Monday, June 11, 2018

Is appointment of Maharashtra Chief info commissioner real misuse of RTI Act ?

For the privileged few, the rule has always been "you tell me the person and I shall tell you whether the law is to be applied". Thus there has always been a violation of the law in the appointment of Information Commissioners. In Mantralaya corridors, these posts are treated as retirement gift s to the chosen babus for the ‘out of the way’ work done by them for politicians. Earlier also, the post of chief information commissioner was kept vacant for months for the post-retirement rehabilitation of retiring chief secretaries. In the present case, however, information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI ) Act, has revealed that several violations while appointing the former chief secretary of Maharashtra Sumit Malik as the State Chief Information Commissioner ( SCIC).

During Sumit Malik's tenure as the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, the process of appointing him as the SCIC was initiated and completed. Not only this, after his appointment as SCIC, Sumit Malik worked as the Chief Secretary for four months. It is now revealed that the Governor had signed on the recommendation made by the committee headed by the Chief Minister on 30 December 2017 itself. After the Governor’s signature, a notification to that effect was kept on hold for 4 months until Sumit Malik retired. Three days before his retirement i.e on 27 April 2018, his appointment was notified.

It is indeed a very serious matter that after the Governor’s signature the notification was kept on hold for 4 months.

In an RTI reply given to Dr Vikram Gaikwad, the Government has confessed that no advertisement was issued for the post of SCIC. As per the judgement in Namit Sharma review petition, the Supreme Court has said that a person holding an office has to discontinue holding any office of profit. However, in this case, Sumit Malik kept holding on to his post even after his appointment as SCIC by the Governor.

The Supreme Court has  further direct ed that the Committees under Sections 12(3) and 15(3) of the RTI Act , while making recommendations to the President or to the Governor, as the case may be, for appointment of Chief Information Commissioner s and Information Commissioners , facts to indicate his eminence in public life, his knowledge in the particular field and his experience in the particular field must be mention ed against the name of each candidate recommended and these facts must be accessible to the citizens as part of their right to information under the Act after the appointment is made.

However in this case, as no advertisement was issued, the question of applications for that post or recording the eminence of the applicant did not arise at all.

The RTI applicant had also asked for copies of applications made for the post of SCIC. However forget about copies of all the applications, the government has not even provided the copy of Sumit Malik’s application. Does that mean Sumit Malik was appointed without having applied for the post? This raises doubt s regarding the functioning of the Government.

Congress MLA Mr Sanjay Dutt had demanded in the Legislative Council on March 2018 that the Chief Information Commissioner should be appointed. The Chief Minister then replied that the Chief Information Commissioner will be appointed within next four weeks. In fact, the Chief Information Commissioner was appointed in December 20 17 four months before the incumbent's retirement.

Can we call this real misuse of RTI act? 

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