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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CIC takes on IAS lobby over appointment criteria

RIGHT TO KNOW, Manoj Mitta | TNN, Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Jun 25; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13

New Delhi: Thanks to judicial intervention, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has mustered the will to take on the powerful IAS lobby on an appeal filed by Magsaysay awardee Arvind Kejriwal.
The disclosures ordered by CIC on June 12 have opened up the possibility of finding out how many of the senior officers appointed to the levels of secretary and additional secretary in various ministries fulfiled the prescribed criterion of ‘‘specific suitability.’’
A three-member bench of CIC directed the government that it could not claim to have complied with its orders although it had disclosed details of the appointments made only up to the level of joint secretary. Since most of the posts above the level of joint secretary are held by IAS officers, Kejriwal had sought information on all senior bureaucratic appointees to ascertain whether they met the central staffing scheme’s stipulation of ‘‘specific suitability’’ despite being drawn mainly from the generalist stream.
The three-member bench’s decision overturns an April 2007 order in which CIC member M M Ansari had rejected Kejriwal’s complaint that, by denying him access to the files, the government had failed to comply with a July 2006 direction for transparency.
Curiously, Ansari was allowed to be part of the three-member bench constituted to reconsider his April 2007 order in the wake of a Delhi high court direction obtained by Kejriwal in September 2007. In the event, the fresh hearing held this year did bring about
a change in his view as Ansari went along with the other two members on the bench in acknowledging that the government could hardly claim to have complied with CIC’s order without showing Kejriwal a scrap of paper related to the appointments of secretaries and additional secretaries.
In its unanimous order of June 12, the bench comprising Ansari, O P Kejariwal and Padma Balasubramanian directed the department of personnel and training and cabinet secretariat to allow inspection of — and make copies of — the files related to the appointments to the levels of secretary and additional secretary to the government of India. CIC also got around RTI restrictions on disclosure of third party information. This is because Kejriwal conceded that he would not seek copies of the annual confidential report of each of the officers. CIC agreed with his suggestion that he could be shown the chart displaying the grading of the officers. ‘‘Since the charts as such would not contain any personal information, the commission saw no objection in providing these to the appellant,’’ it said.
Kejriwal, a former revenue service officer, has been seeking to uncover the nature of bureaucratic postings since November 2005. His RTI application raised the hackles of the IAS lobby which saw it as an attempt to expose their near-monopoly over top posts regardless of their suitability for the increasingly technical demands of those jobs. The information asked for may lay bare the manipulations that allow an officer to be posted as telecom secretary, for instance, without having any qualification or experience in that specialized field.

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