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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another bureaucrat for information panel raises hackles

HT Correspondent, Chandigarh : May 26

WITH ANOTHER bureaucrat on the verge of being appointed as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), a host of citizen groups, civil society organisations and legal activists have come together to condemn the move.

Punjab Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh is tipped to take over as CIC, with the government reported to have already got the mandatory approval from the Leader of the Opposition.The top IAS officer is expected to take premature retirement for the purpose, as he is otherwise due for retirement only in October 2009.

Speaking at a press conference here today, many social activists said the appointment would be in violation of the spirit of the RTI Act and the Constitution of India.

Vowing to fight against the “brazen and illegal action tooth-and-nail”, Hemant Goswami of the Citizens Voice said that under the RTI Act, for the appointment of a commissioner, a committee had to be set up to deliberate on all applications received for the post.

As per the Act, members of the Information Commission were supposed to be eminent personalities with wide experience in law, science, social service, management, etc.

However, in Punjab most information commissioners were from government background.

Goswami said that in this case, the government had not even advertised the position or set up any committee for the selection.Applications sent in by social workers were not even considered. “The government has moved the file for the Chief Secretary even while he is in service. This in itself is against IAS service rules,” he added.

Advocate H.C. Arora said even the present commissioners from bureaucracy were not performing their job satisfactorily.

Most of them attended to work only 20-30 hours a month. “Except for General P.K. Grover (retd), none of the information commissioners appear to be serious in the discharge of their job,” he alleged.

Earlier, several social activists and organisations have sent a joint representation to the Punjab Governor, the Chief Minister and the Leader of Opposition against the appointment of another bureaucrat in the commission.

“We are even contemplating criminal action under Sections 166, 217 and 219 of the IPC against some of the information commissioners,” Goswami said. The representation to the Chief Minister read, “…none of the commissioners holds hearing for more than six hours a week…. Each commissioner costs the exchequer at least Rs 1.50 lakh a month. The new appointment seems nothing more than reward for sycophancy.”

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