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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

CIC turning into ‘parking slot’ for retired babus

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Sep 9, 2008; Section: Times Nation; Page: 11


New Delhi: With an IAS and IPS officer each taking oath as commissioner, along with a late diplomat’s wife, the Central Information Commission has assumed an overwhelming bureaucratic character.

CIC now has three former IAS officers on board, including chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, and among the remaining are one each from IPS, Indian Information Service and Indian Postal Service.

The two non-bureaucrats are former national security adviser J N Dixit’s wife Annapurna Dixit and educationist M M Ansari. The commission, set up under the Right to Information Act, can have a maximum of 10 commissioners, besides the CIC.

As per rules, they should be “persons of eminence in public life” from fields as varied as law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.

The two bureaucrat commissioners are personnel secretary Satyananda Mishra and CBI special director M L Sharma, who went on leave after he was superseded by Ashwani Kumar to be CBI director. Incidentally, another commissioner, A N Tiwari, was also personnel secretary before he was appointed. The responsibility for implementing the RTI Act lies with the personnel ministry.

The CIC and information commissioners are appointed for a term of five years or till they turn 65 (whichever is earlier). This has made the information commission a lucrative post-retirement assignment.

But the appointments have to be approved by a committee headed by the PM with the Leader of Opposition as its member, along with a Cabinet minister. Since every name must have consensus, getting the coveted assignment is not easy.

The situation in the states is no different since state information commissions (SICs) have turned out to be a major rehabilitation avenue for serving or retired bureaucrats.

A recent study of SICs showed that 31 (or 58%) information commissioners in 20 states were from “administration and governance” background and 27 of them were retired IAS officers.

The study, conducted by PRIA (Society for Participatory Research in Asia) for April-October 2007, revealed that 15 SICs were headed by former IAS officers and one ( Assam) by a retired IPS officer. Only four of these 20 panels — Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — had non-IAS chief commissioners, all from legal background. Since then, the situation could have marginally changed. Leading RTI activist Aruna Roy, who played a crucial role in the enactment of the information law, has maintained that at the central level, Department of Personnel and Training should not have been made the supervising body of RTI Act as it was also the cadre controlling authority of IAS and certain other services. Roy favoured the creation of an independent and wide-based council for shortlisting probable information commissioners.

1 comment:

Prashant said...

Keeping in mind, the extent of corruption & the non-reluctance of people to change , there should be a separate ministry handling such a powerful tool to control the system. We have defence , home , civil aviation ministry to take care of peoples needs. Is transparency in the system, asking for information not a fundamental right of the citizen of India. So , what is wrong in setting up a sepate ministry to monitor the act & its implementation