Information Commission a favoured place for ex-bureaucrats
NEW DELHI: You fight them to get information and in just one day they become custodians of your Right to Information.
The State Information Commissions, the final appellate bodies for RTI Act 2005, have become a favoured retirement option for babus in most states.
In just one year of implementation of RTI Act 2005, former bureaucrats have taken over reins of State Information Commissions in all the states.
In states like Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Haryana, the urgency to name a former bureaucrat as the State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) is more than evident.
In these states, the current SCICs were named for the post the very next day of their retirement from service. The present State Chief Information Commissioner of Chhattisgarh, for instance, served as the state's chief secretary from July 1, 2004 to November 6, 2005. He retired and took up the post on November 7, 2005.
Haryana reflects exactly the same pattern. G Madhavan retired as the state's chief secretary on October 31, 2005 and was sworn in as the SCIC on November 1, 2005.
Madhavan's successor — Meenaxi Anand Chaudhary — retired as Haryana's chief secretary on April 30, 2006 and was sworn in as the State Information Commissioner on May 9, 2006. Rajan Kashyap retired as Punjab's chief secretary on October 11, 2005 and was named the SCIC on October 18, 2005.
Orissa is a unique case. IAS officer D N Padhi had taken voluntary retirement from service. And he landed himself a job as the SCIC.
Other states also show a similar pattern wherein bureaucrats are favoured for the top job. Goa, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh State Information Commissions have former bureaucrats as the information commissioners.
Even the Central Information Commission's four of five information commissioners are former bureaucrats. The remaining six have not been named so far.
RTI activists have been pointing out that this is a wrong trend because the same bureaucrats who have been in service would never part with information about their decisions or any corrupt practices. This has, however, become a norm despite the fact that the Act itself gives a wide choice in naming a state's information commissioners.
Section 12 (5) of the RTI Act says: "The Chief Information Commissioner and the 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."
The same criteria has been set for SCICs under Section 15 of the Act.
Copied from here: With unfriendly ex-babus in charge, info a pipedream-India-NEWS-The Times of India
This trend portends ominous signs. We all know how most of these babus are capable of taking care of themselves and their clan. It is very easy for a nexus to get established between serving bureaucrats and the retired ones who run the show as SCICs. Ultimately the flow of information is likely to get delayed or diminished and the eventual loser will be the applicant under RTI.
As the RTI Act itself is in a nascent stage in our country, sufficient safeguards should be added in the Act or the relevant Rules to ensure that the basic principles of RTI do not get eroded over a period of time through the appointment of wrong persons at the helm of affairs.
These sorts of things can render RTI inefficient and weak.