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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Activists’ reaction to SM’s selection as Chief Information Commissioner

14 Dec 2010: Satyananda Mishra’s selection as Chief Central Information Commissioner, three months after the selection of another former DOPT secretary A N Tiwari, has many dimensions. Today’s TOI Mumbai (copy-pasted at bottom) has reported it well. Let us objectively analyze the positive and negative aspects.

First the dark side:

a) Hiring the DOPT Secretary is Chief information Commissioner is like hiring the ISI chief for the job of Human Rights Commissioner in Kashmir. DOPT is the dirty-tricks department of Govt. of India. It is the right-hand of PMO, and has powers to hire-and-fire and lynch (or exonerate) virtually any bureaucrat, anywhere in India. It controls CBI, CVC and virtually all vigilance functions of the government. Read this govt. manual:

b) Satyananda Mishra (like his predecessor) is a former DOPT Secretary who abused his privileged position to enter Central Information Commission. Despite having many eligible candidates, Satyananda Mishra made the shortlist list so short that it reduced the PM’s selecting committee into a mere rubber stamp. These actions were then concealed by PMO, DoPT and Wajahat Habibullah (then the Chief Info. Committioner) with strange reasoning and self-contradictory statements. See here: Documents that finally came out last year revealed S Mishra’s abuse of trust and unconstitutional behaviour. See latter part of this document:

a) It was sneaky and secretive – an inside-job between PMO and DOPT. There was no announcement of when the Prime Minister’s selection committee was to meet, and nobody knows who were the candidates considered, and whether any civil-society members were considered at all. It was a slap on the face of civil society. This is part of a larger problem that makes all such appointments malafide. For details, read “How Babus steal power from Civil Society:

Now the bright side:

One hears quite a few good things about Satyananda Mishra from the appellants who have appeared before him. What one hears is from well informed RTI activists like C J Karira and Girish Mittal is:

· SM gives logically reasoned orders

· Uses technology to ensure that his hearing proceedings are transcribed the same day and promptly converted into orders

· Holds hearings within 4-5 months of appeal being filed, has a decent disposal speed, is an efficient office administrator and maintains records well

· Is generally pro-disclosure, and puts the onus of justifying denial of information on the Public Information Officer and Public Authority.

· Often reveals his stand at the end of hearings and gives a general sense of direction as to what he will write in his order.

· He is an intelligent and reasonable man, who has shown guts and independent mind to take on the administration, and generally uphold the logical structure of the RTI Act.

· The only negative thing is that he is not too keen to impose penalty.

· All said, he is the best man that they could have handpicked for the job out of all the existing Central Information Commissioners.

In view of all this, I feel that Satyananda Mishra’s selection as Chief CIC is bad, but not terrible. Things could have been a lot worse.

However, we can still explore the possibility of going to Court to oppose his appointment, as it is overall an untoward appointment.

I now await the views of other activists and appellants – especially those who have appeared before him.

Warm Regards,


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