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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Maharashtra GAD advised to advertise for SIC candidates, but CM ignored

October 6, Mumbai: As far back as three years ago, Maharashtra Government’s General Administration Department (GAD) advised Chief Minister and Chief Secretary that there was a shortage of good candidates for consideration to the post of State Information Commissioner, and that it would be worthwhile in future to advertise in newspapers to attract a wider selection of candidates. This was revealed by a recent RTI reply to Pune activist Vihar Durve. See red-circled paragraph in file notings:

Alas, GAD’s sound advice fell on deaf ears, and these posts are not yet advertised. Today, the Chief Minister’s selection committee is slated to meet and choose a successor to Chief Information Commissioner Dr Suresh Joshi, who is about to retire within a week. SIC Vilas Patil, who currently sits in Nagpur, is said to be likely to be promoted into this post. They may also select fresh Information Commissioners – although whom they will select is absolutely anybody’s guess.

RTI activists all over the state (and indeed, nationwide) have been crying themselves hoarse, asking for the selection process to be conducted in an open and transparent manner, so that eminent persons from civil society may apply as intended by the Act in section 15(5), and come to be selected on merit. The positions of SIC and Chief SIC are currently being used as a plum post-retirement position for favourite bureaucrats, although these posts actually require persons with a judicious mind and independent stance. This is because SICs are always under pressure from the political and bureaucratic establishment to refrain from asking for disclosure of embarrassing documents.

Unfortunately, the lack of selection criteria and procedure are so stark that if Chief Minister Ashok Chavan today chooses, he may even have his driver declared as the Chief State Information Commissioner! Given the 2:1 majority that the ruling party enjoys in such committees, the opposition leader would have no say in this matter. (This is not hype; it was amply demonstrated in the recent selections of Tamil Nadu’s Chief Information Commissioner, and also the Chief Central Vigilance Commissioner.) No matter who is selected today, RTI activists will suffer from having as a second appellate authority someone who is deeply indebted to the Chief Minister and his friends.

We have decided to fiercely oppose the non-transparent, arbitrary selection that will happen today in Maharashtra. This time, we say, “Enough! Thus far and no further”.

For details, contact

· Vihar Durve: 98605 86039

· G R Vora: 98691 95785

Warm Regards,


98215 88114

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