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Thursday, March 22, 2007

RTI frees babus from ACR grip

Paul John & Rahul Mangaonkar | TNN , Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) removed the cloak of secrecy surrounding the annual confidential reports (ACR) of bureaucrats, thanks to the RTI Act. With this, the Gujarat government may find it difficult to arm-twist IAS, IPS and Gujarat Administrative Services (GAS) officers into toeing its line. These officers can now demand a copy of their ACRs under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Bureaucrats have been allowed access to ACRs after Gujarat industries commissioner and secretary of the IAS a s s o c i at i o n Arvind Agarwal and two other bureaucrats K H Das and L M Lahori complained that they were not given access to ACRs despite demanding it under the RTI Act.
The General Administration Department (GAD) had been denying officers access to their ACRs through a November 14, 2005, circular. State chief information commissioner R N Das struck it down reasoning that such state circulars are not binding when Right to Information Act (RTI) is in force.
Das observed in his order, “No appraiser can present the truest picture of the performance of the appraisee if there is absolutely no sharing of information between the two.” Das added that officers would not know their faults if they are not allowed to see their grades.
Till now, the government could withhold an officer’s promotion by giving him low grades in his evaluation. Without having the access to their grades, many officers did not know why were their juniors being promoted ahead of them.
If officers were allowed to see their ACRs, it was only when they carried adverse remarks. Officers getting average grades could not see their ACRs for years together. However, they will now be able to know their grades at each stage of assessment. This includes observations recorded by their immediate seniors, the reviewing authority and final remarks made by the chief minister or the chief secretary.
Agarwal, on March 13, cited one such example before the GIC where a principal secretary and a secretarylevel officer were denied promotions as they did not have sufficiently high grades. To be promoted, an officer must have at least two ‘outstanding’ grades and a couple of ‘good’ and ‘very good’ remarks during a particular period.
Publication: Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date:2007 Mar 19; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

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