this (information commissioner) can take place without the consent and approval from the Election Commission, and this is the general rule under the guidelines of the Supreme Court," he said.
The RTI activists had earlier filed a complaint with the ECI on March 6 against the Prime Minister's Office and department of personnel and training over the appointment of Omita Paul, a retired information service official, to the Central Information Commission on May 13, 2009, in alleged violation of the model code of conduct.
No permission from the ECI was sought on the appointment of Paul, the ECI said in an earlier reply to an RTI plea on March 16, 2010.
Paul is currently working as adviser to the finance ministry.